VINCO — Charlie Melancon sees the same potential in Pennsylvania that others saw in Louisiana before its emergence as a gas industry powerhouse.
“You’ve got the natural reserve,” Melancon says. “You get the delivery system. And when you bring in the industry, you get the new tax base.”
As a former congressman who served on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Melancon has worked with both developers and conservationists to craft policy. He says that striking a balance that enables economic advances while protecting the environment can be done here in Pennsylvania — and that CPV Fairview should be a primary component in our region.
In a move that allows for the use of a higher blend of ethane for electricity generation, principals with CPV Fairview announced last month that an innovative GE Gas Power combustion system has been installed at their power plant in Jackson Township.
“Our plant is the first advanced class power plant to have this capability,” says Jen Villarreal, corporate communications manager for Competitive Power Ventures. “They’ve tried it on a much smaller scale. But there’s no other power plant of our size you’re going to find anywhere in the world with our capability.”
According to Villarreal, a typical plant can only vaporize and use a 5% blend of liquid ethane with natural gas. CPV Fairview is able to process up to 25%.
“The advantage to that is, when you compare it to an alternative, what we see is there’s greater flexibility with the approach we’re taking,” she says. “It does help push the price down for consumers.”
Jeff Ahrens, who was project director for CPV Fairview, tells Our Town that the concept was developed four years ago.
“This site had a great opportunity because of the Sunoco pipeline going right through the property,” he says.
The benefit, according to Ahrens, is flexibility in using whatever blend makes the most sense from a cost perspective. He adds that they can meet the obligations of their air quality permit and other environmental standards.
“If we can get 25% of our fuel we have the opportunity to bid in at a lower price than other people,” he says.
“It helps on the supplier side, too.”
That’s part of what encourages Melancon. He believes that increasing demand for both natural gas and petrochemicals in Pennsylvania will bring the commonwealth to a crossroad that once existed in his home state’s Baton Rouge and Gulf Coast region, noting that the Marcellus and Utica shales in this part of the country contain a third of all natural gas in the U.S.
“As pretty as (Appalachia) is . . . it’s depressed,” he says.
“Even the best part of Appalachia is depressed compared to other parts of the country.”
As result, he says, additional pipeline infrastructure — and the resulting economic benefit — is something locals should embrace.
“You can’t do anyone a bit of good if you can’t get (fuel) to where it’s needed,” Melancon adds.