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2014-11-21 / Front Page

Keystone Energy Forum comes to Centre County

BY JULIE BENAMATI
PA Business Central Editor


Dr. Jeremy Frank, president of KCF Technologies Inc. of State College spoke at the Keystone Energy Forum about how the gas industry has helped to grow his company. 
Photo courtesy of the CBICC Dr. Jeremy Frank, president of KCF Technologies Inc. of State College spoke at the Keystone Energy Forum about how the gas industry has helped to grow his company. Photo courtesy of the CBICC STATE COLLEGE, PA – About 80 people gathered at the Nittany Lion Inn on Friday, Nov. 14 for the first Keystone Energy Forum (KEF) held in Centre County. The event was sponsored by the Centre County Chamber of Business & Industry (CBICC) and media sponsor Marcellus Business Central.

KEF was formed several years ago to educate citizens about natural gas development within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

The forum and luncheon featured discussions about Act 13 Impact Fees, the state of shale in Centre County itself, and how the Shale industry has brought local businesses and entrepreneurs success in the industry.

“KEF was formed to give the general public facts about the shale gas industry, and let them decide on their own,” said KEF Director Bill Stewart.


Yoxtheimer Yoxtheimer Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director at Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania (API), discussed Act 13 and related impact fees awarded to Centre County. She also pointed out that the natural gas industry has contributed about $34.7 billion into the state’s economy.

“We have a glut of natural gas,” she said. “But we have a shortage of infrastructure to get that gas to market.”

Catarino Wissman identified one of the problems facing the infrastructure shortage is a lack of laborers and skilled workers. API has launched a campaign to recruit the next generation of oil and gas workers via it’s new Web site: www.oilandgasworkforce.com. The site was launched in June.

David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist and extension associate with Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR), provided natural gas statistics related to Centre County.

“Things are slowing down in Centre County as far as new wells drilled,” Yoxtheimer said. He said there are 65 wells drilled in the county, with 48 listed on the latest production report and 24 are active producing. There have been no new wells drilled since 2011.

“We won’t see gangbuster numbers (in Centre County) like in Susquehanna,” Yoxtheimer said. But he did point out that Pennsylvania is leading the nation in the storage of natural gas. He said the natural gas lines that have been used to send gas to storage are now being considered to transport it to the global market.

And Russell Bedell, manager of communications and community relations at Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, said gas companies like his are thinking outside the box to get natural gas to more customers.

A Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., pilot program was approved about a month ago by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), and will provide a new way to bring natural gas service to those who request it.

The new program means many potential Columbia Gas customers will have an option to pay for all or a portion of their natural gas line extension payment over a period of 20 years rather than with just the lump sum payment that Columbia Gas has historically been required to charge.

The company’s current procedure for any extension of gas mains to serve new customers is to perform an economic analysis and determine if the cost of the pipeline extension can be justified by projected revenues, or if an upfront payment needs to be made.

Under the new program, qualifying customers may instead be able to pay all or a portion of the upfront payment through a monthly charge of “up to” $35 for new gas service. As Columbia Gas pilots this new option over the next four years, up to $1 million in customer deposits may be spread over 20 years, thereby enabling millions of dollars to be invested in line extensions to increase affordable access to safe, efficient, and clean-burning natural gas where the company does not currently have facilities available.

Dr. Jeremy Frank, president of KCF Technologies Inc. in State College, spoke about how the gas industry has directly or indirectly assisted small business owners and entrepreneurs like himself become more profitable.

Frank co-founded his company after earning a Doctorate in mechanical engineering. He has worked for fifteen years on the development and commercialization of electromechanical devices, with the recent focus on wireless sensors for continuous monitoring of machinery.

He saw a huge opportunity within the oil and natural gas industry to market a breakthrough new capability to improve the safety and reliability of upstream operations in the northeast region of the state. Wireless sensor systems monitor when the equipment is being damaged, identifies the component and severity of the damage, and enables the operators to take action – before the equipment breaks or becomes severely damaged.

“Ten percent of our economy is wasted due to breakdowns,” Frank said. “KCF is a technology development company trying to make things work smarter. We want to predict and prevent a problem before it happens.”

CBICC Communications Director Lesley Kistner said this is the first time a Keystone Energy Forum was held in Centre County.

“We were pleased with the turnout from a broad cross section of our membership,” Kistner said. “There was great interest in learning how our county is benefitting from shale gas drilling. We received a lot of positive feedback from attendees, particularly for the opportunity to hear directly from a local company that has developed innovative technology beginning to be used by the industry.” .

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