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More natural gas – but can Pa. access the low-cost variety?

Pennsylvania has 44 public compressed natural gas fueling stations, including this one in South Whitehall Township. - (Photo / Wendy Solomon)

Pennsylvania is at the center of America’s natural gas revolution – an era that has brought economic benefits to the state and Greater Lehigh Valley.

Pennsylvania is at the center of America’s natural gas revolution – an era that has brought economic benefits to the state and Greater Lehigh Valley.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2017, natural gas production and usage are expected to increase nationally.

However, most Pennsylvanians cannot access the state’s natural gas – and lower price – until more pipelines are built to deliver it to them.

Despite low natural gas prices in Pennsylvania’s producing areas, particularly the northeast and southwest corners of the state, production has remained strong.

In 2015, Pennsylvania’s production hit 4.6 trillion cubic feet – roughly 14 percent of America’s total production. While 2016 data are incomplete, through October, production is on pace to exceed 2015 levels.

As natural gas production has climbed, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen. Carbon dioxide emissions from America’s power generation sector are at their lowest levels in 25 years – all thanks to power plants opting for cleaner-burning natural gas, a trend that will continue in 2017 and beyond.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts natural gas production to increase 2 percent this year and by 3.8 percent in 2018.

EIA attributes the anticipated production increases to “higher Henry Hub natural gas spot prices as well as pipeline build-out, particularly in the Marcellus and Utica natural gas-producing regions.”

While the EIA forecasts higher prices at the Henry Hub, a pipeline nexus in Louisiana, the cost of Pennsylvania natural gas likely will continue to be much less in some areas.

Because of congestion in the existing natural gas pipeline network, most Pennsylvanians are unable to access the gas at the low costs where it’s produced. The lower price of Pennsylvania’s natural gas is only an advantage if more pipelines are built to deliver it to communities in the Greater Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia area and beyond.

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