CRANBERRY TWP — An official from Gov. Tom Corbett’s office painted a staggering picture Thursday evening regarding Pennsylvania’s clout in the global energy market.
Patrick Henderson, the governor’s energy executive, said Pennsylvania is the country’s fifth-largest energy producer measured by Btu value.
However, he explained the state’s diverse energy portfolio sets it apart from the rest of the country, if not the world.
He stated Pennsylvania nationally ranks fourth in electric generation, first in electric exports, second in nuclear generation, fourth in coal production, fifth in natural gas production, 15th in total wind power capacity and ninth in wind power growth. It also has the second most miles of waterways that can be used for hydroelectric power.
“When you total all of that up, we are the second largest energy field in the entire world,” he said.
Only Iran, one of the United States’ largest threats, ranks higher, he said, stressing the importance of becoming more energy independent as a nation.
“It’s amazing when you step back and think of the imprint that Western Pennsylvania has had in the history of energy development, and here we are again,” he said, explaining rapidly rising shale gas production is pushing the state farther ahead.
Henderson was one of five panelists who talked to a crowd of about 150, many of whom were under the age of 30, as part of the Pittsburgh chapter of Young Professionals in Energy’s second “Pittsburgh’s Energy Future” conference at the Pittsburgh Marriott North.
Rounding out the rest of the panel were representatives from other industry leaders headquartered regionally: Joseph Frantz, vice president of engineering for Range Resources; George Henderson, chief commercial officer for Everpower Wind Holdings; Rita Baranwal, director of core engineering for Westinghouse Electric in Cranberry Township; and John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.
Henderson, who worked for many years as an oil trader before crossing into the renewable energy market, said there is much strength in energy diversity and room for everyone to grow. He said this diversity will continue to help the country become more energy independent while benefiting Pennsylvania.
“There’s an expanding energy pie in the state of Pennsylvania ... and at the same time it’s evolving. There are very, very exciting things happening throughout this sector,” he said.
The panelists, however, said diversity in the transportation of fuels is an area that is still lacking.
“Today, we are so vulnerable to international disruptions, particularly for transport fuels,” Henderson said.
He also urged the audience to contact their legislators to help speed up the slow adoption of electric and natural gas vehicles.
“This is a young audience,” he said. “Get involved. Make your views known. I can’t stress how important this is.”
Frantz, who has been drilling and completing wells across the world for more than 30 years, agreed other industries can be slow to adopt new standards. However, he predicted natural gas vehicles will become common in the next 10 years.
“It’s a really exciting and a great story for those who want to research and develop opportunities ... to reduce our imports and make a difference,” he said, adding there are people exploring ways to use natural gas to fuel airplanes.
Pippy, a former state senator, said while he is now an advocate for the coal industry, he is in favor of natural gas vehicles becoming the norm. That, he said, would not only reduce emissions but also drive up the demand and cost of natural gas, which will help keep coal at or near the top of energy sources for decades.
Baranwal said nuclear power generation, which is second only to coal, is starting to regain traction after being set back by the nuclear disaster in Japan nearly two years ago that was set off by an earthquake and tsunami.
She said Westinghouse sees a lot of growth potential in its AP1000 reactor line and has been training people to operate the plants it is building in Georgia and South Carolina.