National Fuel Gas Company is an integrated energy company, headquartered in Williamsville, New York, which operates a collection of natural gas and oil assets across five business segments: Exploration & Production, Pipeline & Storage, Gathering, Utility, and Energy Marketing. Here, Michael Colpoys, National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation vice president, who is based in Erie, Pennsylvania and oversees the Pennsylvania Utility subsidiary, talks about the future of natural gas and what’s in store for this $6.2 billion company.
National Fuel has been at the forefront of the energy industry since it was founded in 1902. How would you describe the state of NFG today?
National Fuel is a diversified energy company with 115 years of experience across the natural gas value chain. Our integrated business model and unique asset mix allows us to compete successfully, provide safe and reliable service to our customers and be a responsible steward of the environment.
NFG’s Utility segment, National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation, delivers natural gas to more than 740,000 residential and commercial customers in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. In your expertise, what are the biggest advantages of using natural gas?
North America is the world leader in the production of natural gas, supporting millions of American jobs while providing energy security through reduced reliance on foreign sources. Northeast produced shale gas has resulted in the lowest natural gas costs in 20 years; half of what they were 10 years ago. Not only is natural gas the most affordable energy option, it is a main contributor to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and is delivered to consumers with more than 90-percent efficiency.
Why is natural gas considered to be the fuel of the future?
Natural gas improves our quality of life and provides immeasurable value by heating homes, generating electricity, fueling fleets, and serving as an essential component of everyday products. The global growth of natural gas use elevates standards of living across the world. Low-carbon natural gas is a critical component of a greener energy future, supporting the energy mix needed to achieve economic and environmental goals.
Natural gas is one of North America’s abundant natural resources. What are the biggest opportunities for this key industry, especially here in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. We have a tremendous opportunity to expand our economy not only through the extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas, but its use can cultivate the rebirth of manufacturing within our Commonwealth. For example, last June, Shell Chemical Appalachia announced plans to build a petrochemical plant in Beaver County. The location for the ethane “cracker” was chosen because of its proximity to gas supplies. The plant will take ethane, a component of natural gas, and process it into ethylene. The company anticipates creating 6,000 construction and 600 permanent jobs.
What are some challenges for this non-renewable resource as we increase our use of this fossil fuel?
A big challenge is correcting the misconception that natural gas is bad for the environment. The Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection have performed multiple studies and found that natural gas has had no negative impacts on air or water quality. In fact, the increased use of natural gas for electric generation has improved air quality in the United States. Another challenge is regulatory and political uncertainty relating to permitting the infrastructure needed to get gas to market. Experts believe that the United States has enough natural gas supply to last nearly 100 years.
How is NFG positioning itself to remain an energy leader for the future?
Our integrated model within the natural gas industry has allowed us the flexibility to both operate our businesses and allocate capital efficiently. This strategy has produced positive results and helps guide us as we continue to invest in our region, build new pipelines and facilities, expand our workforce, and support local businesses and communities. We employ safety and environmental best practices in our operations and strive to provide high levels of reliability and customer service. We take a long-view approach when making business decisions, because we plan to be operating in this region for another 100 years.