Lisa O'Leary Universities Making the Grade with Natural Gas

Communications & Marketing Department Intern Terence Edelman contributed to this story.

Universities around the country are looking for ways to reduce their carbon emissions and be more environmentally friendly.  To achieve this, many institutions are moving away from other fuels in favor of efficient, cleaner burning natural gas.

Oberlin College in Ohio has a plan to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2025. In order to achieve this goal the campus is transitioning to gas boilers for the next 12 years, at which point the college plans to switch to electric compressor technology. Their old coal burners, installed in the 1940s, will be taken offline next March and replaced with cleaner burning natural gas. Once the electric compressor technology is utilized, the natural gas plant will serve as a back-up system in the event of an electrical outage, unusually high needs and during maintenance periods.

Lock Haven University (LHU) in Pennsylvania has also found a good use for natural gas.  A university trolley used to transport students around campus was recently converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). LHU has other trolleys which burn diesel fuel and are much louder. University spokesperson Keith Roush said the college made the switch to clean, green CNG as a way to cut down on emissions. LHU officials have also stated that they are paying less for the CNG trolley and get comparable miles per gallon as the diesel fuel alternatives.

LHU CNG trolley

Photo Courtesy: Lock Haven University

The University of Colorado (CU) is taking advantage of low and stable natural gas prices and will use natural gas powered turbines to generate electricity and heat for the campus.  CU is developing a $91 million “campus utility system” project to renovate their existing power plant, enabling them to generate steam and electricity from natural gas, all while reducing carbon emissions.

“These enhancements to our power plants so that we can burn natural gas to create electricity will lower our carbon footprint significantly,” said Dave Newport, director of the university’s Environmental Center.

After analyzing a range of alternatives, Pennsylvania State University is converting its coal-powered steam plant to natural gas to upgrade and improve efficiency.  The steam plant, which was built in 1929, consumes 70,000 tons of coal each year. The university expects to recover the investment in the mechanical upgrades through the savings achieved from purchasing lower cost natural gas. To accommodate the increase in natural gas demand, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania will upgrade its natural gas service to the plant by installing a new gas line across campus.

Universities across the country are taking advantage of affordable, clean and reliable natural gas to reduce their carbon footprints and improve the energy efficiency of their institutions. Let us know in the comments section below what you or your school is doing to embrace our nation’s clean, abundant supply of natural gas.

Lisa O'Leary

About Lisa O'Leary

Lisa O'Leary is the Manager of Digital Communications for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Lisa served as Manager of Multimedia Communications for the Senator John Heinz History Center, "the Smithsonian's home in Pittsburgh," and as a Web Producer at WPXI-TV, Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh, PA. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Communications.
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