As far as heating the house goes, natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is a hot commodity for UGI customers.
During an editorial board meeting at The Citizens’ Voice on Tuesday, UGI Utilities Communications Manager Joe Swope and Keith Dorman, director of communications and community relations for UGI, talked about how conversions from more expensive forms of heating fuel are soaring as gas prices are dropping.
One of the things natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has done is bring down gas prices, Swope said. He estimates that, on average, they are 30 to 40 percent less today than they were in 2008 — which is when gas drilling started to really get under way in Pennsylvania.
In the past four years, more than 40,000 homes converted to natural gas, Swope said. He said there are a lot of factors behind the conversion, but price is the main reason. With the savings, a new system can be paid off in a few years.
Besides homes and businesses, schools and government facilities are also converting to natural gas — including the State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Newport Township, Swope said.
Swope said 70 percent of the gas in UGI’s pipelines comes either directly or indirectly from the Marcellus Shale, and in the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton region, it is close to 100 percent.
Gas from the Marcellus Shale only has to travel 20 to 50 miles or so, rather than a few thousand miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s “hurricane-proof,” Swope said.
“No weather circumstances you can think of have an effect on natural gas produced in Pennsylvania for any length of time,” he said.
There is not a lot of volatility in the price of natural gas, either, Swope said. The price has been very stable, and there have not been significant increases: even this past winter, the coldest in 18 years, the price of gas only went up 3 percent, he said.
In order to bring in still more customers, this fall UGI will be starting the GET Gas — Growth Extension Tariff — initiative, which Swope said is designed to get gas service to customers who are too far away or are in underserved areas.
Rather than pay an up-front cost, customers pay a surcharge each month for 10 years to cover the installation of the new gas mains. Savings from converting will help cover the payment, and over the course of 10 or 12 years, more people in the community will convert to natural gas.
Residents interested in seeing if they qualify can click on “I’m interested” at www.ugi.com/GETGas or call UGI at 1-800-276-2722.