Pittsburgh International Airport looks to broaden on-site natural gas use with CNX partnership

The Business Journals | May 24, 2022

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A new phase of an already-existing partnership between Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and CNX Resources Corp. will vie to reduce carbon emissions and lower transportation costs by converting natural gas sourced from the airport's property into alternative fuels.

More specifically, CNX's proprietary technology claims to be capable of converting the on-site dry natural gas found on PIT's property into liquified natural gas, compressed natural gas or even electricity for different use, including as a hydrogen feedstock. Such a capability will then reportedly reduce the carbon emissions PIT produces as well as lower some of its operating costs, savings that in theory could be carried over and enjoyed by PIT's passengers and other customers.

"CNX views its innovative public-private partnership with PIT as the beachhead market to showcase this technology, and the associated economic development opportunities, through on-site development of low-cost and lower-carbon intensity natural gas derivative products," CNX President and CEO Nick DeIuliis said in a prepared statement. "We will produce, process and consume these natural gas-based products locally first, and, in doing so, unleash countless downstream economic opportunities and help jumpstart the hydrogen economy, leverage the region’s unrivaled work ethic, create family-sustaining jobs, better the region’s underserved communities and revitalize Appalachia’s middle class in a new, lower-carbon economic ecosystem."

The news comes following Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement earlier this week where he outlined plans for Pennsylvania to solicit a bid for some of the $8 billion available in federal funding for carbon capture hubs across the country, funding Pennsylvania plans to use, if awarded, for four hydrogen energy and carbon capture hubs.

According to PIT, the results of that announcement coupled with this expanded partnership announced Friday will bring even more partnership opportunities to the region's largest airport.

"We feel that natural gas and derivative products provide a path for the transportation industry both to reduce carbon emissions in the shortmterm while working toward a goal of net-zero in the long term as hydrogen and other potential solutions mature," Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA), which manages PIT, said in a prepared statement. "This is Pittsburgh innovation at work. We believe this strategy can have a global impact."

The announcement between CNX and PIT is far from the first time the two have teamed up to tap into the natural gas reserves found on the airport's property.

In July 2021, PIT's microgrid came online, an energy source that is powered by on-site natural gas and nearly 10,000 solar panels. The airport claims it's the first in the world to be powered entirely by its own microgrid, which can produce more than 20 megawatts of electricity and exceeds the 14 megawatts it currently uses at peak demand. Peoples Natural Gas received a 20-year contract to build, maintain and operate the microgrid from the ACAA board and CNX, IMG Energy Solutions, EIS Solar, PJ Dick, LLI Engineering and the Duquesne Light Co. helped develop the microgrid.

Additionally, a March 2022 report from the National Energy Technology Laboratory found that the natural gas drilled from wells on PIT's property could be converted into a form of synthetic jet fuel using already-existing and commercially available technology. That is, however, if ACAA decided to construct and operate a gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility. At the time of the report's release, a spokesperson with the ACAA noted the authority would review the findings before issuing further comment.

"We recognize the value of our resources on the airport campus and will review the results of the study to better understand its impact," the spokesperson said.

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