Spotlight on National Fuel
National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. (NFGDC) sells or transports natural gas to more than 740,000 customers through a local distribution system located in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. It is the regulated natural gas utility segment of National Fuel Gas Co. Of its more than 740,000 customers, only 52,303 are nonresidential accounting for both New York and Pennsylvania market segments. The annual natural gas usage for these combined market segments is 142.2 Bcf, which includes both residential and nonresidential.
An interesting aspect of NFGDC’s market is the group of large nonresidential accounts, defined as those with annual usage greater than 12,000 Mcf. This group of customers consists of industrial manufacturing plants and commercial facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, colleges/schools and large office buildings. It also includes several large natural gas power plants supplying electricity to the grid, as well as customers with combined heat and power (CHP) facilities generating their own power for use onsite.
In addition, several of these nonresidential customers include large commercial fleets who are using natural gas vehicles (NGVs) while delivering/providing their goods or services. As a transportation fuel, natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 30% when compared with diesel and gasoline. Natural gas produces up to 90% less carbon monoxide, as much as 95% less nitrogen oxides, around 75% less nonmethane organic gas, and up to 30% less carbon dioxide. This group of 578 customers represents only 1% of NFGDC’s total nonresidential accounts, but accounts for more than 60% of the overall nonresidential usage of around 44 Bcf.
Gas technology funding programs
NFGDC offers several programs in its New York territory only to assist customers in installing new gas equipment/technology. These programs offer funding to lower the cost of installing new gas equipment/facilities, such as CHP (engines, microturbines, fuel cells, and turbines), NGVs (new refueling stations and/or new vehicles), and industrial equipment, such as boilers, HVAC, or process equipment. So far, this program has had the following results:
- CHP: six participants ($653,000 in incentives; 282,348 Mcf in new load).
- NGV: eight participants ($1.46 million in incentives; 527,889 Mcf in new load).
- Industrial: one participant ($1.34 million in incentives; 1.0 Bcf in new load).
In addition, National Fuel’s Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) program provides funds for the testing and demonstration of new, emerging, and innovative gas technologies. Customers can apply for funds in applications such as space heating and cooling, process heating and cooling, CHP, and NGV.
Energy efficiency program
The National Fuel Conservation Incentive Program (CIP) offers western New York nonresidential customers several money-saving rebates for installing new, energy efficient natural gas-fired equipment. There are two ways to save:
- A fixed-prequalified rebate available on specific prequalified equipment.
- A customized performance-based rebate based on the results of an energy-use analysis with every Mcf saved multiplied by $15 to determine the total rebate.
National Fuel has partnered with C.J. Brown Energy to provide free technical assistance with the application process.
National Fuel in action
Specializing in the development of luxury urban apartments in Buffalo, N.Y., real estate developer Signature Development focuses on restoring old, historic buildings and reusing their original architectural features to create state-of-the-art, unique apartments.
In 2012, the developer completed a $42 million rehabilitation project to restore the Lafayette Hotel, a historic building in the City of Buffalo’s central business district now called Hotel @ the Lafayette, to its original beauty. The building is now split into multiple uses consisting of a boutique hotel, commercial, retail, and residential spaces. Rocco Termini, the owner of Signature Development, believes strongly in using natural gas appliances wherever possible during renovations. The Hotel @ Lafayette was no exception. Signature Development partnered with National Fuel to use two of its programs to help use natural gas in this project:
- National Fuel’s Area Development program was used to provide $60,000 in funding for a portion of the internal gas house lines for the commercial and retail tenants.
- National Fuel’s Conservation Incentive program was used to provide $25,000 in rebates for the installation of high efficiency natural gas appliances in the boutique hotel and residential apartments.
The project resulted in the installation of 125 new customers on National Fuel’s distribution system, with a total overall annual gas usage of 15,000 Mcf.