CENTRE HALL – A groundbreaking date has been set for the Centre Hall Natural Gas Project that will connect over 100 businesses to natural gas in Centre Hall and Potter Township, Centre County through a partnership with the state of Pennsylvania, the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, Hanover Foods Corporation, and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.
It will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Tri-Municipal Park, Upper Brush Valley Road, Centre Hall. It is open to the media but otherwise attendance is by invitation only.
The project was awarded a $1 million Pipeline Investment Program (PIPE) grant from the state Department of Community & Economic Development in January 2018. The grant will help to fund the construction of a $2.7 million point-of-departure station as the initial connection infrastructure needed to support further build-out by Columbia Gas, which is providing matching funds and services for the grant.
Businesses that will benefit from the project in and around Centre Hall include retail, commercial, and industrial entities.
The largest is Hanover Foods, a family-owned food manufacturing company whose frozen foods facility at Centre Halls supports many local jobs. To support the project, Hanover Foods, the first business member of the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, signed a long-term natural gas service agreement to facilitate the grant funding.
Hanover Foods’ CEO Jeff Warehime commented, “In support of the Centre Hall community, Hanover Foods will commit significant funds to complete the point of delivery for the natural gas and facilitate pipeline delivery service.”
After completion of the initial phase, approximately 300 to 500 additional users could be connected, including residential and nonresidential potential customers.
The grant application was supported by state Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), Centre County Planning and Community Development Office, Centre Hall Borough, and Centre Hall area businesses including Hanover Foods, Sammis Greenhouse, and Brothers Pizza.
The broad-based support for this project is what makes this public-private partnership possible, said cooperative Executive Director Don Kiel.
“From businesses to local and legislative support, we thank everyone for helping to bring this important project to fruition,” Kiel said. “That’s what makes this unique regional cooperative approach for natural gas service possible. The few other natural gas cooperatives in the state are not multi-county entities geared toward economic development projects, or capable of facilitating public-private partnerships to develop natural gas infrastructure.”
The Centre Hall area has been the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative’s No. 1 priority area for targeted investment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns, the county experienced a 21% decrease in manufacturing jobs between 2006 and 2015 – 4% greater than the loss of manufacturing jobs statewide. During this time, Centre County’s jobs decreased by 1% while jobs statewide increased by 2%. In 2006, 11% of jobs in the county were in the manufacturing sector, which decreased to 8% by 2015.
The project’s initial phase will provide the first step in implementing new natural gas service through the construction of a point-of-departure station that will connect to a Dominion Energy natural gas transmission line west of Centre Hall Borough, then run through Centre Hall and out to Hanover Foods in Potter Township.
The station will reduce the pressure from gas in the transmission line to a lower pressure suitable for the Centre Hall delivery pipeline system. Columbia Gas will own and operate the station as well as the delivery system.
The cooperative’s role for this project is procuring and managing the grant and supporting marketing efforts to add new customers. Kiel said the cooperative has been instrumental in securing greater interest and potential customer participation for this project.
“A tangible benefit of the cooperative’s role has been a higher-than-normal expected participation by potential customers as compared to typical expectations,” Kiel said.
Preliminary planning and design for the initial phase is nearly complete, and construction will begin in September. This phase is expected to be complete in 2020.
While the point-of-departure installation is proceeding, construction of the delivery system to serve around 95 potential new customers will be ongoing. Columbia Gas will build a 25,425-foot mainline pipeline delivery system to serve Centre Hall and Hanover Foods and other businesses and residents.
The project will support up to 150 family sustaining jobs. Access to natural gas also will be made available to 130 acres of vacant acreage that may be marketable for industrial development.
Total cost for the overall project is just over $7 million.
The SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, which was established on June 9, 2016, seeks to provide project funding and form partnerships to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure to its member counties: Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, and Union. For more information about the cooperative, visit http://centralpagas.org/.