Columbia Gas and Penn State are investigating the viability of a new, end-to-end on-campus route for a gas pipeline to serve the University’s West Campus Steam Plant. This is the latest development in a continuing discussion among various utilities, the University, PennDOT and the State College Borough over the past two years.
In consultation with engineers from Penn State, four potential on-campus routes were identified, evaluated and ultimately dismissed by Columbia in 2010 as not viable. The primary difficulty of an on-campus route is the complexity of buried utilities crisscrossing University Park. In response to concerns from State College residents about a proposed route through a residential section of the borough, the University subsequently asked Columbia to re-evaluate the original campus routes as well as to identify potential new ones.
"We value our town-gown relationship,” said Ford Stryker, associate vice president for the Office of Physical Plant. "Both Columbia and Penn State have been working hard to evaluate the practicality of an on-campus route and expect to determine its feasibility by the middle of July."
Re-assessment of the original four routes yielded the same conclusion: there is simply too much interference with existing utilities. “However, residents made their concerns known. We value our town-gown relationship, so we have been working with Columbia to identify other alternatives,” said Ford Stryker, associate vice president for the Office of Physical Plant. "There is a northern route across campus that has been identified as having potential. Both Columbia and Penn State have been working hard to evaluate the practicality of an on-campus route and expect to determine its feasibility by the middle of July."
A significant factor in this process is time. The University has until January of 2016 to meet stricter EPA air-quality standards. The switch from the current use of coal in the West Campus Steam Plant to using natural gas will reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent. To keep to this tight schedule, Columbia has submitted applications for earth disturbance permits for both the original borough route and the potential new campus route. The earth disturbance permitting process is lengthy, and it will take place independently of the route feasibility analysis.
The most likely on-campus route is a “northern line” included in Columbia’s permit application. The route would begin at Porter Road and travel north to and along University Drive to cross Park Avenue. It would then travel west until turning south on Shortlidge Road. It will proceed to Curtin Road and then down Burrowes Road to where it connects with the West Campus Steam Plant.
At this point, identification of the northern route is only preliminary, Stryker stressed, and it is more complex and lengthy than the original proposed route. Penn State will continue to work with Columbia to prepare a detailed scope of work including landscape restoration requirements, recommended utility work along the route, contractor access points and scheduling so that a cost estimate can be prepared.
For more information about the University’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Initiative and its goal to reduce emissions by 35 percent over 2006 levels, visit www.ghg.psu.edu.
For more information about the University’s other sustainability initiatives and activities, visit www.sustainability.psu.edu.