Natural gas-fueled power plant in Lordstown will be showpiece


By Rep. TIM RYAN and ERIC A. SPIEGEL

Special to The Vindicator

The state-of-the-art natural gas-fueled power plant that’s moving forward in Lordstown isn’t just a significant chapter in the Mahoning Valley’s emerging comeback story. It’s also a powerful symbol of the future of electricity generation in the United States – and a facility we’d like to highlight as part of national Infrastructure Week.

Located near the Utica and Marcellus shale fields, it’s a no-brainer that the Lordstown Energy Center will harness affordable, abundant and cleaner-burning natural gas. A generation ago, such a facility would have been unimaginable.

When we were growing up in Niles and Youngstown, easy access to coal, iron ore, limestone and water is what sustained the area’s dominant industry: steel.

Our immigrant grandfathers punched a ticket to the middle class working at National Gypsum, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., and Wean United. Steel represented the region’s economic lifeblood – until global competition decimated the industry here in the 1970s.

Back then, it was impossible to see how the region’s economy would get off its heels. While the road to recovery has been long and hard – with inevitable twists and turns – one development in particular stands out as pivotal: unconventional drilling that has unlocked vast amounts of oil and gas.

As a result of new technologies and drilling techniques, the Utica and Marcellus shales are at the center of an oil and gas boom that is transforming the global energy landscape.

Although low prices are causing challenges in some parts of the energy industry, low-cost natural gas is reshaping America’s power sector. Last year, we saw for the first time natural gas overtake coal as a fuel for electric generation in the U.S., representing a tectonic shift in the nation’s energy mix. This development is notable given that natural gas-fired generation produces about half the carbon emissions as coal-fired power.

The Lordstown Energy Center provides a prime example of the national trend. When this new natural gas-fired power plant opens during the summer of 2018, it will help make up for the more than seven gigawatts of coal-fired power generating capacity that has been retired, or announced to be retired, in Ohio since the beginning of 2010.

Siemens’ equipment

As the technology partner for the Lordstown Energy Center, Siemens will supply the world’s most modern power generation equipment and deliver one of America’s most advanced power plants.

The Flex-Plant technology Siemens is installing is designed to reduce start-up emissions by up to 95 percent, maintain low emissions during load following and maximize operational flexibility to reduce greenhouse gases and support the integration of renewables.

The gas turbines and the steam turbine for the Lordstown Energy Center will be manufactured with pride in the United States by Siemens workers. And Siemens service technicians in the Midwest will ensure that the facility operates at maximum capacity for many years to come.

The construction of this new power plant has great significance to the Mahoning Valley. Because when companies look to invest, access to affordable, reliable and clean energy is one of the first factors they consider. The Lordstown Energy Center represents an essential infrastructure investment that will give the region a competitive edge.

As Mahoning Valley natives, we’re eager to see economic revitalization in this area. Several years ago, Siemens announced an in-kind grant of $440 million in product lifecycle management software to Youngstown State University, enabling students there to train on the world’s most sophisticated industrial software – an effort aimed at creating opportunities for Youngstown and the surrounding area.

In making that announcement, it was noted that the emergence of unconventional drilling and the addition of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute would help position the area to be the center of another major industry – and that it was critical for the community to work together to overcome any obstacles in seizing this moment.

When the Lordstown Energy Center comes online in just over two years, we look forward to seeing Siemens help open the next act in the Mahoning Valley’s comeback story.

Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Howland, represents Ohio’s 13th Congressional District and is a member of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus. Eric A. Spiegel is the president and CEO of Siemens USA. A Youngstown native, he is a graduate of Poland Seminary High School.

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