Natural gas focus of ‘Clayton Conversations’

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 132 views 

Fort Smith’s historic Clayton House invited guests to learn about the region’s more than 100 year-old natural gas industry at its “Clayton Conversations” series on Sunday (March 24) afternoon.

Mike Callan, president of Fort Smith-based Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., spoke to the crowd about the area’s past and present natural gas production and about the impact the fuel has had on the economic development of the Fort Smith metro area.

Callan explained that Fort Smith’s natural gas industry did not truly begin until the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Citing familiar names such as Harry Kelley, Callan said several early Fort Smith citizens pioneered natural gas production in the Fort Smith area, which contributed to the early establishment of several major manufacturers and businesses.

Situated in the middle of the Arkoma Basin, Fort Smith has experienced tremendous natural gas production over the last century. Callan explained that AOG was originally known as Fort Smith Gas and that through the acquisition of several smaller gas companies, the organization grew and expanded its services to a total of 10 counties.

Callan also provided interesting facts about natural gas production, including information about the modernizations of pipelines and about local sources of the fuel. He surprised many when he said the Fort Smith Landfill is the company’s fourth largest producer of natural gas.

“Production has been really good for Fort Smith,” said Callan, adding that local producers and operations had served as AOG’s primary source of natural gas for several decades.

On a state level, Callan noted that Arkansas is one of the top 10 natural gas producers in the US.

“We produce almost four times annually the amount of natural gas that Arkansans consume,” he said. “We are producing not only enough for our citizens, but also for the many new uses of natural gas.”

Bringing the discussion to the topic of the natural gas technologies of today, Callan spoke to the group about the use of the fuel in homes and automobiles. He talked about one of his passions, compressed natural gas, or CNG, as an alternative fuel for cars.

Describing it as a clean, cost-effective fuel alternative, Callan told the audience that CNG currently costs only 96 cents a gallon compared to today’s average of nearly $3.50 for regular gasoline.

In discussing the challenges associated with modern fuel options, Callan explained that Arkansas lags in terms of the number of alternative fuel run cars, due greatly in part to costs associated with converting a vehicle to CNG. He added that he and many others were encouraging lawmakers to provide incentives and rebates for consumers wanting to covert their vehicles to CNG to help further promote the cost-saving technology. 

Following his presentation, Callan opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience. Several inquired further about the use of CNG in motor vehicles and about the overall costs associated with natural gas production. Many older guests also reminisced about how the introduction of natural gas technology into their homes as children simplified life and provided a more stable source of fuel for heating and cooking.

The Clayton House hosts its “Conversations” series on the fourth Sunday afternoon of each month from January-October. Citizen speakers are invited to share the history of a particular aspect of the Fort Smith region’s community life. Clayton Conversations are open to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are encouraged.