Posted by TC Energy
On May 31, 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, Manufacturers Light and Heat Company purchased nine acres of land along Connoquenessing Creek in Ellwood City, Pa., around 40 miles north of its Pittsburgh headquarters.
The plan was to build a 1,000-hp compressor station to support the expansion of two nearby natural gas pipelines. Market demand in the region was growing fast, and the company needed to keep up. As it turned out, the project couldn’t have come at a better time: By the end of 1945, the station’s horsepower had doubled, and a post-war economic boom was on the horizon.
This month, less than a week after Memorial Day, the Ellwood Compressor Station turns 80 years old. Born in the Silent Generation, the workhorse station continues to function as a key cog in the Columbia Gas Transmission system while serving the energy needs of Western Pennsylvania and beyond.
Much has changed during its long and productive life. The station has endured major floods that occurred in 1954 and 2004 as well as several corporate mergers and name changes—from Manufacturers Light and Heat to Columbia Gas Transmission to Columbia Pipeline to TransCanada to TC Energy. Manned 24/7 for years, the station is now staffed with six workers: a team leader, A&E mechanic, transmission mechanic, M&R mechanic, maintenance mechanic and land representative.
Given Ellwood’s ability to stand the test of time, however, several necessary constants have underpinned the station through the years. Among them, its two 500-hp Clark RA-5 units are the oldest compressor units still working in the U.S. Gas Operations East and TC Energy fleets. And, for a significant portion of its existence, its current Team Leader Neil Gourley has had a hand in keeping station operations running smoothly.
May 31 also happens to mark Neil’s 26th anniversary as a full-time employee at Columbia Gas. He joined the station as a part-timer four years after college. Neil has dedicated his professional life to ensuring Ellwood’s safe and reliable function, and in turn, the station has given Neil what seems like a lifetime of friendships and memories.
For that reason, we saw it fitting to catch up with Neil to reflect on his time at Ellwood and its unique history.