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Powering The Art of Hand-Blown Glass

Often, we read about large industrial companies or power providers with expansive customer bases that have chosen to use natural gas. With its many economic and environmental benefits, it’s the smart choice to power a business.

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But natural gas can also power small companies, where skilled artisans create unique and detailed pieces of art in a range of rich colors and designs.  At West Virginia’s Blenko Glass, natural gas is powering the art of hand-blown glass creation. 

For more than 100 years, Blenko glass has been creating works of art ranging from unique decorative and functional pieces to large-scale works, such as the Church Triumphant window at the Washington National Cathedral.  For the artists at Blenko, creating hand-blown glass pieces requires a versatile and affordable source of energy at high temperatures - sometimes as high as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Natural gas allows us to heat the furnaces in the most efficient way,” said Katie Trippe, vice president of Blenko Glass. “Electric heating is too inefficient for our necessary temperatures.”

According to Trippe, each artist must be able to change the temperatures of the furnaces regularly to create each unique piece, with production times ranging from about two minutes to about 10 minutes per piece. To rapidly alter temperatures efficiently, Blenko relies on natural gas as the only form of energy able to affordably meet their needs.

In addition, the company also benefits from low energy costs thanks to affordable natural gas prices. And these savings have kept Blenko employees on the job.

In the past year and a half alone, Blenko has saved $200,000 on its energy costs, enabling the company to invest more than $5,000 in new equipment and begin a 10-year plan to upgrade their entire facility. In addition, as the economy keeps working toward full recovery, the savings from using natural gas allowed Blenko to keep their employees working – sometimes with overtime during peak demand. While many small businesses downsized or closed completely during the economic downturn, natural gas kept Blenko and its employees working.

Natural gas has been used to power intense and demanding industrial applications across the nation.  But it can also power the creation of works of art still crafted and artfully made by hand. Natural gas can affordably and efficiently power business of all sizes. And we think that is something worth thinking about. 

To learn more about how use of natural gas is helping businesses across the country, visit www.thinkaboutit.org.

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