Brewer gets $1.28 million for commerce park

Posted Jan. 31, 2010, at 10:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — City officials learned last week that a $1.28 million earmark is heading to town to help develop the Brewer Business and Commerce Park, and today the first tenant is presenting its plans for a liquid methane energy plant to the planning board.

Maine Liquid Methane Fuels LLC is proposing a liquid methane fuels plant, estimated to cost $50 million to build, for the city’s new 320-acre approximately 60-lot, business park, located off Wiswell Road, behind the landfill.

The facility’s plans are similar to plants in Massachusetts and California, which have used liquefied natural gas fuels for a number of years, company President Christian “Chris” Hofford said last month at a public informational meeting.

Hofford, who also is president of CHI Engineering of Portsmouth, N.H., a firm that specializes in LNG facilities, has nearly 40 years of experience with liquefied gas plants.

The earmark is part of the $447 billion omnibus spending bill that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 16, 2009. City officials found out Tuesday, Feb. 26, that a request for funds for the business park was included in the federal bill.

“The city has already purchased and amassed the land needed and completed preliminary design and engineering work along with an economic feasibility study,” Tanya Pereira, economic development deputy director, said in an e-mail Friday. “The business park will provide jobs and economic development through the investment in space for business, industrial, and manufacturing development.”

The federal grant funds require a local match, but details about how much that will be and rules regarding use of the funds are not yet available, D’arcy Main-Boyington, economic development director, said Friday.

“There are a lot of parts of phase one [of the new business park] that this could be used for,” she said, listing utilities or road construction as possibilities. “We haven’t decided exactly.”

She added that once the city gets the details of the match, “we’ll figure out from there where we’ll get the biggest bang for the buck.”

The city already is planning to add about 800 feet to the dirt road that leads past the landfill to reach the parcel where the proposed liquid methane energy plant will be located.

The land was picked because it’s close to a natural gas pipeline that travels through the city.

“We’re taking gas from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline,” Hofford told residents. “We’re purifying and liquefying it so we can truck it.”

Liquefied methane is cleaner to burn and a considerably cheaper alternative to petroleum products, he said.

Maine Liquid Methane Fuels submitted plans for the state’s first natural gas processing plant to the city in January and was placed on the February planning board agenda. The meeting is set to be held at 6 tonight at City Hall.

The limited liability corporation also must apply for a wetland mitigation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the road and a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

If all goes as planned, the facility would open in the late spring or early summer of 2011, Hofford said.

Other Maine projects receiving the federal earmark funds include:

• $1,000,000 for Loring Development Authority, Loring Commerce Centre Infrastructure Development, Limestone. Funding would go toward modernization of facilities and infrastructure at Loring Commerce Centre to support business development. Modernizing these facilities will help assure that the infrastructure serving this regional economic center will continue to be reliable and available for small businesses to occupy.

• $345,000 for town of Orono, Kelley Road Business Park. Funding would enable the town to provide infrastructure and facility upgrades essential for developing a business park. The town has completed the preliminary master plan for this property, which anchors its economic development zone. The project will build essential infrastructure to attract private capital needed to create jobs.

• $250,000 for Washington Hancock Community Agency, Rural Business Energizer Program, Milbridge. Funds would go toward providing business training to rural entrepreneurs in Washington and Hancock counties to help them grow their businesses, start new enterprises and create new jobs. This training will provide a foundation for future growth as these businesses expand.

• $850,000 for University of Southern Maine, Science Technology Research Center, Portland. Funds would enable USM to build on available lab-ready space in the bioscience building. The labs will be designed to be adaptive to various biology and chemistry protocols and lines of work to serve as a hub for faculty work that engages students.

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