LINCOLN, Maine — Lincoln Paper & Tissue LLC subcontractors this week will likely finish a $2 million conversion to liquefied natural gas that will save the paper and tissue maker as much as 30 percent of its major energy costs, company officials said Monday.
The company has already started running its No. 7 tissue-making machine on liquefied natural gas and will finish the conversion of No. 8, which also produces tissue, by Friday, company co-owner Keith Van Scotter said. Work began on the changeover last fall.
The liquefied natural gas is being trucked into the mill from Massachusetts by a company Lincoln Paper hired as part of the project, Van Scotter said.
“Our public position is that we view this as a bridge to the long-term solution with the natural gas pipeline,” Van Scotter said Monday in reference to a state plan to run a pipeline through the Lincoln Lakes region in 2013. “It is a step in the right direction, but we need a natural gas pipeline to the mill.”
The LePage administration is helping natural-gas suppliers and Maine businesses prepare to run a branch line — a 6- to 8-inch pipe — about 60 or 70 miles from the Old Town area through Lincoln and into the Katahdin region, where it would supply the two Great Northern Paper Co. mills, state energy office officials have said.
Private investors would build the branch sometime in 2013. It would extend from Maine’s largest natural gas conduit, the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which stretches from Canada to Portland. It is among three gas pipelines in Maine, officials said.
“We have placed an extraordinary amount of effort on the safety of this system and we are very, very comfortable that this is a good and safe system that we are using and that the people involved know what they are doing,” Van Scotter said.
Even with the expected energy savings, company profit margins are still tight due to high transportation costs and the struggling economy, Van Scotter said.