CARIBOU, Maine — Last October, The Aroostook Medical Center became the first healthcare organization in the state and second in the nation to heat its facility with compressed natural gas.
On Tuesday, Xpress Natural Gas, or XNG, announced a similar partnership with Cary Medical Center in Caribou, which will have the hospital transition from heating oil to natural gas in the fall.
Officials from both companies said that the move not only will lessen the hospital’s carbon footprint, it also will boost the local economy by bringing natural gas-related construction and maintenance jobs to the area.
Compressed natural gas is a form of natural gas that is stored under high pressure. The gas, which will be trucked to the Caribou facility, is one of the cleanest and safest fuels available, according to the parties involved.
Shawn Anderson, chief operating officer at Cary Medical Center, said Tuesday that the hospital expects to save $250,000 annually after making the switch from heating oil to natural gas.
He added that the decision to make the switch was largely based on a swift and advantageous return on investment. Taking into account retrofitting and installation costs, the hospital will realize these savings in just under two and a half years.
Natural gas “was a perfect fit for us,” said Anderson. “We were extremely impressed with XNG’s expertise and customer service. Our relationship with XNG and the corresponding and dramatic long-term cost savings after making the switch will allow us to reinvest in the hospital to benefit patient services.”
A swift return on investment has been realized thus far at The Aroostook Medical Center.
In its just over three months of operation, TAMC has saved $120,000, which is one third of the total conversion cost of the project, according to hospital officials.
The total project cost for the conversion from heating and cooling with No. 2 fuel oil to natural gas was $332,000. The $120,000 saved to date reflects 36 percent of that amount, TAMC officials said Tuesday.
Hospital officials said they have compared the cost of using CNG in the period of time since the new heating and cooling source went online in late April through the end of July. The cost, when compared to the equivalent number of gallons of oil that would have been used in the same period, showed savings on target with what was expected.
“We have been very pleased to date with what we have seen,” said James McKenney, TAMC vice president for diagnostic and support services. “The cost savings are in line with the annual projections we were provided of between $400,000 and $500,000 per year. This project should pay for itself by the early part of next year.”
XNG is the only provider licensed to export trucked compressed natural gas by the U.S. Department of Energy, and licensed to import trucked compressed natural gas by the National Energy Board of Canada. XNG is the first company in Maine to haul compressed natural gas for heating use.
The cylindrical trailers used to transport compressed natural gas must meet very stringent safety standards and are designed to withstand a rollover at highway speeds without rupturing, according to company officials.