University system trustees approve Farmington campus’ plan to switch to natural gas

Students at the University of Maine at Farmington in this undated handout photo.
University of Maine at Farmington
Students at the University of Maine at Farmington in this undated handout photo.
Posted Jan. 27, 2014, at 3:13 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine at Farmington hopes to save $4 million over the next 10 years by switching from oil to less expensive natural gas to heat the school’s buildings.

On Monday, the University of Maine System’s board of trustees brought the university one step closer to that goal by voting to transfer decision-making power to UMF. Officials on that campus will now have the ability to enter into agreements necessary to secure the delivery of natural gas to campus.

The estimated cost of the project is $2 million-$4 million, which will be paid for incrementally as the university saves money by heating with the less expensive fuel.

The university is hoping to bolster an effort by county officials and businesses in southern Franklin County who are working on a plan to run a new natural gas pipeline from the Verso Paper Mill in Jay to Farmington, according to the Kennebec Journal.

UMF has selected Summit Natural Gas to provide the natural gas service to the campus and Trane U.S. to convert the university’s facilities. The next step will be to create a contract with those companies.

The transition is also expected to reduce the university’s carbon emissions, according to Laurie Gardiner, UMF’s executive director for administration and finance.

The university burns about 380,000 gallons of heating oil per year. Eliminating the use of that oil would have the same effect on the environment as taking 200 passenger cars off the road, Gardiner said.

“Farmington has an extremely active sustainable campus coalition,” said UMF president Kathryn Foster. The coalition consists of faculty, students, staff and community members and is concerned with environmental issues. “So we’ve had an active green agenda and this would be another way to demonstrate that value.”

The price of natural gas has improved significantly in recent years, compared with that of heating oil. According to MaineOil.com, heating oil in Farmington currently goes for $3.70 a gallon. The natural gas equivalent is $2.49, according to Bangor Gas.

As a result, thousands of Maine homes and businesses are making the switch.

 

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