LINCOLN, Maine — Truckloads of steel pipe destined to become part of a 4-mile, $7.5 million natural gas pipeline connecting Bangor Gas Co. to Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC began arriving this week, officials said Thursday.
Workers at S & S Transportation Co. of Lincoln are helping stack sections of 45-foot, 6-inch-wide pipe on Access Road. Trucks will run the North Dakota- and Texas-made pipe there all next week, said Andrew Barrowman, Bangor Gas Co.’s manager of sales and marketing.
“It is stacked there pretty good, and that is only about a mile of pipe,” Barrowman said Wednesday, “so you can imagine what the footprint will be just for the pipe.”
The gas will run into Lincoln from a spur off a pipeline in nearby Mattamiscontis Township that once ran jet fuel from Searsport to the Loring Air Force Base in Limestone. The line, which Bangor Gas purchased last year, has been charged with high-pressure natural gas from Bangor to Mattawamkeag since last year, Barrowman said.
Bangor Gas is accepting bids from contractors to build the line and hopes to start installation work in April, with work completed by late summer. Once the Lincoln Paper and Tissue line is operating, Bangor Gas will install a $250,000 regulatory station at the mill that will enable low-pressure gas lines to be run for residences and businesses, Barrowman said.
Some businesses along West Broadway could get gas service by next winter before the frost sets in, he added.
The company will send out fliers seeking West Broadway customers next month. The company’s plan for Lincoln involves five phases each running one or two years that will eventually make natural gas available to most town residents, Barrowman said.
He cautioned against residents thinking that natural gas will soon be available everywhere. Natural gas installation is a complex process, and each new spur line off must be proven economically feasible, then installed, charged and tested thoroughly before new lines can be added.
“It is going to be years out before we would even get north of Mattawamkeag. I am going to say four years at least,” Barrowman said.
Barrowman said that Northern Penobscot Tech-Region III’s plans to start offering natural gas installation- and servicing certification classes by early April meshes well with the economic opportunity offered by natural gas. An introductory meeting to gauge interest in such a class held Tuesday night drew 20 residents, said Chris Weiss, who will teach the class.
“It was better than I expected. I was hoping for maybe 10 to 15,” Weiss said. “Six people told me after the class that they were definitely going to do it.”
Northern Penobscot County will need certified servicemen to install and service natural-gas lines and burners, although several Bangor-area businesses offer that service. Heating-oil companies are beginning to broaden to include natural-gas servicing, Barrowman said.
The class “is a great idea because we need more qualified techs in Bangor and Brewer. It does everybody justice to have more competitors,” Barrowman said. “There are not a lot of heating contractors in the Lincoln area, not enough of them in the area to keep up with demand as the gas line starts running.
“If a laid off employee at the mill has to figure out what he wants to do with his life, there is an opportunity here to get into entrepreneurship or get licensed with a contractor in Bangor,” he said.
Neighboring Chester town officials are helping Bangor Gas and its contractors with maps and other assistance, but have no plans yet to seek natural gas service. The town lacks large-volume consumers that would make a pipeline economically feasible, First Selectman Patrick Kein said.
“They said that if we had any large users they would look at installing a farm valve. They are not looking to put a low-pressure line through Chester at this point so basically it is a non-issue for us,” Kein said Thursday.
“We think [the natural gas line] is good for the Lincoln Lakes region economy,” Kein added. “We are being a good neighbor to them [Lincoln]. I wish the best for Lincoln, and I hope that economic development for them will soon follow.”