BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works has reached an agreement with Maine Natural Gas Corp. that would bring a natural gas pipeline to Bath, likely lowering costs and carbon emissions at the shipyard, as well as providing the city with access to a previously unavailable fuel source.
“When the pipeline comes to Bath, it will potentially benefit our community … by opening the door for other business, municipal and residential users in the area to reduce their energy costs,” wrote BIW president Jeff Geiger in a bulletin issued Thursday night to shipyard workers.
“[Changing to natural gas] will reduce fuel costs, help to insulate us from the dramatic price fluctuations associated with oil and eliminate the environmental hazards and safety issues that come with delivery, storage, monitoring and handling large quantities of fuel oil,” Geiger continued. “By burning natural gas, we will reduce our carbon footprint by approximately one-third and add to our solid track record of environmental stewardship.”
Bath Iron Works has experience with natural gas. The company already uses the fuel in its consolidated warehouse, East Brunswick Manufacturing Facility and Hardings Plant in Brunswick, because natural gas is available in that town.
Geiger wrote that making the fuel switch at the “largest area of our operation,” in Bath, will allow the shipyard to offer more affordable ship prices to the U.S. Navy.
The company president also wrote that Maine Natural Gas Corp. should be able to complete its pipeline to the shipyard before the end of the current calendar year.
Bath City Manager Bill Giroux said the prospect of a natural gas pipeline extension into his city “is definitely a positive.”
“It provides anybody along that line another fuel option,” Giroux said, “and options are good for customers.”
Maine Natural Gas Corp. is a Brunswick-based company with additional infrastructure systems in place in Topsham, Windham, Gorham, Bowdoin, Freeport and Pownal, according to the company’s website.
Maine Natural Gas Vice President Darrel Quimby told The Times Record today that his company proposes to extend the pipeline from the New Meadows Bridge down Bath Road and State Road into Bath, but plans have yet to be completed.
“We’re really pleased we can help BIW, one of the largest employers in the state and an important economic cog in this region, to continue to stay economically strong and building quality products,” Quimby said. “The first year is going to be busy just getting to BIW, then we’ll start to look at where else [in Bath] the interest is.”
Quimby said that natural gas prices are between 30 percent and 50 percent lower than oil prices. He described natural gas as a “clean, cost effective transition fuel” as Mainers more thoroughly develop renewable energy sources.
“It certainly takes us away from oil, and with what’s going on in Libya and the Middle East, that’s a concern,” Quimby said. “The price difference right now is pretty substantial. Oil reached $100 a barrel. It’s down to $98 now, but it’s still not $60. The prices are politically charged. If we could save $2,000 or $1,000 on our heating bills every year, that’s money we can use to take our wives out to eat or go shopping. It’s money that goes back into the community, as opposed to going overseas.”
Bath Codes Enforcement Officer Scott Davis said Maine Natural Gas Corp. will need to seek permits to install the pipeline under city roadways.
“They’re going to bury lines under our streets,” Davis said. “Usually those big lines, they try to keep them along the transportation corridors, so they’ll need permits to dig up our streets.”
Davis said he’s heard from people who have moved to Bath from other areas who have been disappointed that natural gas wasn’t previously an option in the city.
“We’re the most densely populated place in Maine north of Munjoy Hill,” he said. “If ever there was a target rich community for a utility, it’d be Bath.”
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