Northern Pulp is seriously contemplating converting to natural gas.
“We’re definitely looking at it, but nothing has been approved,” said general manager Don Breen. “We have talked to Heritage Gas. We definitely would like to get it here at the mill.”
Before that happens though they will need to get approval from head office and sign an agreement with Heritage Gas, the company with the distribution franchise rights for natural gas in Nova Scotia.
Breen said switching to natural gas would save them several million dollars a year at the mill, which currently uses oil. It would also be more environmentally friendly.
“We want to try to get away from the fossil fuel,” he said.
Breen said the process of converting the mill from oil to natural gas could be done within a year.
Jim Bracken, president of Heritage Gas, said having Northern Pulp convert to natural gas would be good news for both his business and others in Pictou County.
“We’ve always wanted to get to Pictou County, but we haven’t found a way to do it and make the economics work,” Bracken said.
But with a large customer like Northern Pulp, it opens a lot of opportunities and makes it cost effective to install the pipes.
Michelin is also looking at the possibility of getting natural gas at its Granton plant and there is potential the two companies could be fed from the same line.
“The larger loads are the critical ones to justify the existence of the pipe,” Bracken said.
Ideally, what Heritage Gas would like to do is build a line out to Northern Pulp and then build lines into the towns from there. Other businesses and potentially residences could be added from there.
Nova Scotia Power executives have said their concern with hooking up to natural gas is their belief that it isn’t yet a reliable source. Bracken admits they’ve had some issues with their Sable Island offshore production, which has caused a decrease in the volume coming in from offshore, but he said Nova Scotia’s offshore Deep Panuke natural gas site should be coming online soon. They’re also hooked in to New England so there is no real shortage. They just have to pay more for it than they have in the past.
“It’s something to be watched, but we don’t have concerns about it,” he said. “We are still getting gas.”
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