TICONDEROGA — Preliminary work is under way in Vermont on extending a natural-gas pipeline to serve International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill.
Vermont Gas Systems, owner of the natural-gas pipeline being extended from the South Burlington area to provide service to Vergennes and Middlebury, Vt., also plans to bore under Lake Champlain to the mill.
At their end, International Paper engineers are planning an $8 million to $10 million conversion of the mill’s power and recovery boilers to fire from natural gas. The boilers now use No. 6 fuel oil.
“The pipeline is essential to IP’s continued operation,” Mill Manager Chris Mallon said.
Natural gas would be about 43 percent cheaper than the fuel oil the mill burns now, he said.
IP’s 10.5-mile-long section of the pipeline is expected to be completed in 2015.
Mill Manager of Communications Donna Wadsworth said the project will be helpful to the Ticonderoga site.
“We’re excited about the project. For us, it is coming along fast.”
She said natural-gas use would reduce the mill’s greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 20 percent.
Vermont Gas has been holding public meetings in Vermont on the $72 million project.
The construction will affect several property owners in Cornwall and Shoreham, Vt., as the pipeline passes through those towns and under the lake bed.
In response to public criticism of its previous proposed route, Vermont Gas is now planning to run the 10-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipe along the existing Vermont Electric Power Co. utilities corridor. That stretches from Rutland to South Burlington and has buffers to protect residential areas.
Vermont Gas, based in South Burlington, says the line would travel from that city near Route 116, then over to Vergennes on one spur and down to Middlebury on another.
The pipeline isn’t being extended from Chittenden County solely for IP; it would also benefit some communities along the route by providing them with natural-gas service.
A final map of the pipeline’s route was filed Feb. 28 with the Vermont Public Service Board.
“Vermont Gas is currently negotiating with landowners for the purchase of an easement for the pipeline,” Vermont Gas Director of Communications Steve Wark said in a statement.
“We are still in the early stages of negotiations, and written offers will be provided to landowners as they approach a more final stage of discussions. Compensation for the easements are based on valuation of the land and the amount of land impacted.”
RANGE OF BENEFITS
Vermont Gas President Donald Gilbert went on Vermont Public Radio’s “Vermont Edition” show recently to say that about 70 percent of the gas carried by the pipeline extension will go to IP.
“They’re (IP) going to support the investment in infrastructure. There’s significant benefits to the community and the state from the addition of International Paper.”
He said 20 percent of the wood used at the mill comes from Vermont forests, so the paper mill also benefits the Green Mountain State with employment.
Pierre Castonguay, the natural-gas project leader for International Paper, was also on the show, saying the No. 6 fuel oil they burn now has the consistency of asphalt at lower temperatures, so the switch to natural gas is far better for the environment.
“The way it (the pipeline) really does help benefit Vermont and New York communities is, one, it does significantly lower greenhouse gases.”
The other benefit is a lower energy cost, Castonguay said, which is one of the largest paper-manufacturing costs.
“We’re in a very competitive business environment. By lowering our costs, it really does help solidify the future of the 600 employees we have in the mill, but also there are over 600 others who earn their livelihood from IP: loggers, contractors and service employers.”
A $1.75 million state grant through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council will assist the Ticonderoga mill with the conversion to natural gas.
Essex County Industrial Development Agency Chairman Darren Darrah said the grant will help keep the mill in Ticonderoga by lowering its energy costs.
“International Paper has been a significant employer in Essex County, and this funding will ensure a strong and lasting future,” he said in a statement.
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