NORTHUMBERLAND — The developer of a proposed liquefied natural gas manufacturing plant said on Tuesday that due to demand, the plant’s initial output will be increased by a third, with the potential creation of 15 additional jobs.
Evan Coleman, chief operating officer of Clear Energy of Marlborough, Mass., said that within six months of going online, the White Mountain LNG facility would produce 400,000 gallons daily. He attributed the increase to demand that arose since news of the project went public.
When the project was presented in February, Coleman said the LNG plant would produce 300,000 gallons a day.
The plant will be located on the grounds of the former Wausau paper mill’s wastewater treatment lagoons and will have the capacity to store 1.8 million gallons of LNG on-site.
Initially, the LNG plant was expected to bring an estimated 84 jobs to Groveton village, nearly all for truck drivers, with a starting pay of $19 per hour. The plant is projected to generate $1.7 million annually in property taxes, which could effectively cut Northumberland’s municipal tax rate in half.
Jim Weagle, former chairman of the Northumberland Board of Selectmen, said the LNG plant would be a great fit in the community, adding that there was overwhelming support for it. He said the tax benefit of White Mountain LNG was huge, adding that a pledge by the company to make a $100,000 annual charitable donation for 15 years was also welcome.
Weagle said he believed the plant would stimulate additional economic activity in and around Northumberland, something that Coleman said is happening now.
The plant will have the capability of making up to 600,000 gallons of LNG daily — most of it destined for customers in southern New England although some would be used at fueling stations in the North Country and nearby Vermont.
Part of that demand is for LNG fueling stations to serve dual-fuel vehicles as well as well as four LNG storage facilities, one of each would be built at Gorham Paper and Tissue. A federal grant is being sought to pay for the fueling stations.
Last week, Michael Cunnings, GPAT’s chief executive officer, told the Union Leader that his company looked forward to the ability to use the LNG during the winter to offset seasonal spikes in the cost of natural gas. The price spikes this winter forced GPAT to curtail production and to lay off 25 employees.
Coleman said he was confident that the Northern Community Investment Corporation, which applied for the $2.5 million grant, will be successful.
“The stations are really critical in our opinion and in the opinion of representatives in our community because they would lower the costs of transporting goods from the North Country” to markets in the south, said Coleman. He said it would also offer a hedge and protection against high natural-gas prices.
Clear Energy will have its own fueling stations in Groveton, and Coleman said doing so will save the company lots of money, estimating that when the LNG plant is running that some 30 trucks will travel out of the facility daily.
Coleman thanked Bob Chapman, one of the owners of the 67-acre parcel where White Mountain hopes to build its LNG plant, for going “above and beyond” in terms of judiciously clearing the property for redevelopment. He said Chapman’s leaving intact a 300,000 square-foot concrete pad would “ensure that there will be a great foundation, no pun intended, for another company to come in and build or expand on what’s already there.”
The former Wausau mill property has over 90,000 square-feet of existing warehouse space, a rail siding and large-scale electrical infrastructure and is less than 500 yards from where the LNG plant will be located, said Coleman.
A ground-breaking ceremony is being planned for later this spring or early summer, but Coleman said “heavy construction” won’t begin until all necessary permitting is in place.
Clear Energy, which designs and builds energy production facilities but does not operate them, has already signed several 15-year contracts with potential customers, said Coleman, and it has also identified the eventual operator, which will be named when the Groveton facility is open.
Pipeline for business
Coleman hopes that White Mountain LNG will become “a virtual pipeline” for businesses that rely on natural gas, adding that one North Country business is poised to make that conversion and that companies in Maine have used LNG successfully for years.
“We’re able to service much smaller facilities with LNG,” he said. “While we’ve had tremendous growth, there’s an even greater interest to use that fuel” closer to where it’s made, Coleman said, “and right now we’re trucking it down to Boston and the lower New England market.”