NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Local companies are investigating natural gas as a fuel source to trim operating costs and ease environmental impacts.
NG Advantage, a startup company based in Colchester, plans to begin transporting Canadian natural gas from a pipeline in northern Vermont. The pipeline currently serves just 17 towns in Franklin and Chittenden counties. The company hopes to expand that by bringing natural gas to large-volume consumers to boost natural gas consumption and reduce oil and propane use, according to CEO Neale Lunderville, a former top aide to former Vermont Gov. James Douglas.
"Our company looks to serve large, industrial and commercial users who are big consumers of fuel," he said. "It's great for their businesses and it's great for the Vermont economy."
NG Advantage is hoping to begin delivering natural gas to customers early next year. It promises to compress that gas at a facility in Milton then load it onto trailers to be delivered around the state, according to Lunderville.
"With that, we can save big energy users real money on their bottom line -- 20, 30, sometimes 40 percent," he said.
The price is less volatile than oil because 98 percent of natural gas used in the U.S. is produced in North America, according to Lunderville. "It's not subject to a lot of the price shocks that oil is," he said.
Natural gas also provides environmental benefits. Lunderville said burning natural gas creates 26 percent less carbon dioxide compared to oil. It also "virtually eliminates" sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, he said.
Lunderville said there are ongoing talks with area businesses about transitioning to natural gas. He said those talks are expected to continue. "I'd say that there's some real interest," he said.
Bennington County Industrial Corp. Executive Director Peter Odierna said local businesses are excited about the possibility of cheaper fuel. "It'd be huge," he said.
Several companies in Bennington that manufacture carbon composite products for the defense, medical and auto industries use machinery that requires a large amount of power and heat. Other businesses and organizations could also benefit, though.
Still, Odierna said challenges remain. The Milton facility is about three hours away, and the Bennington-area was not included in the company's original service-territory. Transportation costs could cut into the savings margin, he said.
Odierna said BCIC will continue pushing for a fueling station closer to Bennington. "It's definitely a two- to five-year discussion. I don't think it's a 10 to 20," he said.
Lunderville said a natural gas market in Bennington could lead to service in nearby states, and a closer fueling station. "We're in the process of doing the research in both of those states. I think it could spread to Massachusetts and New York," he said.