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Businesses to get natural gas before pipeline is completed

MIDDLEBURY — Three of the biggest institutions in Middlebury will begin to receive natural gas service before the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project pipeline is finished, Vermont Gas Systems announced on Wednesday.
Vermont Gas and NG Advantage LLC have begun construction of a so-called “gas island” consisting of a natural gas off-loading station and a small pipeline network that will distribute the gas to the Agri-Mark/Cabot cheese plant and the Vermont Hard Cider operations (both off Exchange Street) and Middlebury College.
Upon the completion of the “gas island” infrastructure, NG Advantage will begin delivering the same gas that will eventually flow from the pipeline using its “virtual pipeline” — a fleet of high-tech tractor-trailers that will deliver the gas to the off-loading station. Once Vermont Gas’ pipeline reaches Middlebury, NG Advantage will move its off-loading station and trucks to other customer sites.
The “gas island” concept was developed by NG Advantage as a means to provide multiple customers with natural gas service in advance of a natural gas pipeline or in areas where pipelines are not practical.
“Agri-Mark is very pleased to receive natural gas in this transition period due to this innovative transition approach designed by NG Advantage and Vermont Gas,” said Agri-Mark spokesman Doug DiMento in a press release. “Our company continues to look forward to the natural gas pipeline because when completed it will allow us to reduce plant costs substantially for our farmer-owners. In the meantime, we support this creative short-term solution as it will allow us to take a first step with some financial savings to our farmers until the full project is completed.”
The “gas island” system will provide the same natural gas used by Vermont Gas to serve its current customer base of 50,000 homes and businesses in Chittenden and Franklin counties. Vermont Gas officials said natural gas is less expensive and cleaner than oil, and they pointed out that it is sourced in North America.
“We believe this is a first in the U.S. midstream natural gas distribution industry,” said Tom Evslin, CEO of Milton-based NG Advantage, in a press release. “We are on track to begin deliveries in late 2014. When the work in Middlebury is completed, we will be able to serve Vermont Gas’ new customers saving them 20-40 percent off of their fuel bills as well as eliminating 26 percent of their CO2 and a substantial amount of their SO2 and NOX emissions.”
In the press release, Gov. Peter Shumlin gave his support.
“Vermont companies are committed to lowering their air polluting emissions,” he said. “NG Advantage has designed a very creative way to help our industries become greener and competitive. Many of the businesses in Addison County find that they have to rely upon fuel oil or propane because they have not had the opportunity to choose natural gas. This new venture is a great economic development initiative to give our industries businesses a choice of natural gas now, as a head start on saving money and lowering their carbon footprint.”
Vermont Gas welcomed the chance to serve its Middlebury customers before the pipeline is completed, which is estimated for the end of 2015.
“We are excited to have Agri-Mark, Vermont Hard Cider and Middlebury College immediately become customers of Vermont Gas,” said Don Gilbert, president and CEO of Vermont Gas. “Natural gas will be delivered to their local network by NG Advantage using its high-tech, carbon fiber trailers until our pipeline is completed to Middlebury.
“Working in partnership with NG Advantage is a creative model for the gas industry, demonstrating that (a local distribution company) can help customers receive the benefits of natural gas as we prepare to extend our infrastructure,” Gilbert added.

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