Aug. 10–EPPING — The Business and Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce, endorsed Liberty Utilities’ Granite Bridge energy infrastructure project.
The proposed project would connect existing natural gas infrastructure to a new storage tank, allowing the utility to stockpile fuel in the off-season when prices are lower.
BIA President Jim Roche said access to natural gas service is a critical factor for New Hampshire’s economy.
“Granite Bridge will ensure businesses large and small will be able to continue accessing this low-cost, efficient and clean-burning fuel for heating and industrial use,” Roche said. “Natural gas is consistently 40 to 60 percent less expensive than alternative heating fuels. Without Granite Bridge, some businesses looking to expand or relocate in New Hampshire will choose not to bear the higher cost of alternative fuels and will choose to grow elsewhere.”
The proposal calls for connecting two existing natural gas pipelines with a new pipeline between Stratham and Manchester running through a state-designated “Energy Infrastructure Corridor” along Route 101. A proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility in an abandoned quarry in Epping would store some of the natural gas from the Granite Bridge pipeline to provide fuel security and cost savings to customers.
The proposed 27-mile pipeline must be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. John Shore, Liberty’s East Region manager of marketing and communications, said that process would take upwards of a year from when the pipeline application was submitted to the PUC on Dec. 22, 2017. If the PUC approves the project, it would go to the state Site Review Committee for secondary approval, which Shore estimated would take another year.
Shore said if both state regulatory bodies approve the project, construction of the 16-inch pipeline would take two to three years. The pipeline and storage facility combined are expected to save $950 million over 20 years for Seacoast customers, compared to other alternatives, according to Liberty promotional material. There is also an estimated $200 million in state and local property tax revenue for all communities over the life of the project.
Securing a reliable supply of fuel has become a chief concern of the region’s independent electrical grid operator. ISO New England said during last winter’s subzero spell area generators nearly ran out of fuel to make electricity. Bloomberg reported at the time that spot prices for natural gas in the region were the most expensive on the planet. ISO released a report warning by 2024-2025 the region may no longer be able to secure enough fuel for power generators to meet demand. The Granite Bridge LNG facility would provide 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Liberty’s heating customers during the coldest days of winter, freeing up natural gas capacity to serve power generators and helping lower the price of electricity.
“Our current energy crisis is not a bluff,” Roche said. “Without Granite Bridge and similar initiatives, ISO predicts within five years rolling blackouts and other emergency measures will be necessary during peak load periods. By then, it will be too late to act.”
Granite Bridge has received key bipartisan political and public support. Twenty-two of 24 state senators endorsed the project. Numerous leading state manufacturers, chambers of commerce and labor organizations are also in support.
“We hope state regulators will recognize the value and necessity of the Granite Bridge proposal and approve it expeditiously,” Roche said.
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