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April 25. 2013 12:14AM

Plymouth State to convert campus to natural gas and save


The Plymouth State University heating plant will be converted this summer to a co-generation plant that will burn natural gas. (COURTESY)

PLYMOUTH - Plymouth State University has signed a deal with a Boston natural gas company to convert the university from burning diesel oil to using a "virtual pipeline" natural gas system starting next fall.

The new system will pay for itself in one year, according to Stephen Taksar, the university's vice president for finance and administration.

It will reduce carbon emissions on the campus by 12 percent. That fits with the university's goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050, Taksar said.

"You can't reach a goal like that without reassessing your fuel usage and conservation," Taksar said.

The university is looking at switching to a biomass system or some other alternative in the decades ahead.

"It's a very small upfront cost to adopt a new system, and very few investments like this have a one-year payback," he said.

The numbers are simple: The cost of converting the campus oil burners to a compressed natural gas system is roughly $500,000. The university's savings in burning natural gas will be $500,000 per year.

"It will allow us to reinvest in our students; it's a win-win," he said.

PSU's new system will be unique in the state, Taksar said, in the "virtual pipeline" concept. The compressed gas will be delivered via trucks, and the gas will be burned in the converted oil burners.

The university's contract for the system is with Xpress Natural Gas of Boston.

Plymouth State expects to lower its carbon emissions related to heating fuel by 32 percent, or a projected 2,800 tons of carbon per year. The entire campus is expected to reduce its total carbon footprint and overall carbon emissions by 12 percent.

The PSU central heating plant provides heat and hot water to 42 educational buildings with more than 1.2 million square feet of classroom, residential and office space.

John Nahill, president and CEO of Xpress Natural Gas, said his company is "thrilled to work with Plymouth State as they take a significant step forward using a cleaner, lower-cost fuel that is better for the environment."

"This project is exactly the kind of collaboration we look for with our customers," he said.


dseufert@newstote.com


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