February 15, 2012
Omya to use liquified natural gas
With no pipeline, Omya plans to truck natural gas to plant
PITTSFORD - For Omya Inc., it's the best alternative to a natural gas pipeline. Omya announced Tuesday it would embark on a $7 million to $10 million project to switch the calcium carbonate plant to liquefied natural gas and off more expensive fuel oil. The liquefied natural gas would be trucked to the plant daily.
Omya plant manager Pierre Masuy declined to say how much the company spends on energy each year, but said it was significant.
"For competitive reasons, we don't like to share those things," Masuy said. "What I can say, when you put together energy, which is kilowatts, and fuel oil right now that we're using, all together that is the major cost of our plant."
The company uses electricity to power its grinding machines. The marble ore is mixed with water and ground into fine particles for use as either a slurry (wet) or powdered product. If it's a powdered product, the company runs its dryers using No. 2 fuel oil.
That represents a significant amount of fuel oil, since half of the plant's production is dry calcium carbonate, Masuy said.
Omya officials said the project, believed the first of its kind in Vermont, would entail the construction of eight, 15-thousand gallon, vertical storage tanks. It will also require Omya to convert its drying process to a dual system capable of operating on both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and No. 2 fuel oil.
"The intent is to convert our burners (dryers) to be dual, to be able to run on natural gas or to run on fuel oil as a backup," he said. "But really if we want to invest in this system, we want to run the maximum time on the new source of fuel, which is more economic."
He said one-third of the project cost is converting the burners or dryers with the remaining cost construction of the storage facility.
Masuy said LNG is not only less expensive than fuel oil but is also less prone to wild price fluctuations seen in the crude oil market.
Natural gas would be Omya's fuel of choice but the only natural gas pipeline in the state serves the greater Chittenden County area.
"Omya has always been an advocate for getting natural gas here," Masuy said.
The company also explored the possibility of wind, solar and biomass before deciding LNG was the most practical alternative.
Talk of bringing the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline down to Rutland has been going on for years but has never moved beyond the informal talking stage. Cost continues to be a major factor.
Liquid natural gas is purified natural gas that has been cooled to minus 260 degrees.
Because of the manufacturing process and transportation costs, he said liquefied natural gas is slightly more expensive than natural gas.
Michael Laurent, Omya's environmental manager, said the conversion to liquefied natural gas, has environmental advantages.
"The big one is a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions," Laurent said. "We're projecting at a minimum a 25 percent reduction in those gas emissions."
He said liquefied natural gas is environmentally safer as opposed to the potential of a fuel oil spill. Although highly flammable, in the unlikely event of a release of LNG vapor, he said it's lighter than air and dissipates very quickly.
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, "liquefied natural gas has met over 25 percent of New England's average daily natural gas demand since November 2010."
There are four regasification facilities that provide LNG to New England with most of the deliveries from New Brunswick, Canada and the Everett terminal in Boston.
Omya's project received a positive response from Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which in the past has often has been critical of the company.
"VCE's past experience with Omya leads us to believe that the company will do what is necessary to engage the community to resolve concerns," Annette Smith, VCE's executive director said in an email. "Overall, this appears to have environmental benefits in reducing CO2, NOx and SOx emissions. We expect neighbors may have concerns about safety and emissions that Omya will address in a credible manner."
The project needs state and local approvals, including from the state Public Service Board under section 248. Omya said it expects to file its application with the PSB later this month.
John Beling, director of public advocacy with the Department of Public Service, said the project falls under Act 248 because state law requires a certificate of public good for any natural gas facility.
Beling said Omya's application will likely be the first of its kind in the state.
Omya said the permitting and construction process will take approximately 24 months.
Once completed, the company said LNG tanker trucks from the Boston area will make deliveries to the plant once or twice a day.
Omya's calcium carbonate products are used as a filler in many industries, including paper, plastics, paint, construction, agriculture, food and pharmaceuticals.
Headquartered in Oftringen, Switzerland, the 128-year-old company has operations in more than 50 countries and 7,000 employees.
For more information about the Vermont project, visit www.omyainvermont.net.