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Locals promote, give try to LNG

By Staff | Jun 19, 2020

Liquid natural gas has come to Rugby for a trial run, and proponents are hoping businesses and farms take advantage of the abundant fuel source.

Ed Woods, vice president of energy firm Alkane Midstream described the benefits of liquid natural gas, or LNG, in an email to the Tribune this week.

“Liquefied Natural Gas is much like water, in that above its boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water is a gas – we call it steam,” he explained. “Below 212 degrees F, water is a liquid. The boiling point of natural gas is -260 degrees F. Above -260 degrees F, we have natural gas, below that, it is a liquid – LNG for short.”

“When we chill natural gas and turn it into a liquid, we take natural gas, the volume of a 3-foot beach ball, and turn it into a liquid, the volume of a ping pong ball – a 300 times reduction,” he added. “This densification allows us to transport LNG in a cost-effective manner to customers within a 300-mile radius of our liquefaction facility in Tioga, ND.”

Woods added, “At the customers site, LNG is warmed up – back into its gaseous state, where they have a ‘natural gas experience’. Natural gas uses the feedstock for Alkane Midstream from the Bakken oil patch.”

“With natural gas densified in the form of LNG, we are able to put it into super-insulated tankers and transport by truck from our plant in Tioga to the customer site. At the customer site, our delivery driver transfers the LNG into an on-site tank, a process similar to a propane delivery,” Woods noted. “As natural gas is consumed, LNG from the on-site tank is warmed up and routed to the natural gas piping system.”

“Shipping LNG by truck from our plant in Tioga is a cost-effective way to distribute natural gas to communities not served by a pipeline. We like to call this the ‘Virtual Pipeline’. Communities and customers within 300 miles of Tioga can have natural gas via the Virtual Pipeline, utilizing an abundant fuel that is safer and more cost-effective than propane,” Woods added.

WBI, Inc., a subsidiary of Montana-Dakota Utilities, explored the possibility of locating a natural gas pipeline in northern Pierce County earlier this year. However, no natural gas shipping infrastructure exists in Pierce County.

“We are actively seeking customers and communities that are interested in realizing the benefits of natural gas via our Virtual Pipeline,” Woods said.

A local farmer has agreed to try out LNG for grain drying this fall. The farmer, who asked not to be named, told the Tribune via email, “I can confirm that our farm will be using LNG. We feel that LNG coming to Rugby is progress, a definite step forward. With the step in the right direction, there are still business people who may have hard feelings about the progress.”

In a separate email, the farmer described his decision to use LNG this year.

“The demand for drying corn and other late season crops last year was tremendous. The cool fall and damp weather combined to make a ‘perfect storm,’ he wrote.

“Every farmer in the Midwest was trying to dry corn and it put a strain on the supplies along with the typical in season demand from standard commercial and residential use,” the farmer added. “We were put on ‘allotment’ and had to stop harvesting some days because we ran out of propane. It definitely added two weeks to our corn harvest last fall. I know of several farmers who left the corn out in the field because of the shortage, and just recently harvested their crops.”

Woods wrote, “Liquefied Natural Gas is right for Rugby for a number of reasons. The ability of the Rugby community to connect to a physical pipeline is not feasible at this time due to the high cost of putting the pipe in the ground and the requirement to secure a large number of customers to consume the natural gas.”

“To get started on LNG, a few larger customers, such as manufacturing, healthcare and agricultural customers can sign up for our service,” Woods explained. “As customer demand increases, it is a natural extension to consider expanding a gas distribution system within the community.”

“Feedstock for LNG is natural gas – a fuel that is plentiful and stable in price. By transitioning over to LNG, customers have access to an abundant fuel that is stable in price. By comparison, customers using propane see price (fluctuations) in the fuel from year to year and also have the potential for supply disruptions due to limited availability,” Woods added. “LNG is in abundant supply and is sourced from Tioga.”

Rugby JDA Executive Director Liz Heisey said LNG was a “natural choice” for Rugby businesses.

“Right now, they’re flaring (natural gas) off,” Heisey said.

Heisey cited last year’s propane shortage in North Dakota.

“I read about one manufacturer in this state looking to get approval to put in some larger propane storage tanks because they ran out,” she said. “They didn’t have enough propane last year. They would’ve had to buy it ahead of time and store it, but by the time they needed more, they couldn’t get it.”

Heisey said she saw potential applications for LNG in businesses such as Rugby’s grain elevator.

“If anything, it would lessen the demand on the propane,” she noted, adding, “That’s one of our biggest worries, that we’ll lose our manufacturing (and larger businesses) to bigger communities.”

“Manufacturing-based businesses could relocate to a bigger community and have lower energy costs because they have natural gas,” Heisey added.

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