BERLIN — The extension of a natural gas pipeline into northern Worcester County is now complete for the most part and service could soon be available to residences and businesses in the area pending approval from the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC).
In early October, Chesapeake Utilities, the parent company of Eastern Shore Natural Gas, moved forward with its planned expansion into northern Worcester County with the extension of its main natural gas transmission line across the Maryland-Delaware border. For several years, the company has pushed south loosely along Route 113, extending natural gas service to rural communities in Sussex County.
The main transmission line enters Worcester County and follows along Route 113 to an ultimate connection at a southern terminus near Friendship Rd. on the north side of Route 50 across from Stephen Decatur High School. Only weeks after crossing into Maryland, the main transmission line into Worcester is now complete, save for a view loose ends at the Friendship Rd. site, according to Chesapeake Utilities Senior Vice President and Eastern Shore Natural Gas President Stephen Thompson.
“We’ve made some great progress,” he said yesterday. “The transmission line is gassed up and placed into service. We have some work to do yet on the southern terminus, but that should wrap up quickly. We’re one step closer to fruition.”
Where natural gas services branches out from the main line has not been determined, although several communities in northern Worcester have expressed a desire in connecting. The key to expediting the distribution will be the PSC approval of a deal made earlier this year in which Chesapeake Utilities acquired Eastern Shore Gas’s propane distribution infrastructure.
“The next big step is the PSC approval, which could come as soon as January,” said Thompson. “We’re waiting on that approval and then we can begin to explore where we can branch out from the main line.”
Readily compatible for a changeover to natural gas distribution, Eastern Shore Gas’s existing propane distribution infrastructure adds over 11,000 potential new customers for Chesapeake Utilities and nearly doubles the roughly 13,000 natural gas customers the company already serves in Maryland. With the main transmission line complete from the Delaware line to the southern terminus at Friendship Rd., the distribution picture should start to become clearer. Demographics, logistics and economics will likely determine where Chesapeake Utilities extends distribution lines, but already several communities in Worcester have shown interest.