Utility Planning For Future Move To Natural Gas

BERLIN — Whether there is a will in Worcester County to switch over from propane to natural gas in government buildings, schools and even private residences is unknown, but one local utility company has spent decades preparing for that eventuality.

Last week, Commissioner Judy Boggs said making the switch from propane to clean burning, efficient natural gas across Worcester was her “special mission” as she questioned various county department heads about their current propane usage and their desire to eventually make the transition. Boggs said during budget deliberations last week her efforts were merely exploratory at this point because natural gas connections are not readily available in the county.

If and when natural gas becomes available in Worcester, much of the infrastructure to support the transition is already in the ground. Eastern Shore Gas, which has been providing propane gas service across the county for decades, has steadily been in the process of retrofitting propane gas mains and other lines for a potential switch to natural gas for the last several years.

“The Eastern Shore Gas Company has been the principle supplier of propane gas to the residents, businesses and local governments in Worcester County for many years,” a statement from the company reads. “From the date of acquisition in 1990 to the present time, much steel replacement and system expansion was completed.”

Company attorney Mark Cropper said yesterday natural gas lines had not yet reached the Maryland-Delaware border, although they continue to move in a southerly direction. When natural gas does become available in Worcester, the utility will be in position to make a transition if there is a desire in the county to do so.

“During this 20-year period, all gas mains installed or replaced were sized to accommodate a future natural gas supply,” the statement reads. “In order to accomplish this objective, time, energy and money must be expended to connect to an adequate supply line, convert existing customer appliances from propane gas to natural gas, and finally, distribute the supply to its customers.”

Beyond the physical connections to future natural gas lines in the county, there would be a considerable regulatory process to overcome.

“Even considering the complexity of this undertaking, ESG has been and remains committed to pursuing the possibility of providing this service to its customers as expeditiously as is reasonably feasible,” the statement reads. “ESG looks forward to working with all necessary stakeholders in order to bring this project to fruition.”