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$100 million LNG production plant proposed on W-W treatment site

February 12, 2014
NORTHUMBERLAND — Clear Energy, a privately held Marlborough, Mass.-based start-up company, proposes to build a $100 million Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production facility capable of producing 300,000 gallons a day on the 67-acre site now owned by Arizona-based Green Steel.

The no-longer-used wastewater treatment facilities that served the two paper mills shuttered in the mid-2000s are located on this site.

"We've been looking for a site for a year-and-a-half since Clear Energy was started, and we've been looking closely at Groveton for seven months," explained Evan Coleman, Clear Energy's chief operating officer, (COO) in a Friday afternoon telephone interview.

Because this newspaper would already have been printed when the community meeting was held at 6 p.m. yesterday, Feb. 11, in St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall, Coleman arranged to talk on the telephone with a local reporter so that the basic news would be published today.

This article is based on that interview and does not include an account of last night's meeting or any townspeople's reactions.

The new facility's footprint would only cover about 15 percent of the site.

The proposed project would require some state and federal permits plus town Planning Board approval, all of which Coleman estimated would take some three or four months' time.

If all goes as planned, the facility would be in operation 24/7 in 2015, with LNG being shipped out every day by 28 trucks, all powered by natural gas.

No residential neighborhoods would be affected by the trucks' exit route, the COO said.

Up to 84 full-time plant-and-trucking jobs that pay well over minimum wage and require a high school diploma would be created. New hires would be trained, Coleman said, although general mechanical knowledge is a plus.

Property taxes, estimated at $1.7 million a year, would be large enough to cover about half the town's annual budget, he added.

Although Clear Energy was only started a year-and-a-half ago, its management team has some 15 years of experience in the energy industry, Coleman said.

The Groveton project would be the company's first.

Clear Energy has access to the capital necessary to move such a significant project forward and to contract for adequate supplies of natural gas at a firm price, the COO said.

Clear Energy intends to build a PRICO-design facility using Black and Veatch engineering technology. According to Black & Veatch's website, PRICO offers the lowest capital cost of all competing technologies plus a simplified control system.

Recognizing that for many people natural gas raises safety concerns, Coleman said that a 10-minute film that focuses on safety would be shown at last night's meeting. LNG has an excellent safety track record and the proposed facilities have many built-in safety features, Coleman said.

"There's no reason to fear having a LNG production facility located in the same general area as the Groveton High-Middle School or the elementary school," he said.

The natural gas to be used comes into town in pipe owned by the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS) and is part of the former mills' remaining infrastructure.

One section of the new facility on the 67-acre site would be five stories high although most sections of the plant, as well as storage facilities, would be far lower than that, Coleman said.

Trucks would head to southern N.H., Mass., R.I., and Conn., to already eager customers willing to sign 15-year contracts, as well as to Cos County and the Northeast Kingdom, if demand develops.

Shipping product over the rails of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad is not now part of the business plan but that could change over time, Coleman said.

Coleman, a native of a small town in Maine, emphasized that Gov. Maggie Hassan's economic development team in the state Department of Economic Development, including DRED Commissioner Jeff Rose, as well as the team at Northern Community Investment Corp. headed up by NCIC president Jon Freeman and the local Groveton Regional Economic Action Team (GREAT) plus members of the Congressional delegation — Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Kelly Ayotte, and Second District Congresswoman Annie Kuster — and their staffs have all been outstanding in their efforts to facilitate this proposed economic development.

Everyone, he said, has recognized the enormous positive impact that this proposed project would have on Groveton, the communities on both sides of the Connecticut River and the northern three counties of New Hampshire plus Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

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