Vermont Gas Systems is mapping out a route to extend its pipeline south from Chittenden to Addison County.
The company has hired an engineering firm and expects to request state approval for the project by the end of December.
Vermont Gas is eyeing new markets as far south as Rutland. But first the company wants to extend a pipeline to Vergennes and Middlebury.
Steve Wark is the company’s spokesman.
"Right now we’re in the field working to gather the information, doing the preliminary environmental work and the route design work," he says.
Wark says Vermont Gas is looking to extend a line from Colchester to New Haven, running first along the route of the Circumferential Highway. The buried pipeline would then go along the right of way used by the Vermont Electric Power Company for its high voltage transmission lines. From New Haven the gas line would go to Vergennes and Middlebury.
"But one of the things we need to do in both of these circumstances is study these areas more closely, focus on refining it to a specific area and then from there we hope to do the environmental work and archaeological necessary to file for a certificate of public good in December," Wark says.
Vermont Gas is owned by Montreal-based GazMetro, the same Canadian company that owns Green Mountain Power, now the state’s largest electric utility. The company now provides natural gas to Franklin and Chittenden County.
Wark says Vermont Gas hopes to serve 3,000 customers in Addison County.
"A lot of folks have expressed an interest especially with the price advantages of upwards of less than 40 percent less expensive for fuel oil and less than 50 percent for propane," he says. "It’s definitely a really attractive product for people."
As Wark points out, Vermont Gas wants to compete directly with other fuel dealers. The company recently implemented its 13th rate decrease since 2008. But Matt Cota, the executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, says natural gas prices won’t stay low forever.
"And those prices could change rapidly," Cota says. "We’ve seen a 60 percent increase in the wholesale costs of spot gas just in the last six months. And we’ve seen more supply of oil here in North America. So while the current competitive advantage certainly makes it tough for Vermont’s local dealers to compete with large, foreign-owned utilities, we don’t expect it to last."
Vermont Gas hopes to begin service to Addison County in 2014.