Port Townsend, Washington, USA 15 September 2016 -- (From the Port Townsend Leader) -- The Port Townsend Paper Corp. has become the first large manufacturer in the state to switch from oil to compressed natural gas (CNG). Mill officials say this conversion should reduce its current greenhouse gas emission levels by 25 percent.
The mill also is the anchor client for Xpress Natural Gas of Boston, which built a $5 million facility, the first such facility in the state, in the Satsop Business Park in Elma, Washington, specifically to service the Port Townsend mill.
The conversion from fuel oil to CNG is aimed at improving air emissions and making the mill more cost competitive. It cost the mill $3.1 million to make the conversion, according to Alan Ulman, mill spokesperson.
Kevin Scott, engineering and environmental manager, said earlier this month that the conversion started in July and should be done by the end of October.
The package boiler already has been converted, and the new burner for the lime kiln is being hooked to CNG later this month. After that, the biomass boiler is to be connected to the new fuel.
"This is a nice step. It will take us down about 70 percent from where we started a decade ago," Scott said.
"This is new technology here. On the East Coast, it's 3 or 4 years old. But in Europe and South America, it's 20 years old. We're catching up," Scott said, standing next to five trailers full of CNG.
Scott said the move is innovative.
"We are the first large manufacturer in the state of Washington to use compressed natural gas as a main fossil fuel source. This conversion is being very well executed by the Port Townsend Paper team and Xpress Natural Gas, our supplier."
The mill requires about five truckloads of CNG a day. Each truck holds about 355 million standard cubic feet of gas.
The gas is being brought to Port Townsend from Elma via Bremerton and across the Hood Canal Bridge, said Matt Smith, executive vice president for sales and marketing of Xpress Natural Gas.
"We are proud to partner with Port Townsend to bring industrial CNG to the West Coast," said Smith. "CNG is a crucial part of the mill's continuing efforts to build a sustainable business by lowering costs and reducing its carbon footprint," he said.
Xpress had talked about building a facility in Puyallup, but shortly after that announcement in 2015, officials learned of the Port of Grays Harbor and the Satsop Business Park, and thanks to support from the state, Grays Harbor County and the Port of Grays Harbor, the company moved its interest to the Satsop Business Park, Smith said.
Smith also confirmed that the Port Townsend company is the first company in Washington to use trucked natural gas to power its plant.
"But [it's] just the first of many to come," Smith added. He noted that the company is now positioned to not only serve all of Washington but Oregon as well.
"We typically save our customers 30-40 percent versus [the cost of] oil," Smith said.
In addition to reducing the mill's carbon footprint, mill officials also say the conversion to should make the mill more competitive by increasing the efficiency of its boiler, and significantly reducing its fuel cost over time.
Mill officials say CNG is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy for its emissions benefits, relatively low cost and domestic availability. CNG also has what officials call a good "safety profile," as it is nontoxic and has a "very narrow range of flammability, which significantly reduces risk."
"We appreciate the guidance and support that we received on this conversion from the State of Washington, Jefferson County, the City of Port Townsend, and our residential and commercial neighbors," said Colin Fernie, president of Port Townsend Paper Corp. and Crown Packaging, in a press release.
"The mill is transforming into a high-performance operation," said Steve Klinger, CEO of Crown Paper Group, the owner of Port Townsend Paper, in that same release. "The compressed natural gas conversion is a major milestone. When you consider the conversion, in combination with our optimization of maximum achievable control technology (MACT) and our acceleration of the settlement pond remediation, we have made very significant progress in a relatively short period of time, and are validating the investments that are being made there."
When Crown Paper Group took over in 2015, Klinger estimated the company would invest roughly $40 million in four years to strengthen and improve the 87-year-old mill.