By Naomi Klouda
After converting to natural gas, it’s not a good idea to install your gas-fired drier in the garage on a cement floor. It won’t work.
Once meters are installed to establish a service line piping gas into a home, don’t cover the meter or stack firewood around it or build a deck.
And if you’re interested in the end product of gas service, the application packet available now allows homeowners a clear road map for getting started.
This advice came to a packed audience of more than 100 people who turned out to hear from Enstar Natural Gas Wednesday evening at Homer High School Commons. John Sims, director of Enstar corporate communications and Charlie Pierce, director of Enstar’s Southern Kenai Peninsula operations, gave a walk-through Gasline 101. The process for obtaining natural gas for those in the first phase of the line’s operation begins in February.
“We have an aggressive schedule. We’ll have gas in the pipe and work should be completed on Aug. 1,” Pierce said. “We’ve secured a pipe yard to store pipe by the DOT (Department of Transportation lot near the Homer Transfer Station) 23-24 loads of pipe placed inside that fence. We’ll take that and put it in the hands of the contractor.”
The pipe will go from the pressure reducing station on North Fork Road and Bailey Court, and cross the Sterling Highway to Chapman School. From there it will be buried in a clearing of 20-foot swaths, much of it already a utility corridor, down the highway to West Hill Road. The route then leads up West Hill Road to the point at which it can be extended over to Fairview Avenue, which leads to South Peninsula Hospital. The first construction phase carries the trunk line to Kachemak City. Currently, a contract is in the works between Kachemak City Mayor Phil Morris and Enstar that should start construction there this year, as part of the first phase.
The Homer group of homeowners – roughly 4,000 – will be assessed a surcharge of $1 per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. This money is paid to Enstar to cover the $2.6 million gap between the $10.4 received from the state in a capital grant and the actual cost of construction – about $12.8 million.
Since this pays for the extension from Anchor Point to Kachemak City, it was necessary as Homer’s portion to match investment from the state’s $10.4 million grant.
As soon as costs are recovered, this fee ceases, Sims said. “That could be in 10 years or less, but it’s a volumetric rate,” meaning it depends on how much total natural gas use equals the $2.6 million.
A contractor has been awarded the bid to lay the 23-miles of pipe in this first phase. The contract hasn’t yet been signed, however, and so Enstar would not release the name. Inspectors and a project manager also are hired. Enstar has leased office space in what formerly served as the legislative Affairs Office at 36225 Kenai Spur Highway, where Rep. Paul Seaton kept his offices. In the newly established Enstar office, set to open Feb. 1, Chet Frost will be available to answer questions. He will live in Homer and act as project manager. Stay tuned for a local number when that office is fully staffed.
In the meantime, Homer residents can call 1-855 889 7575 with questions.
In 2014, the second phase of construction schedule calls for covering the peripheral areas leading uphill from the an access point not yet identified. It also will extend down the Homer Spit.
“The route of access has yet to be decided. We are waiting to see how the city HASD is approved,” Sims said.
“We’re planning this as a two-year project. It is a pretty aggressive schedule and we believe it can be done,” Pierce told the audience.”
“It takes time to plan a project like this, where you gather cost estimates and there are permit requirements,” Pierce said. “We have been working with Corp of Engineers, we’ve worked on right-of-way with DOT. We’ve worked with the River Center and local agencies to permit work in right-of-ways.”
Plan on a 20-foot swath in the trunk line to prepare homes for installation. All of this is calculated in relation to city and state right-of-ways, not personal property rights of way. Much of these are already threaded with utility lines. Enstar will share corridors with Homer Electric Association, ACS and GCI in many areas.
To make clearings, Enstar will cut trees and haul away the stumps with the goal of not leaving behind downed trees or debris. A property owner asked Pierce if Enstar would be agreeable to letting residents harvest the wood for their own uses. Piece responded that every effort would be made, short of chopping the wood for them.
Pierce was asked about a property owners right to keep trees standing.
“You don’t own the right of way. The city of Homer or Kachemak City owns the right of way,” Pierce responded. “We place it where we are told to put it, so we are protected from incurring expensive costs after the fact.” This means the trees would need to be cut.
If Enstar misplaces a line in order to go around a certain tree, the utility could be held liable for it and would need to recoup the costs of relocating the line to the proper place. “We are limited as to what we can do,” he said.
Since the application process opens Feb. 1, residents will have a lot of help both as they sign up and as they plan for switching out appliances. The fine details are spelled out on a sheet called “When Converting from Propane or Fuel Oil to Natural Gas.” Enstar recommends – but doesn’t require – owners to have a licensed plumber or heating contractor to make the conversions, install all gaslines and new equipment. Some main points to consider:
• Propane conversions need to be done before Enstar arrives to set the meter.
• Setting the meter is when Enstar is prepared to fully deliver natural gas. This is the final step to be an Enstar customer.
• The line needs to be sized to meet BTU requirements. This is a measure of heat energy it takes to operate dryers, cook stoves and heating appliances. Added together, this becomes a home’s BTU load, a number Enstar wants to see upfront. This determines the size of the meter.
• The gasline itself needs to be installed according to code, for which a licensed plumber or electrician will be needed.
At the time Enstar installs the meter, it is up to the homeowners to have all other work inside of the house for hook-up ready to go.
Lots of help
Enstar is trying to take the mystery out of how much individual homeowners will pay, since there are so many variables. Instructions and information are available at www.enstarnaturalgas.com to help calculate that.
A video on the website shows how a mainline is installed. By giving a parcel number or tax ID to Enstar, property owners can receive accurate information on the best and least costly methods to serve that lot.
“We’re going to try to make it easy for you,” Pierce said. “We’ve supplied a rate sheet on equipment and the BTUs burned by appliances. Make a list of all your appliances and write it down and bring it to us. Let us know the square footage of your home or whether it is commercial or residential. Pull all the forms off internet or come and sit with us. What we’re going to do is (calculate) total requirements which dictates meter size.”
• Homer owners will pay $200 on average for a meter. Once the distribution line is available in front of a home, the property owner pays $1,290 per the first 100 feet – a cost that is paid at the time of application. After 100 feet, the cost is $2 per foot.
A common misperception discussed around town among property owners or developers is that they will have to pay individually for the distribution line coming down the street to their homes or properties.
Not true. This will be paid for in the HSAD devised by the city. Indirectly the homeowners pay through this set price when paying the HSAD, but Enstar maintains responsibility for all construction costs.
Homeowners also do not pay for lines that cross the street to their homes. That cost is incurred by Enstar. They pay only the costs from the curb edge to their home.
For longer, curving driveways, there is no cut-through costs since the line needs to follow the driveway where fill is located. Where ever possible, Enstar will try to go a straight line, Pierce said.
“The driving decision-making factor is if you go across a wet area, there are additional considerations for line burial and vulnerability,” he said.
The meter location also is important, to keep it free from obstructions of snow and ice. In the event of an emergency, Enstar wants access to the meter to turn it off or do routine leak surveys.
He also recommends keeping the manuals to all new appliances purchased.
If conditions with appliances are deemed unsafe, Enstar will not set meters, such as if the dryer is installed on a cement floor in the garage.
Natural gas appliances need a good air flow. That would not be the case on a cement floor, Sims said.
Comments are closed