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Feeding Maine’s first liquid methane fuels plant

SAINT JOHN - A Maine natural gas firm plans to build a liquid methane fuels plant in Brewer, Maine, that would draw from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline and sell converted fuels to major customers in the state, a company official said.

SAINT JOHN – A Maine natural gas firm plans to build a liquid methane fuels plant in Brewer, Maine, that would draw from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline and sell converted fuels to major customers in the state, a company official said.

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Joel Page/for the Telegraph-Journal
Sasa Cook, vice-president of Maine Liquid Methane Fuels LLC, plans to build a liquid methane fuels plant in Brewer, Maine, that would draw from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline and sell converted fuels to major customers in the states. The firm has introduced the project to Irving Oil Ltd.

Maine Liquid Methane Fuels LLC is proposing a $50-million plant that would produce heating and motor fuels with reduced carbon dioxide, sulfur and other heavy hydrocarbons, said vice-president Sasa Cook.

The company plans to transport the fuels by truck to customers that would include pulp and paper mills, ski mountains, municipalities and gas retailers, among others.

“We have talked to one of the largest petroleum distributors on a retail level about possibly putting in dispensing terminals at their facilities,” Cook said, later adding the firm has introduced the project to Irving Oil Ltd.

The company received site approval from Brewer this week to open the plant in a proposed new industrial park. Pending environmental approvals, the firm expects to break ground in June with plans to start production in the fall of 2011.

Maine Liquid Methane Fuels would extract from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline and produce about 100,000 gallons of heating fuel daily or about 85,000 gallons of motor fuel per day. Company officials have contacted potential natural gas suppliers in Canada, although they have not yet approached Canaport LNG, Cook said.

Among other customers, the company is targeting its motor fuel product at major retailers, including supermarkets and logging firms, that typically re-fuel their transport trucks in the same locations. The customers would convert their trucks’ engines to run off either diesel or liquid methane at a cost of about $24,000, Cook said.

The company’s president, Christian Hofford, also heads up CHI Engineering, a New Hampshire firm that specializes in natural gas plants. CHI recently developed a plant in California that produces 200,000 gallons per day of mostly motor fuel.

“They are further ahead than us; they have the infrastructure, the dispensing stations so trucks can go to truck stops and refuel, and we hope that will happen here in Maine,” Cook said, referring to gas retailers in the state that could add liquid methane terminals.

As the company looks to convince potential customers to change their fuel sources, Cook said he was confident that it will offer a discounted rate, even with the additional conversion and transport costs.

Cook is pitching the plant as an economic development tool that could reduce costs for major employers and sustain jobs over the long term.

“If we can help reduce the costs for pulp and paper mills, and other manufacturers, and make them a little more competitive, that will retain jobs,” he said.

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