Money-Saving Propane Heating Coming To Schools; Natural Gas Expansion in New Canaan Off the Table


New Canaan is poised to save money under a plan that will see the current heating oil supplier for the town and schools introduce a “dual fuel” system in which propane gas becomes available, officials said Monday night.

By burying propane tanks and using the infrastructure already in place for fuel oil heating, the district will be able to switch back-and-forth between the energy sources based on market prices, members of the Utilities Commission said during their regular meeting, held at Town Hall.

“The bad news is that it means that there will be no natural gas expansion in New Canaan,” Commissioner Scott LaShelle said. “The schools are clearly an anchor tenant for any utility, and as we know from sitting here on this commission working with Yankee Gas [now Eversource] for a solid four years—and the first selectman would say we have been working with Yankee for longer, they have shown an inability to deliver that product to us.”

“Without those anchor tenants, we are not going to get natural gas downtown, we are not going to replace the propane tanks that are downtown, we are not going to bring natural gas to restaurants, we are not going to bring natural gas to residents to save them money, because Yankee will never com here for residential homeowners.”

The development puts to bed frustrating, go-nowhere efforts dating back several years to work with the utility and make natural gas available in downtown New Canaan. Longer-term plans to see Eversource offer it to residences in phases never materialized. Two years ago, the company declared itself “fully committed” to bringing natural gas to the town, but failed to take definitive steps toward that goal. As talks stalled, exasperations grew among town leaders until finally the plans petered out with meek references to Eversource’s failure to locate staging areas for its equipment or agree to restore New Canaan’s roads properly following the proposed installation of gas pipes from Stamford.

Now, the district can expect to see the new propane tanks installed as early as September, with Saxe Middle School possibly later given the major construction that will commence there after school lets out next month, according to Bill Oestmann, buildings superintendent with the New Canaan Department of Public Works.

Joined at the Utilities Commission meeting by Ed Santa of Bridgeport-based Santa Energy, Oestmann said the town likely will be able to use a dual-fuel system for other public buildings.

Santa said his company has converted some of its accounts from oil to natural gas or dual fuel before, and that current numbers show “rather significant savings converting over to dual.”

Commissioners asked where the new propane tanks would be buried (on school campuses though at a safe distance from the buildings themselves), how far down they’re buried (typically six or seven feet, compared to 15 feet for oil tanks), how much life is left in the existing, 1989-installed fuel oil tanks (maybe two or three at the outside), why not cut the cord on fuel oil entirely (because prices can fluctuate) and what’s the lifespan of propane tanks (about 20 years).

According to Oestmann, the deal in the works now would see Santa own the new propane tanks themselves and New Canaan would pay a monthly fee to use them, with a buyout option.

3 thoughts on “Money-Saving Propane Heating Coming To Schools; Natural Gas Expansion in New Canaan Off the Table

  1. Why is new Canaan not considering compressed natural gas? CNG systems are PSC approved and can be implemented in partnership with utilities or as standalone. Duel fuel using fuel oil and propane has some downsides that need to be considered and don’t seem to have been addressed?

  2. Eversource has the highest rates of all three gas utilities; e.g. their April residential tariff is $1.8431/ccf which is equivalent to $2.48/gallon in equivalent heating oil terms. If you paid less than that for heating oil, you’d be losing money by converting, and would never recoup your $7,000 – $10,000 cost of conversion.

    • What if or when heating oil rises above $3 50/ gal? I think the lack of natural gas conversion is ridiculous for a northeastern town where heating occurs for 8 months. My European friends laugh at the fact that our service lines are above ground and we do not have natural gas. Ridiculous.

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