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Natural gas option to potentially come to Karlstad

New Karlstad City Council members Rob Mickelson and Kristen Berberich were sworn in at the January 4 city council meeting, filling the spots of former council members Michael Wade and George Hultgren. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

What do you use to heat your home? Have you ever thought about natural gas? Karlstad residents and businesses may soon be able to consider such an option.

Greg Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Greater Minnesota Synergy and Cody Chilson, Operating Vice President of Greater Minnesota checked with the city at its January 4 meeting to gauge the interest in putting natural gas in Karlstad. As far as Mayor Dale Nelson was concerned, the city could look at it, adding how the city is not committed to anything.

The city gave Greater Minnesota Synergy the okay to explore this interest through its study, including reaching out to potential major users of this natural gas. The city plans to put Greater Minnesota in contact with the right people.

At its January meeting, the city and Greater Minnesota Synergy mentioned several potential big users of natural gas in Karlstad, ones for Greater Minnesota to gauge interest from, such as Mattracks, Tri-County School, Minnesota DOT buildings, nursing home.

Greater Minnesota Synergy specialty is bringing natural gas to rural communities, according to Chilson. In Minnesota, its service territory currently covers 25 Minnesota counties, including Kittson. An existing natural gas system runs from Drayton, N.D., to near Donaldson, Minn.— its first year with natural gas. Chilson said they plan to use this connection from Drayton for this potential project in Karlstad, making it more viable.

As for the economic savings of going to natural gas, Chilson explained that it depends on how much one currently pays for their gas. For example, he said, if someone pays less than 80 cents per gallon on propane, it wouldn’t make sense for them to switch to natural gas— not saving from doing so— but if they pay more than 80 cents per gallon for propane, they would save by switching to natural gas.

According to presentation documents from Greater Minnesota Synergy, typical residential customers save $500 to $1,000 annually compared to propane. Chilson explained how about 60 percent of people with a natural gas option convert to natural gas to start with and gradually more do so. Palmer explained how no one has to make this switch.

Asked about a ballpark average installation cost for natural gas by council member Connie Nordin, Palmer said it would cost $600 to convert appliances and $75 to service the line up from the yard and house (for those lines less than 250 feet down), but highlighted that $500 to $1,000 savings from natural gas per year. Earlier, Palmer also mentioned how Greater Minnesota Synergy has rebates on high-efficient equipment.

After doing its study and getting a franchise agreement with the city and large customer agreements, Greater Minnesota Synergy would seek permits and hold community meetings. The earliest the project could be completed is spring 2022.

To see the complete Karlstad City Council meeting story, read the January 7 issue of the North Star News in print or online.

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