Experiment will bring propane to St. James Village

January 27, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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A new propane distribution service in Saint James Village south of Hagerstown is the first of its kind in Western Maryland and could provide inexpensive heating for up to 750 homes, according to the owner.

Randy Thompson, chief executive officer of Boonsboro-based Thompson Gas & Electric, said his company today will begin piping propane to 50 homes from an underground 30,000-gallon tank on College Road.

Thompson said piping gas in volume is cheaper than servicing individual propane tanks. The 50 homes had individual tanks, which will be removed today, Thompson said.


The service will be about 20 percent more expensive than natural gas and 30 percent cheaper than electric, Thompson said. Thompson said he preferred not to disclose rates, which will be regulated by the state.

Thompson said his nearly $1 million investment will lose money until about 150 of the 300 homes planned for the development are built. Thompson said he sees the project as an experiment, and will consider building additional propane gas pipeline systems in other new developments.

Thompson said propane makes economic sense in new developments where natural gas isn't available. New developments don't have a conversion cost from existing electric heating systems and roads don't have to be torn up to lay pipelines, he said.

Mike and Jan Dreisbach, who live in Saint James, said they will be happy to have the propane tanks removed from their yard after a two year wait. They said they originally thought that they would be getting natural gas and aren't happy with the way the situation has been handled.

Thompson said the system eventually could serve 750 homes, including existing homes on College Road. All of the lines are convertible to natural gas should a line ever be run down Sharpsburg Pike, he said.

The same furnaces will burn both natural gas and propane with a slight adjustment, Thompson said.

Thompson said the main tank has automatic shutoff valves and will be equipped with heat sensors that will automatically notify the company and firefighters in case of a problem.

Tractor-trailers will deliver the liquid propane to the tank, Thompson said. The liquid propane is changed into a gaseous form before it is piped to individual homes.

The privately held company was started in 1946 and has 75 employees, he said.

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