The Port Townsend Paper mill is working to reduce emissions and increase efficiency by converting to natural gas. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Paper converting to natural gas to fuel plant

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend Paper is converting to compressed natural gas to fuel its plant in an effort to cut emissions and increase efficiency, according to Kevin Scott, the facility’s engineering and environmental manager.

The three-phase plan to convert is already in motion.

Phase one, which was a conversion of the mill’s package boiler to solely using natural gas, was completed in July.

Phase two is expected to come online this month and involves converting the lime kiln to run partially on natural gas.

The final phase will covert the mill’s biomass boiler to run on natural gas.

October targeted

Scott said plans are to have all three phases completed by the third week in October.

According to Scott, these conversions will allow the plant to cut emissions by 25 percent.

“It’s primarily environmentally driven, but there are some efficiency gains as well,” Scott said.

“Natural gas in general is easier on the operating system.”

Ongoing work

The project has been in the works for years, Scott said, and work started officially in July.

It is part of the mill’s decade-long goal to reduce emissions from fossil fuels by nearly 60 percent, according to a Port Townsend Paper press release.

“The new fuel is burning cleanly,” said Scott in the press release.

“This is an innovative step for us and our community, as we are the first large manufacturer in the state of Washington to use compressed natural gas as a main fossil fuel source,” Scott said.

“This conversion is being well executed by the Port Townsend Paper team and Xpress Natural Gas, our supplier.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, natural gas is an abundant resource in the United States. In fact, the U.S. leads the world in natural gas production.

Natural gas is considered a cleaner option for fossil fuels, is non-toxic and — due to its narrow range of flammability — a safe fuel to work with, according to the Port Townsend Paper press release.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.