The city of Picayune make moves to significantly reduce the gas rate for residents
Over the past few years , residents throughout Picayune may have noticed a steady parade of city workers drilling up the streets and disappearing below.
As part of a $2 million project that has been in the works nearly a decade, the city has been tackling Picayune’s natural gas leakage problem by methodically replacing the cast-iron pipes with smaller, safer, and more efficient polyethylene lines.
The City Council initially became aware of how severe the problem was over 7 years ago, just after the new council took office. A mandate from the Public Service Commission was issued after five audits between 2003-2010 reported that the rate of unaccounted for natural gas throughout the city fell between an alarming 38-42 percent.
Needing to take action, the new Council and the Public Works department researched how best to go about reducing the amount of natural gas loss and what repairs needed to be made to the City’s aging natural gas infrastructure.
In 2015, Public Works Director Eric Morris, told the City Council that the best strategy for reducing natural gas leaks was to replace the old natural gas infrastructure.
“Several miles of old cast iron gas pipes that were brittle and leaking were replaced with new ones,” Morris said. “Then once we started transferring the gas services off those old cast iron pipes on to the new ones the unaccounted for gas was basically eliminated.”
New natural gas pipe is made of plastic, but almost all of the natural gas infrastructure in Picayune at that point was made of brittle and rust prone cast iron pipe, which was normal in the 1940s and 1950s when the pipes were placed, Morris explained.
Between 2015 and today, 75 percent of the three phase project has been completed, with nearly 80 miles worth of pipes replaced. Each of the completed phases of the project also came in under budget, and according to Morris the $2 million bond the city secured to fund the project is still going strong.
“The initial phase of the gas project,came in under budget, so we took those remaining funds and we furthered our gas infrastructure upgrade to the North, to a gas system that was formerly referred to as Geo Resources, which included the northern tip of Beech Street, a portion of Highway 43 North as well as Inside Road and Liberty Road and that also came in under budget,” Morris said. “Now leftover funds will go towards Phase III which we are currently working on.”
At the close of 2014 the city was recording a natural gas unaccounted rate of 35 percent. As the antiquated infrastructure was replaced, that amount declined to 20 percent by the end of 2015. By the end of 2016 the loss was down to 14 percent, and today, only two years into the project the unaccounted for natural gas for the city is at three percent.
City Clerk Amber Hinton said the work has led to a savings of about $300,000 over that two-year time period, which was passed on to city residents.
“The unaccounted for gas meant high gas rates for the the existing gas customers of the city of Picayune,” Morris said. “When the unaccounted for was eliminated, then gas bills were reduced.”
Morris went on to explain that like gas at the pump, the rates fluctuate so it is a fluctuating savings, not a constant, but a large overall savings to the city and the gas customer nonetheless.