A crew is hard at work installing a new six-inch diameter pipe that will carry natural gas to several growing businesses at the Decatur County Industrial Air Park off U.S. 27 North, about 7 miles north of Bainbridge.
Currently, the businesses located at the Industrial Air Park–which is a local airport surrounded by industry and open land–have access to natural gas via a four-inch gas pipe.
Decatur County officials began investigating building a new gas pipeline in early 2014; Oxford Construction Company, a large Albany-based contracting company that often works on Georgia Department of Transportation projects, sent Decatur County commissioners a letter indicating a need for natural gas for an expanded asphalt plant at the county’s industrial park.
While the difference between a 4-inch pipe and a six-inch pipe may not sound like much, the new pipe will be capable of carrying a substantially higher load–60 psi for the four-inch line versus 90 psi for the 6-inch pipe.
The pipe is not made of steel; it’s made of High-density polyethylene (HDPE); essentially, a hard plastic. The pipe comes in 500-foot rolls; after the lengths of pipe are placed, the ends of each roll are fused together with heat to form a sturdy connection.
Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said that in addition to Oxford’s request for service, which Breedlove described as immediate, there are several other potential users of the larger gas line:
- John B Sanfilippo & Son, which produces Fisher Nut products at the park, has a large peanut drying operation. They plan to upgrade its drying operation to receive peanuts in large semi-trailer loads, as well as the traditional agricultural trailers. Natural gas is used to produce the heat to dry the peanuts before they are processed.
- Bainbridge Manufacturing, which is in the former TRACO building on the eastern side of the park, estimates it will have a significant need for natural gas in the next 1-2 years, according to Breedlove. Bainbridge Manufacturing is currently in pre-production status, but has plans to build a new warehouse and a massive assembly line building.
There’s also the consideration of where future industry growth at the park will take place.
- Corrections Corporation of America, which has been paying Decatur County to hold a large tract of land on the northern end of the park, has signed a memo of understanding with the Industrial Development Authority to potentially build either a state or federal prison. Currently, CCA is waiting on either Georgia or the U.S. government to say it has a need for a new prison. If built, the prison would employ hundreds of people and use a significant amount of natural gas.
Decatur County requested bids on construction of both a six-inch and eight-inch gas pipeline, but found the 8-inch pipe to be “prohibitively expensive,” according to Breedlove. The project for the six-inch pipe was originally $880,485, but a change order has decreased the total to $765,220, to help the project fit within the county’s budget.
Breedlove told county commissioners that some of that money will be offset by the county leasing 168 acres to Southern Power Company for one of two solar panel farms under construction next to the industrial park.
The county could have applied for approximately $350k-$500k in grant money to help pay for the new pipe, but Breedlove recommended that commissioners not wait, because the grant application process would take 9-12 months and the county would not be guaranteed to get any money.
Citizen Paul Trulock spoke at a recent Decatur County commissioners meeting and said he believed the county government should have commissioned a feasibility study on the new pipe, which was not done out of cost and time factors, according to Breedlove.
“Time will tell if the pipeline is needed,” said Trulock, who suggested that county commissioners offer to provide propane to Oxford and any other company that needed it right away. Trulock explained that any equipment that can use natural gas can also be refitted to use natural gas.