LUMBERTON — The news that Piedmont Natural Gas plans to build a facility in Robeson County came as a big, but welcomed, surprise.
“They just called us and told us they had an announcement to make, and we would like it,” County Manager Ricky Harris said.
Piedmont announced Friday it will build a liquefied natural gas storage facility on land the company owns near Maxton. The facility will cost the company about $250 million to build, will create up to 400 local jobs during the two-year construction period that is to begin in the summer of 2019, and will create 10 to 12 permanent jobs once it is up and running. It will immediately produce between $800,000 and $1 million in tax revenue a year for Robeson County.
“The fact that they are putting it in Robeson County is fantastic,” Harris said.
Piedmont was not lobbied to place the storage facility in Robeson County, said Channing Jones, county Economic Development director. It is part of Piedmont’s plan to position facilities around its service region to better serve its customers.
“There’s no economic incentives for this,” Jones said. “It will have a full tax value.”
The facility carries the added benefit of being an economic recruitment tool as it applies to the availability of natural gas, Jones said.
“To companies looking at Robeson County it will be an example of greater energy reliability,” Jones said.
Piedmont’s home heating customers in the region also will benefit, Harris said. The facility will create a ready supply of natural gas that will help prevent shortages during periods of cold weather, which means fewer chances of customers seeing big swings in prices.
“It at least will minimize that,” Harris said.
Ensuring a ready supply of natural gas to Piedmont’s home heating customers during the coldest months of the year is the facility’s primary purpose, said Loree Elswick, a Piedmont Natural Gas spokesperson. The facility will be able to provide natural gas to 100,000 homes.
The supply also could stabilize and even lower the price of natural gas during cold weather when demand is highest, Elswick said. Prices tend to rise dramatically during times of high demand.
“As long as we know the weather’s coming, we can manage it,” Elswick said.
Elswick emphasized the facility’s natural gas supply is for Piedmont’s home heating customers. But industrial customers, such as the Campbell Soup plant in Maxton, also will benefit.
“It will not directly serve the company,” Elswick said. “But, it will reduce the demand on the supply of natural gas.”
Reduction in demand will mean more natural gas available for purchase and use by Campbell Soup, she said.
The 1 billion-cubic-foot facility will be built on 50 acres of a 685-acre tract of land Piedmont owns about halfway between Maxton and Red Springs. It’s not the first time Piedmont intended to build on the land.
Piedmont was planning to built a facility near Maxton 10 years ago, Elswick said. But the company found a different location that allowed it to build at a lower cost.
“We know they had purchased the land originally, and we knew that if it came up again it would be good for us,” Harris said.
The facility, which is not connected to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, will draw its supply from the Transco pipeline, she said. However, if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is built, it could be a natural gas source. The facility will buy from whichever supplier can offer the lowest price.
Piedmont Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Duke Energy, one of the partners in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a proposed $5 billion, 600-mile pipeline that will carry natural gas from West Virginia to a point near Pembroke.
The Transco pipeline, owned and operated by Oklahoma-based Williams, moves natural gas from the Gulf Coast to 12 Southeast and Atlantic Seaboard states.