MSU President's Newspaper Column 

February 6, 2021 

Construction of a natural gas-burning heat plant will provide efficiencies and is a sound business decision

Mayville State has requested $1.6 million in capital project funding from the North Dakota legislature. The funding will allow us to install natural gas burners and pave the way for using natural gas as a heating source, replacing old fuel oil burners on our campus. The use of natural gas will provide efficiencies for our institution. In addition, the project will enhance Mayville State’s infrastructure and improve our campus while providing a cleaner footprint for all.

We are proud to have been a key player in helping to bring natural gas to Traill County with our commitment to using the commodity on an ongoing basis. This has been a top economic goal for our region for more than 60 years, according to Jim Murphy, Executive Director of the Traill County Economic Development Commission. With the university’s commitment to purchasing substantial amounts of natural gas, along with agreements from other large customers, Dakota Natural Gas was given the green light to file permit applications with the state. This is a huge win for our area.

Access to natural gas in our region will be of great benefit to many Traill County businesses and residents who will have the opportunity to experience significant cost savings for heating and other purposes beginning in the fall of 2021. Installation of natural gas fueled boilers and construction of a building in which to house them is extremely important, not only for the university, but for the entire region. With many partners working together, we will all benefit from having access to natural gas for the first time ever.

Currently, Mayville State supplements its coal-fired heating system by burning fuel oil in the fall and spring, and as emergency backup. Being able to replace the fuel oil heating system with one that burns the more efficient natural gas will result in huge savings. We will continue to burn coal as a heating source throughout the heart of the winter. Another important consideration is redundancy in heating sources for our physical plant, which is essential. In addition to the benefits for the heating of buildings, we’ll be able to convert water heaters located throughout campus from electric to natural gas, which will also provide substantial savings.

Estimating conservatively, Mayville State will realize $62,000 in annual savings of fuel and electric costs. We would anticipate burning natural gas during the months of October and November in the fall and March and April in the spring. Natural gas costs about 34% as much as fuel oil and 64% as much as coal. It also will give us the option of using natural gas when it’s more efficient than coal.

Deferred maintenance savings of $985,000.00 is substantial as well. Installation of the natural gas burners will help Mayville State avoid replacement of four oil burners, ancillary equipment, and a fuel storage tank. All of these items are currently past their normal life expectancy.

The new project will involve construction of a 40’x56’ addition to the existing 2009 coal heat plant. This addition will house two natural gas boilers. Foss Architecture has developed the plans for the new facility.

As one of the region’s largest employers, Mayville State University’s economic impact in this region is significant. Add to this the economic impact that comes as a result of Mayville State’s students who contribute to the economic vitality of the area, and it is easy to see that the university is a major economic engine. The installation of a natural gas-fueled heating plant at the university is without a doubt a win-win for the university and the region in multiple ways.

Vice President for Business Affairs Steve Bensen and I have presented Mayville State’s request for the $1.6 million capital project to the North Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee. We will have an opportunity to make the request to the House Appropriations Committee in the near future. We cannot stress enough the importance of making sure our legislators understand the value of this project.

Construction of a natural gas-burning heat plant at Mayville State University is a sound business decision. When you consider the savings in deferred maintenance costs and combine it with the annual savings in heating costs, it becomes clear that it will not take long at all for the project to pay for itself.