The Anchor Point-Homer natural gas trunk line achieved an important step last Friday when Enstar Natural Gas energized the first 17 miles of the gas line from Chapman Elementary School in Anchor Point to Homer High School on Fairview Avenue.
While it won’t be until at least mid-September that Homer customers actually get gas service, filling the first section of the trunk line with gas — about 25,000 cubic feet in volume — marks an important milestone for the project. For the first time, a pipe connected to the greater southcentral natural gas system has brought gas to Homer.
“This is very exciting news,” said John Sims, an Enstar spokesperson.
Although some buildings, like South Peninsula Hospital, have meters set and appliances ready to be hooked up, nobody in Homer yet has gas ready to go.
“It’s happening, a little bit more every day,” said Charlie Pierce, Enstar Southern Division manager. “Were making progress.”
Now that the trunk line has gas, Enstar workers can start the next step in the process, tying in and energizing local distribution lines that branch off the trunk line and bringing service to downtown neighborhoods.
That will happen about Sept. 3 and after the Labor Day holiday, Pierce said.
Once the downtown distribution lines are done and energized, Enstar will announce when customers can have meters set and start getting service. Many homes and businesses already have service lines installed from distribution lines.
The downtown core area from the Lake Street stoplight west along the Sterling Highway to West Hill Road, east to Ben Walters Lane and uphill will likely get gas first.
Contractor Utility Technologies Inc. has built about 44 miles of the 67-mile Homer distribution line, Pierce said.
The last stretch of the trunk line still has to be completed from Fairview Avenue where the line becomes a 6-inch diameter pipe, out East End Road. The trunk line east of Fairview Avenue won’t be completed and energized for another 90 days, but when that’s done it will tie in to east-side distribution lines and the Kachemak City gas lines.
On the morning of Aug. 16, Enstar workers started the process of purging the trunk line of air and pressurizing the pipe with natural gas, a process called energizing.
At a valve in Anchor Point, workers first pumped in nitrogen, an inert or nonflammable gas. Over two hours last Friday, that bubble of gas slowly moved through the 17 miles of pipe. A 2-inch section of pipe ran off the end of the pipe to a field near Homer Christian Church. At the end of that pipe, workers took gas readings to see when the gas coming out of it turned from mostly oxygen to natural gas. Mercapthan, an odorant that smells like rotten eggs or skunk scent, was added in extra doses to make the natural gas particularly pungent.
“It’s a pretty exciting day,” Pierce said from his truck in the church parking lot as the energizing process started. “You were there the day we brought natural gas to Homer.”
To handle an expected increase in customer needs, Enstar also will be hiring extra staff at its Homer office across Pioneer Avenue on the Sterling Highway, Pierce said. For more information, call the Homer Enstar office at 435-0635 or visit Enstar’s website at www.enstarnaturalgas.com and click on the “Homer Expansion” tab.