MSU President's Newspaper Column

May 8, 2021

$1.6 million capital project funded by legislature

Just as the 67th Legislative Assembly of North Dakota was coming to a close, legislators approved Mayville State’s request for $1.6 million to fund a natural gas boiler project that will provide a new heating source for the campus. The use of natural gas will provide efficiencies for our institution, and the project will enhance Mayville State’s infrastructure and improve our campus while providing a cleaner footprint for all.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our local District 20 legislators, Jared Hagert, Randy Lemm, and Mike Beltz, along with several other local citizens and key legislators throughout the state who worked extremely hard on our behalf. Many friends of Mayville State made phone calls and contacted legislators to underscore the importance of this project for not only Mayville State University, but also for Traill County.

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 big 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. With many partners working together, we will all benefit from having access to natural gas for the first time ever.

Some work has already been done at Mayville State in preparation for the arrival of natural gas to campus. In addition to the benefits for the heating of buildings, converting water heaters located throughout campus from electric to natural gas, will also provide substantial savings. Two gas water heaters have already been installed at Agassiz Hall. The conversion from LP to natural gas will be a simple retrofit. Working with an engineer and the gas company, campus-wide meter location has been determined. Meters will be installed in August. The main line to campus, which is the feed for the new gas plant, has been installed along 3rd Avenue.

A bidding process will get things started with regard to installation of natural gas fueled boilers and construction of a building in which to house them. We know that construction material costs are up and that contractors are busy, but we are hopeful that it will be a successful bidding process. 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.

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.

Estimating conservatively, Mayville State will realize $62,000 in annual savings of fuel and electric costs. We 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.

We are grateful for this new opportunity to improve the Mayville State campus while helping our region to become an even better place to live and work. Our local friends, as well as those at a distance, have been at the center of making this happen, and I extend my most sincere “thank you” to all who have and continue to support Team Mayville State.