Natural gas retrofit begins at La Ronge, Air Ronge schools

by Derek Cornet

A natural gas expansion to Northern Lights School Division (NLSD) facilities is expected to cut energy bills nearly in half.

Workers with SaskEnergy began digging trenches to lay natural gas pipeline to Pre-Cam Community School in La Ronge several weeks ago, having previously done so at the division’s head office in the town and at Gordon Denny Community School in Air Ronge. According to NLSD superintendent of facilities Dennis Teichroeb, the project will cost $250,000.

He went on to say another $400,000 will be spent to purchase high-efficiency condensing boilers and to remove the oil equipment currently on site. The division estimates boiler fuel efficiency will improve from 65 per cent with oil to 95 per cent by using natural gas.

“The boilers are reasonably close to the end of their life, so there would need to be a switch anyway to increase the efficiency,” Teichroeb said. “The natural switch would be to get away from oil heat, which is expensive and not very practical.”

While the division office and the elementary school in Air Ronge will begin to reap the benefits of using gas for heat by the end of October, Teichroeb added it could be until next spring when Pre-Cam acquires the service. He also said the expansion is long overdue considering its unstable price and environmental damage.

“Overall, our savings will be between 40 and 45 per cent on an ongoing basis,” Teichroeb noted. “Pre-Cam will be saving considerably more because of the poor design of the building.”

Throughout the North, the division’s other schools use a mix of oil, propane and electricity for heat. But, Teichroeb said, as time passes that will also change as NLSD wants to move away from oil as much as possible. He added a school in Fond-du-Lac would be installing solar panels in the future.

Meanwhile, SaskEnergy spokesperson Casey MacLeod said the company is in the midst of installing additional pipelines and services along La Ronge Avenue this year. Work has also been completed along Don Allen Road and residents of the Napatak subdivision can expect construction in the coming months.

“The fire did slow down some of our work, but we’re still going full steam ahead and we’ll be staying in the community until freeze up,” MacLeod added.

SaskEnergy began installing natural gas pipeline in the communities of La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in 2009. The on-reserve schools – Senator Myles Venne School and Bell’s Point Elementary School – have been hooked up to the pipeline since 2010.

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