McCain converting 2 facilities to natural gas

One of New Brunswick's biggest employers is switching its two largest plants to natural gas.

Most of the company's plants worldwide have already switched

The McCain Foods plants in Grand Falls and Florenceville-Bristol will be converting to natural gas. (CBC)

McCain Foods will finish converting its two largest facilities in Florenceville-Bristol and Grand Falls to natural gas from heavy fuel oil in the spring.

Calla Farn, a company spokesperson, said most of the company's plants around the world have already converted to natural gas.

McCain Foods had wanted to switch the two facilities to natural gas for years. Farn said it makes sense in the company's home province now.

"In New Brunswick the high cost of energy makes it difficult to compete with plants that have access to lower-energy cost sources, so this really will help level the playing field," Farn said.

Calla Farn, a McCain Foods spokesperson, said the company has wanted to convert the two facilities to natural gas for several years. (CBC)

There's no gas pipeline to the area. Irving Oil Ltd. will supply the gas in compressed form in trucks. It will then be decompressed at the McCain plants to a level they can use.

The provincial government changed the rules in 2011 to make it easier for companies that are not on the pipeline to buy gas by truck.

"Well, we've been looking at options and analyzing the situation for many years," Farn said.

"In rural areas, with a limited number of users, a pipeline would not be economically feasible. Trucking is clearly the best option right now and probably for the foreseeable future."

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said McCain's move is also an argument for developing a provincial shale gas industry.

"It's a perfect example of the benefits natural gas offers our province and why we as a government are interested in exploring further opportunities for domestic supply," said Leonard.

The conversion will cost McCain $1 million, but will cut its energy bills by 30 per cent, said Farn.