Gas conversion project reaches halfway point

CHANGING OVER: Phil Quayle and Ollie Curran change a house in Colby from LPG to natural gas

CHANGING OVER: Phil Quayle and Ollie Curran change a house in Colby from LPG to natural gas

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SAFETY and efficiency are the main objectives for the team converting the island’s gas customers to natural gas.

Aidan Baglow is the project manager and to date has processed around 3,400 customers – half the total to be done.

‘We are in Colby at the moment and that represents the half way point for us. So far we have achieved our objective,’ he said.

The conversions started in Ramsey in February this year. Customers are isolated sector by sector from their gas supply while the old gas is burnt off from the gas main using a special burner.

‘We cordon off the area while it is done and we do inform the fire brigade - just in case they get emergency calls when people see the flames,’ he said.

For the next stage, gas engineers go into people’s houses to convert their gas appliances – principally changing burners. This is to cope with the different calorific value (the amount of heat produced by a particular volume of gas) of natural gas, compared with the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and town gas which was used.

‘We started pre-conversion surveys in February 2011 to identify every appliance in every customer’s house. Safety checks were made and any faults resolved then spares were ordered for the conversion, all at no cost to the customer.

‘Any appliances we could not convert were replaced like for like free of charge,’ he said.

So far the team has converted 4,500 appliances and the process has run smoothly largely because they have communicated well with customers, Mr Baglow thinks.

‘We spent a lot of time engaging with our customers and we have on-site customer support so customers can call us there or come in and see us. They can also drop off and collect keys there,’ he said.

The basic process lasts a maximum of three days and customers’ hot water and heating should be back in action within the first day. Any new appliances are fitted by the end of the second day and the third is to resolve any problems. Any vulnerable customers will be treated as a priority if they make themselves known to the team.

The work in Colby is finishing and this week the team moves further south to Port St Mary and Port Erin before heading west later on to Kirk Michael and Peel afterwards. Last on the agenda is Ballaugh, scheduled for conversion in mid December. Two thirds of customers will be on natural gas by the end.

‘The best compliment we get is when customers describe it as a non-event,’ Mr Baglow said. ‘We do the work and we move on.’

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