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AGH, other facilities await soon-to-be gas conversions

BERLIN–Atlantic General Hospital, the Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Kelly Foods are awaiting completion of their conversions to natural gas.
The Barrett Medical Building has been converted to natural gas and those three are just waiting on a specialty order for conversion parts.
Stephen Decatur Middle School and Stephen Decatur High School have been converted to natural gas.
Sandpiper Energy’s first conversions to natural gas took place last summer at the feed mill and asphalt plant along Route 113 in Showell.
Sandpiper’s conversions will proceed along the northern part of Berlin and go in a circular fashion along the west side of town, Department of Environmental Programs Director Bob Mitchell told the Worcester County Commissioners last Tuesday. After completing about 75 percent of the conversions in Berlin, the company will begin upgrades in the northern part of Ocean Pines and the commercial area around Walmart. That work would likely be later this year.
More areas might have been converted by now, but “the weather hasn’t been the greatest,” Mitchell said.
Sandpiper Energy was formed after Chesapeake Utilities acquired the operating assets of Eastern Shore Gas and its affiliate, Eastern Shore Propane Company last May. Sandpiper will provide propane and natural gas to Worcester County residences and businesses.
Last summer, Chesapeake Utilities estimated that Sandpiper Energy would save customers more than $1 million.
All of Sandpiper’s customers will have the same rate for energy use, whether they use propane or if they have converted to natural gas. In this way, the cost of converting the distribution system and converting individual customers is shared by all customers. Those customers will also share in the savings associated with the less expensive natural gas.
Converting the underground propane distribution system used by Eastern Shore Gas in the Berlin, Ocean Pines and West Ocean City area is expected to take four to six years.
Sandpiper will communicate with propane gas customers and new customers to inform them about the opportunity to switch from propane to natural gas.
It must also be determined which appliances can be converted from propane gas to natural gas.
Since last spring, members of the county staff have been working with Sandpiper Energy and the staff of Chesapeake Utilities to go over inspection and review procedures for the conversion process.  
The county will require permits and inspections by its plumbing/gas inspectors on all upgrades, no matter how small they might be.
So far, the work has gone smoothly, Mitchell said.