|Nicor Gas will soon undertake a massive $2 billion, nine-year pipe replacement project that will give a much-needed upgrade to about 1,000 miles of aging gas lines throughout suburban Chicago.
According to a February 11 Crain’s Chicago Business article, the program will be funded through surcharges placed on natural gas utility users’ monthly bills. For the average residential consumer, this surcharge will amount to about a dollar per month.
Nicor’s announcement arrives at a time when skepticism continues to mount over a similar project. The estimated cost of Peoples Gas’s program to replace 1,700 miles of gas mains within the city of Chicago has more than doubled in the last five years. This has led Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to cite Peoples Gas for mismanagement, and an audit of the company’s program has been commissioned.
Because of Peoples Gas’s gaffe, Nicor President Beth Reese says there is more pressure for her company to finish its project within budget. If Nicor succeeds at staying within budget, the average natural gas consumer will see monthly bills about $10 higher than they are now when the project is finished in 2023.
In 2015, Nicor will work to replace about 125 miles of suburban Chicago’s old cast-iron and bare steel pipes with polyethylene and treated steel. Work will take place throughout the municipalities of Aurora, Evanston and Oak Park. Additionally, about 90% of the gas mains in Elmwood Park are slated for replacement this year.
The oil and natural gas industry is one of the U.S. economy’s largest, employing about 9.8 million people and representing 8% of the overall economy. Nicor expects to hire an additional 500 internal and contract workers this year, with the number projected to grow in later years as the project continues, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.
“We’re not at our peak by any stretch,” Reese explained.