RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – Some may remember the big winter storm in February of 2021. “The whole southwest region experienced extremely low temperatures and at the same time, there were constraints on the supply of natural gas and so the prices spiked,” Tim Korte, the Communications Manager for the New Mexico Gas Company, says.
In one week, New Mexico Gas paid $110 million to supply gas to customers. “For comparison, that’s the same amount we spent in all 12 months of 2020,” Korte said.
The Public Regulation Commission asked the company to look into possible solutions to prevent price spikes like that ever again and New Mexico Gas came up with a liquified natural gas storage Facility. The company wants to build it on the outskirts of Rio Rancho, just north of Double Eagle Airport. New Mexico Gas says the spot is ideal since it’s adjacent to a transmission pipeline. If approved, it would be the first of its kind for the company. “Currently, we rely on a storage facility in West Texas and the advantage would be it’s right here,” Korte says.
New Mexico Gas says keeping the supply here would protect customers from price hikes. “We would be able to purchase natural gas in the summer months when the cost is lower and then have it available in winter when prices go up,” says Korte.
Right now, the company is fielding concerns from neighbors like Elaine Cimino, who lives about four miles from the proposed site, and is also the Director of Common Ground Rising. “For us, it’s a health and safety issue,” Cimino says.
She’s concerned with the potential emissions. Although New Mexico Gas says there will be no emission released. “It would be a close system, the gas would come off the transmission pipeline, go into the facility, it would be frozen and stored and then when needed, it would be heated up and put back into the system for use for customers,” Korte says.
Overall, Cimino would like to see New Mexico shift its focus. “Gas is going away. We don’t need to build more capacity for gas because we are going to transition to solar and renewable energy,” says Cimino.
Public hearings will be held throughout the year. New Mexico Gas hopes the PRC has an answer by the fall. If approved, the project is expected to be finished in 2026.