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Chesapeake Utilities expands Sussex pipeline

Katie Tabeling

The Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, based in Dover, announced it will be investing $6.3 million in a new natural gas line in the Fenwick Island area, tapping into the area west of Route 54. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

FENWICK ISLAND — Chesapeake Utilities Corp. is targeting more customers in Sussex County and northern Ocean City, Md., with its latest natural gas expansion.

The natural gas company announced last week it is in the final pre-construction stage of a $6.3 million project that would expand its natural gas pipeline to businesses and homes in the Fenwick Island region. Pending final permits, the pipeline will be nearly 6 miles long and would extend off the existing pipeline near Roxana.

Chesapeake Utilities plans to extend service along Route 54 to Fenwick Island, headed to the Delaware-Maryland border. The new pipeline would also serve as a second feed into Ocean City. Construction is anticipated to be complete in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Customer demand continues to support long-term growth for our Company, with customer growth in our Delmarva natural gas distribution service territories continuing at levels two to three times above the national average customer growth rate,” Chesapeake Utilities CEO and President Jeff Householder said in a statement. “We’ve met the energy needs of the Delmarva Peninsula for many years, and we’ll continue to do so in a way that makes life better for the people and communities we serve there.”

In total, this pipeline would serve more than 6,500 homes and dozens of commercial properties east of Johnson Road, along Routes 20 and 54. It is unclear how many customers would be in Delaware and how many would be in Maryland at this time.

In 2017, Chesapeake Utilities subsidiary Sandpiper Energy brought its natural gas pipeline across the Maryland Isle of Wight Bay to First Street in downtown Ocean City. At that time, Chesapeake Utilities representatives reported there were 3,500 accounts in the Maryland tourist town and expected converting customers would take years.

In the years since, natural gas has become a big draw for residential and commercial development due to its high efficiency and various uses for heat, air conditioning, and other appliances.

The northern end of Ocean City was developed in the 1970s and 1980s with high-rise condominiums, and the barrier island is under 10 square miles in size. While Fenwick Island is on the same land mass, Sussex County has vacant land south of Roxana that may include room for future business growth.

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