FREEBURG, Ill. – It’s the time of year when the temperature drops and the thermostat is turned up. Ameren Illinois says their natural gas rates are well below the national average. How do they do it?
In farming country west of Freeburg, Illinois there’s an Ameren Illinois natural gas facility that’s vital to many peoples’ lives.
“I know a lot of people don’t know it’s even here,” said Stephen Underwood, Ameren Illinois Director of Gas Storage.
There are many pipes that are part of a gas storage station. Below ground, below soybeans and cornfields for about one square mile around the facility is the key to lower prices.
“It’s very critical to our gas portfolio,” Underwood said.
The natural geological formation stores a lot of natural gas.
“This particular field will hold one point nine billion cubic feet of gas,” Underwood said.
He said that’s enough gas to fill a container the size of Busch Stadium 80 times over.
Ameren pipes the natural gas in from Texas and Oklahoma during the summer when gas prices are cheap. They store it, then use it in the winter when prices are higher. Ameren said US and state agencies show Ameren Illinois gas prices are 8 percent below the national average.
“We monitor everything at this station,” said Kyle Turner, an Ameren gas storage supervisor.
With all that natural gas safety is foremost. Their safety monitoring systems have back-ups making sure there are no leaks.
“We never have any issues,” Turner said.
On a cold winter’s day, the demand for natural gas can jump five times compared to summer. The storage field keeps 35 thousand customers warm in frigid weather.
A lower price is important to homeowners and business people.
“It’s a big part of our budget but it’s a lot less than it used to be,” said Keith Schell, one of the owners of The Edge in Belleville.
The Edge is a huge family entertainment center. It takes a lot of natural gas to cook meals and warm the 82,000 square-foot building.
“It’s very important to keep our operating costs down. Nothing’s more important when you operate a business, trying to make a profit every dime is critical,” Schell said.
There are a total of 12 storage facilities located across Illinois.