File photo (Union Gas)

More than $8 million in natural gas expansion grants in Chatham-Kent have been approved, a move which municipal officials say could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of jobs to the community.

Municipal officials say a total of 11 projects worth nearly $75 million were announced through the provincial ministries of Infrastructure, and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs under the Natural Gas Grant Program.

All projects still require approval of the Ontario Energy Board.

The Chatham-Kent Rural Pipeline Expansion project will result in the construction of two transmission pipelines as well as supporting distribution mains and individual customer stations to immediately connect five local agricultural businesses, while establishing infrastructure that can help to meet growing energy demand within the local agri-food cluster.

The Moraviantown First Nation will benefit from the construction of a natural gas distribution pipeline to connect homes and businesses along Norton Line, Knoll Road, School House Road, Lunaapeew Road, and Littlejohn Road/Corn Plant Road near Chatham-Kent, serving the Delaware Nation of Moravian.

Mayor Randy Hope said the announcement is the culmination of more than two years of effort by the municipality in aiding the project’s development, including last year’s council resolution of support.

“Our greenhouse industry is bursting at its seams,” Hope said in a press release.

“Each acre of greenhouses costs more than $1 million to build and this project can supply enough natural gas for hundreds of acres of greenhouses. This kind of development brings jobs in construction and in long-term operation.”

A potential route for the proposed 8-inch diameter pipeline would be from the Panhandle System, in the Tupperville area, along Base Line to east of Dresden to Kent Bridge Road, a distance of 13 kilometres.

The potential project would also include a 500-metre 12-inch diameter pipe near Dover Centre to “de-bottleneck” the Chatham East transmission system.

“We are very pleased that a number of Ontario communities are now a step closer to accessing natural gas – a reliable and affordable source of energy to keep families warm and to support the growth of local businesses and industry,” stated Steve Baker, President of Union Gas, in a press release.

“We appreciate (Infrastructure) Minister’s Chiarelli’s support and leadership in making this a reality. There was an overwhelming interest in the Natural Gas Grant Program and we are committed to work with government to help even more communities access natural gas in the future.”

Chatham-Kent Acting Director of Economic Development Services Stuart McFadden said the expansion opens up opportunities for any businesses which uses natural gas.

“In the past we have had to turn away in excess of 300 acres of greenhouse development alone due to supply issues,” he said in a media release.

“This means we are more open for business than ever.”