Switching to natural gas at the Gorham Paper and Tissue mill cost about $5.4 million but paid for itself in about four months, says Willis Blevins, the general manager of the plant.
Last year the company made the change from heating oil.
The goal was to reduce the enormous energy cost that Blevins says was always a problem when it came to making the plant consistently profitable.
The new owner, Patriarch Partners, was willing to make the investment the previous owner was not.
“The natural gas paid for itself, already. One hundred and nineteen days, ” Blevins told about 200 people attending the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Friday night in Gorham.
Blevins said work is progressing on installing a new, $35 million tissue machine he expects to have operating by September, although Patriarch Partners is pushing for a July start.
That machine is seen as the key to the plant’s long-term success.
It will make a variety of tissues for home use such as napkins, toilet paper and paper towels.
Blevins has said such tissue is expensive to ship reducing the likelihood of the international competition that has caused so much trouble for the domestic paper industry.
The plant will focus on selling the tissue to private labels in the Northeast.
By early next week about 181 workers will be on the job with an estimated 2012 payroll of $16.5 million, he said.
When the plant closed in 2010 it had just under 200 workers.