Plum Energy

Not many can say they started as “pioneers” in their industry, but Kirt W. Montague can. An 11-year veteran of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, he founded his first firm, Prometheus Energy Group, in 2003, which he left in late 2010 after the Shell Technology Venture Fund acquired a majority interest in the company.

During his time at Prometheus, “We really helped develop this whole LNG value chain market,” he recalls, adding that managing it was an education. “There are a lot of scars and learning experiences that proved to be essential.”

Now, he is bringing those lessons to Plum Energy as its chairman and CEO. Based in Seattle, the company helps its clients design, build, install, operate and maintain small-scale LNG production facilities, as well as transport the fuel.

Plum Energy’s customers often choose LNG over diesel not only because it costs less, but also because of its environmental advantages, which include fewer emissions. “We’re talking about using a domestic fuel that’s clean [and produced at] a lower cost,” Montague says. “That’s appealing to people.”

Spreading Awareness
Although LNG provides many advantages, Plum Energy still copes with a lack of awareness among the public, Montague says. “A lot of people are hearing about the natural gas glut, but there is a low level of understanding of what LNG is,” he states.

“We are seeing some sectors, such as mining, start to embrace LNG,” he reports. “[But] the challenge is educating your customer on what LNG actually is, how do you store it [and] how do you use it.”

That is why the company has taken a proactive approach as it has developed a facility in Tioga, N.D., for North Dakota LNG LLC, Montague says. “We went to see their fire department and county commissioners, and we put a high emphasis on educating them on LNG,” he recalls.

This included bringing experts from Texas A&M University to teach on how to handle a LNG fire. “We’re being quite proactive in educating and doing it beforehand and not after the fact,” Montague says.

In the Mix
Plum Energy broke ground on the Tioga project in April and expects to have the plant in operation later this summer. “We’ll produce 10,000 gallons a day,” he says, noting that the company expects to stay busy even after it finishes a “phase two plant” for North Dakota LNG in December. The second phase will produce at least an additional 66,000 gallons per day, perhaps more, especially in the cold winter months.

“We have several projects currently in the mix,” he says. “Within the next three to five years, we’ll have another 300,000 to 500,000 gallons of LNG production in play regionally, as well as overseas.”

Plum Energy will target areas where it can build and operate small LNG plants and meet local demands, Montague says. “In the regions where we play, we really want to have a significant footprint,” he says.

The company also will cope with the challenge of increased competition, Montague says. As an LNG pioneer, “It’s heartwarming, in many respects, to see the bigger companies like GE and Shell come into this [space],” he says.

“We’ll continue to try to stay on the forefront of that to provide tailor-made solutions for LNG customers,” Montague says.