warm thoughts

Decals for propane tanks, signage for propane cages, bobtail graphics, yard signs and feather flags. Home of the “Revolver” yard sign which moves with the wind’s natural energy.

Our Office:
4793 Adams Road
Chattanooga, TN 37343
800-472-0285

Website: www.dynamicprintplus.com

blue cow software logo

Optimize your daily processes and improve the efficiency of your business with Blue Cow Software’s powerful, easy-to-use suite of software solutions designed specifically for the propane industry. Designed by energy dealers, for energy dealers, our Ignite® EcoSystem propane software package delivers an unparalleled combination of back-office accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), and operational management control and management.

Services: Propane management software platform, software consulting

Our Office:
35 Village Road – Suite 301
Middleton, MA 01949
(888) 499-2583 (BLUE)

Website: www.bluecowsoftware.com

Contact: info@bluecowsoftware.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
The massive amount of information required to effectively manage a propane business can overwhelm – or become an important asset for success. Blue Cow Software’s Ignite® EcoSystem give company owners and managers all the tools needed to gain control and keep your company functioning effectively and profitably.

Gray, Gray & Gray delivers the Power of More® for propane marketers through consulting, accounting, and business advisory services specifically tailored for the propane industry. This includes everything from management and operational issues to banking relationships and cybersecurity defense, to strategic planning and succession planning. The firm’s FuelExchange® merger & acquisition service helps owners buy, sell or merge their propane company.

Services: Consulting, Strategic Planning, Accounting, Tax Planning & Compliance, Succession Planning, FuelExchange™ Merger & Acquisition Service, Personal Wealth Management (through Gray Private Wealth, LLC),

Our Office:
150 Royall Street, Suite 102
Canton, MA 02021
781-407-0300

Website: www.gggllp.com

Contact: powerofmore@gggllp.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
We help propane marketers manage the complex market driving supply, demand, costs, and margins by providing timely and accurate information and insightful analysis. This leads to better-informed decisions for the future of a propane business.

terravestTerraVest Industries, together with our family of brands, is one of the largest tank manufacturers in North America. We provide the propane storage and transport equipment industry one source for many solutions custom tailored to meet the unique needs of each customer. All of our brands are backed by individuals with years of experience and industry knowledge, and a desire to provide a quality customer service experience from start to finish.

By offering our customers access to six different brands, we’re able to provide:

Meet Our Family of Brands
A solution for every propane storage and transport equipment need.

TerraVest Industries
13460 N. Saginaw Rd.
Clio, MI 48420
855-347-0806
Ryan Eidsness, Director of Sales & Marketing for USA LPG, reidsness@terravestsales.com

maxfieldMaxfield is a leading manufacturer of high-quality pressure vessel storage and transportation equipment with operations across Canada and into the United States.

Maxfield
13460 N. Saginaw Rd.
Clio, MI 48420
855-347-0806
Maxfield.ca

pro parPro-Par Inc. offers quick and responsive solutions for each customer based on years of experience in the propane industry. From propane dispensers to refurbishing services, Pro-Par Inc. is ready to help.

Pro-Par, Inc.
65 Rue Winder
Sherbrooke, QC J1M 1L5, Canada
855-347-0806
proparinc.com

mississippi tankA subsidiary of TerraVest Industries, Mississippi Tank Company was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Hattiesburg, MS with an additional location in Vincennes, IN. For over 75 years Mississippi Tank Company has provided quality service, workmanship, and products for the LPG industry, and is a major supplier of custom fabricated pressure vessels for the Petro-Chem Industries and of LPG/NH3 storage tanks and transport trailers.

Transports:

Bulk Storage:
Our standard bulk storage tanks are equipped with threaded coupling openings, with flanged openings available upon request. The exterior of our standard bulk storage tanks is power tool cleaned and finished with one coat of Sherwin Williams Macropoxy 646. In addition, our standard underground tanks are blasted and coated with 16 mils DFT of Sherwin Williams Targuard(R) Coal Tar Epoxy. We can provide other paint systems and options at the customer’s request. All of our design is done in-house, including our CAD calculations, allowing us to do custom work and larger designs. We also provide shipping anywhere in the U.S.

Mississippi Tank Company
3000 W 7th St
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
855-347-0806
Joey Runnels, jrunnels@mstank.com
mstank.com

fischer tanks

Never Compromise Quality for Cost

A subsidiary of TerraVest Industries, Fischer Tanks mission is to heat homes across the US and Canada by building and refurbishing high-quality propane tanks for residential and commercial use through the commercial propane market.

Fischer Tanks’ 90,000 square -foot building sits comfortably on 96 acres in Kaleva, Michigan with its own fleet of trucks and trailers. The experienced team at Fischer Tanks knows what it means to manufacture 500- and 1,000-galloon above-ground quality tanks. “Save it, don’t scrap it!” has become a popular phrase around the company due to the specialization in refurbishing old tanks and restoring them to excellent condition through a proprietary, multi-step process.

Fischer Tanks Offers:

Tanks Designed to Withstand the Test of Time

Fischer Tanks
P.O. Box 25
13884 Rengo Ave.
Kaleva, MI 49645
855-347-0806
David Edmondson, General Manager, dedmondson@fischertanks.com
fischertanks.com

countryside tank company

A Focus on Quality and the Customer

Countryside Tank Company is a subsidiary of TerraVest Industries that manufactures MC331 and NH3 transport trailers out of Osceola, Iowa. Countryside Tank Company stays true to their Midwestern values that place importance on honesty, hard work, and putting customers ahead of profits. The entire team takes immense pride in every transport built since they understand the long-term investment customers make when purchasing equipment. “Quality and Customers First,” is not only the company slogan, but it’s also how they design, and how fabrication teams operate to ensure a quality product is delivered every time.

Five Reasons to Choose Countryside Tank Company:

  1. Countryside Tank Company never takes a customer’s business for granted! Tours of the production facility are offered daily to provide full transparency into how they operate. Customers are welcome to visit and see why they are so proud of the company and products they’re creating.
  2. Made in the USA. Their entire pressure vessel is manufactured in the USA within their Iowa production facility. Not all M331 builders can say this, and it’s one of the many reasons Countryside Tank Company is able to offer a superior quality product consistently.
  3. Specialized experts. The only focus of Countryside Tank Company is on MC331 transports. This has allowed them to become specialized experts with a narrow focus employing experienced and certified welders and mechanics.
  4. Designed and built for durability. All Countryside Tanks are built to last. They start with the highest quality components, and conform to the American Society of Mechanical Engineering codes.
  5. Customization. Countryside Tank Company customizes to each customer’s specific needs and specifications.

Refurbishment Partner
Countryside Tank Company is a trusted refurbishment partner for world class Hazmat hauling companies. They’re able to provide quick turnarounds for full tear-off of subframes and suspensions, R-stamp repairs, repair of damaged MC331, VIPK testing, and painting and repairs.

Countryside Tank Company
1525 E. Eddy Pkwy
Osceola, IA 50213
855-347-0806
Shawn Kellen, General Manager, skellen@countrysidetank.com
Countrysidetank.com

signature truck systems

A Commitment to Quality, Backed by a Signature

A subsidiary of TerraVest Industries, Signature Truck Systems is Located in Clio, MI, and Houghton Lake, MI. Signature Truck Systems began operations in 1999 with the mission to create a niche as a supplier of vehicles in the propane industry. Each delivery vehicle built by the Signature Truck Systems’ team has a decal signed by the lead technician and a member of the management team upon inspection, which is why the company slogan has always been, “A Commitment to Quality, Backed by a Signature.” Customers can take comfort in knowing that the people who built, inspected, and approved their vehicle are confident in their ability to deliver exceptional results.

Featured Trucks:

Signature Truck Systems, LLC
13460 North Saginaw Road
Clio, Michigan 48420
855-347-0806
Mike VanDenBoom, President, vandenboomm@signaturetruck.com
Signaturetruckllc.com

women in propaneThe Women in Propane Council (WIP) was founded by Nancy Coop in 2012 as a business council of the National Propane Gas Association. The council is governed by an executive board of industry leaders that has adopted by-laws that define the organizational structure and opportunity for membership and involvement.

Women in Propane was established to provide positive opportunities for industry professionals—both women and men—to support the advancement and success of all employees in every scope of business operation and professional development. Founded by women, our mission today champions the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

How WIP supports your success
WIP raises awareness of the value of diverse workplaces across the industry. Our diverse workforce gains real-life expertise through innovative trainings like the internationally acclaimed DISC Profile and smart seminars presented by experts. A software-powered Knowledge Exchange mentoring network matches mentors and mentees for personalized progress in reaching goals. Networking with influencers is a key component in successful personal and professional growth.

Website: https://www.womeninpropane.org

Contact: wip@npga.org

cetane
No one in the country has been involved in more propane and heating oil M&A transactions than our team. For more than 16 years, Cetane Associates has applied its industry knowledge and extensive transaction experience to help you decide whether this is the right time for you to make a move, understand clearly what the experience entails, present your company to attract maximum interest and offers, and navigate the process every step of the way to a successful completion.

Services: Advising Sellers; Valuations; Transition Planning; Advising Buyers

Our Postal Address:
P.O. Box 1264, New Milford, CT 06776

Website: www.cetane.net
Contact: info@cetane.net

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
Cetane Associates brings together industry and M&A specialists to provide unique value to propane and heating oil companies. Our team has an extraordinary range of experience and capabilities that can be brought to bear for our clients to assist in expert financial advisory to analyze existing business models, prepare for the future, or take a business through a sales transaction or transition process.

Blue Peak Resources

Blue Peak Resources is a full-service consulting firm specializing in propane gas and fuel oil mergers and acquisitions. Clients engage Blue Peak Resources to sell their business or advise them on increasing the value of the business they have worked so many years to build. John Armentano and Mike Gioffre began this venture to help family-owned propane and fuel oil businesses plan for their exit, gain maximum value and continue their legacy for generations.

Our vision is to become a trusted and valued resource when exit planning is your next step. If you’re looking for a trustworthy partner that understands the energy industry’s complexity and has a proven track record—you’ve found your match.

Visit our website here to see what our clients have to say about their experience working with Blue Peak.

Our Office:
2355 Vista Parkway, Suite #100
West Palm Beach, FL 33411
914.420.2933

Website: bluepeakresources.com

Contact: John Armentano (ja@bpeakr.com)

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?

Multiples are at an all-time high, and many owners are wondering if now is the time to sell. At Blue Peak Resources, our mission is simple: We connect the right businesses with the right people at the right time. Selling a family business can be an emotional and life-changing experience. Our team of professionals will keep the process simple yet effective, so you can receive maximum earning potential. If you would like to learn more, call John Armentano at 914.420.2933 or email him at ja@bpeakr.com.

Blue Peak Resources

Purple Frog Graphics

Purple Frog Graphics is a full-service print and promotional company specializing in the needs of the propane gas and fuel oil industries. Clients engage Purple Frog when they want to elevate their brand with premium promotional products as well as eye-catching, vibrant designs on high-quality adhesive vinyl with UV gel ink technology that has a five-to-seven-year lifespan. We will ensure that you stand out from your competitors with the right messaging and memorable products. You can count on us for cost-effective solutions that suit your business needs and your budget.

Visit our website here to see what our clients have to say about their experience working with Purple Frog Graphics.

Our Office:
2355 Vista Parkway, Suite #100
West Palm Beach, FL 33411
888.240.5293

Website: purplefroggraphics.com

Contact: Tyler Armentano (ta@purplefroggraphics.com)

Purple Frog Graphics

Since our inception in 2012, EDP has purchased more than 30 well-run propane businesses. We operate over 30 brands across 15 states, and we’re still growing.

We’re a respected multi-state marketer, so when you sell your business to EDP, we’ll work hard to preserve the legacy you have built. How? By continuing to invest in the growth of your company, remaining active in your local community, operating safely, and taking exceptional care of your employees.

Visit our website’s Testimonials page to see what satisfied sellers have to say about their experience in selling to EDP.

Services: If you’re an owner of a high-quality propane company, as you contemplate your next chapter, consider selling your company to EDP. We’ll preserve the legacy you worked so hard to build, and take great care of your employees and your community. Plus, we’ll work with you on the most advantageous after-tax outcome.

Our Office:
10 S. Wacker Drive
Suite 3325
Chicago, IL 60606
312.254.5954

Website: edplp.net

Contact: David Stroupe (dstroupe@edplp.net)

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
Many owners of high-quality propane companies have spent years building their businesses, and are now looking at their exit strategy. A big step like that can be daunting, but EDP can help. Collectively our seasoned leadership team of propane industry veterans has been involved in more than 200 successful acquisitions. We work with owners to identify their next steps, then help create a transition plan that benefits everyone involved. So, if you’re interested in selling your business and want to know more, visit our website’s Acquisitions page, call David Stroupe at 312.254.5954 or email Dave at dstroupe@edplp.net.

For more than 40 years, we’ve brought together engineering, manufacturing, construction and safety expertise to focus on operational excellence. We provide the best in turnkey LPG and NGL systems and infrastructure solutions as well as safety and compliance training. We have manufactured more bulk plants and trans-shipment terminals throughout the United States than any other company and have over 1,100 autogas dispensers located across North America. In addition, we design, engineer, construct and service vaporizers and mixers, rail towers, metering and odorant skids and stand by fuel systems.

Address:
13660 Station Road
Columbia Station, OH 44028
440-236-6009

Website:
www.superiornrg.com

Email:
marketing@superiornrg.com

RBN Energy is about making connections across energy markets. We connect energy data with the information needed to understand that data. We connect physical markets for energy commodities with financial markets for managing price risk. And we connect people who need energy markets information with those that provide that information.

Services:
Daily Energy Blog, Consulting Services, Premium Energy Market Subscription Reports, School of Energy, Speaking Engagements, Advisory Services, Maps, Market Studies, Conferences, plus breaking news, and commodity prices via the ClusterX App.

Our Office:
2323 S. Shepherd Drive, Suite 1010
Houston, TX 77019
888-613-8874

Website: rbnenergy.com

contact: info@rbnenergy.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
At RBN, our passion is energy market analytics. We offer a broad range of consulting services and information products including the RBN Propane Billboard Report. This report features insightful commentary and analysis of historical and anticipated trends in the U.S. will a deep dive into the propane supply and demand balance by PADD. It includes a custom 1-year forecast with commentary and analysis on emerging market opportunities.

Propaneandoiltraining.com. offered by Mike Digiorgio and Shane Sweet, offers live, online, interactive, and instructor-led propane, propane-related and petroleum training and education classes. Training regularly offered includes CETP Classes and Exam, CETP Skill Assessment Completion Sessions, Hazardous Materials Initial and Recurrent (Refresher) sessions, Propane Cylinder Requalification Training, Fire Safety analysis for propane bulk facilities and petroleum storage compliance, Train the FSA Administrator(s) for your company, Operator Qualification and Operations & Maintenance Services for propane Jurisdictional Systems, Dispensing Propane Safely virtual training sessions for those with propane pump stations, Preparation of any manual that you need to include to complete your security plan, and more. On-site is also available upon request.

Our Services:
CETP Classes and Exams, CETP Skill Assessment Completion, Hazardous Materials-DOT classes, Fire Safety Analysis services, Train FSA Administrator(s) for Operator Qualification and Operations & Maintenance Services (Jurisdictional Systems), Dispensing Propane Safely virtual training sessions for propane pump station operators, Preparation of any manual needed to complete your security plan, Propane Cylinder Requalification Training class.

Website: propaneandoiltraining.com

Contact: Shane Sweet 860-558-6101 info@propaneandoiltraining.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
“Propaneandoiltraining.com. and its live, online, interactive, instructor-led propane and petroleum training gets your needed training done without the time and expense associated with on-site educators and consultants. All of our sessions are LIVE in a virtual environment. No class minimums mean no cancellations because the class runs no matter how many students attend. We can help with CETP, CETP Skill Assessments, Operations & Maintenance Services for propane Jurisdictional Systems, Dispensing Propane Safely virtual training sessions (for propane pump stations), Preparation of any manual that you need to include to complete your security plan, and more. On-site is also available upon request.

Industrial Propane Service, Inc. and IPS Equipment, Inc. are a family of solutions for the propane industry! Together we offer plant construction and service, bobtail fabrication, Autogas dispensing systems and a full line of propane equipment specifically selected to meet the needs of the propane retailer. We are very proud of our reputation and the premise of which our company was founded – to always provide quality products and exceptional customer service. We are very committed to our customers and taking care of their propane equipment needs and technical support requirements.

Services:
Propane plant construction and service; bobtail sales, service and testing; Autogas dispensing systems; propane equipment distributor for products such as RegO, Blackmer, Worthington, Quality Steel, and Mopeka IOT!

Office:
303 W. Maple St.
Byron, MI 48418
800-621-4137

Website: www.whyips.com

Contact: kim@ipsequipment.com

What’s trending in propane and how can we help?
IPS offers a family of solutions for the propane industry! We are consistently developing systems to improve efficiencies for the propane marketer. We research products and distribute the most high-quality and superior products in the industry.

Otodata has been a key player in the tank monitoring industry for over ten years. Our goal has always been to produce a monitor with very low cost of ownership – making large-scale implementation affordable for all fuel resellers. We are proud to say that we design, develop, manufacture and sell our award-winning tank monitors, management software, and mobile app to businesses all over North America.

Services: Propane, fuel, gases, water, chemicals, lubricants, temperature and more. A tank monitor to suit your corporate needs.

Our office:
1212 Louvain W,
Montreal, Quebec, H4N 1G5,
Canada

Website: https://www.otodata.com

Contact:
(844) 763-3344
info@otodata.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
All of our monitors provide precise, extremely reliable data, carry industry leading warranties, and are compatible with all read-ready dial equipped tanks. Start testing free today!

We are a family-owned tank manufacturing company that has worked for the past 39 years to bring ASME certified Propane Tanks to our customers and help them grow their business through the acquisition of their equipment in the most cost-effective and hassle-free manner possible. We strive for quality and use only premium brands of Valves & Gauges, and we have our automated paint booth for powder coating our products.

Services: Above & Underground Propane Tanks, Autogas Dispensers, Tank Heads, Domes

Our Office:
1209 S 10th Suite A444
McAllen, Texas 78501
1-800-609-TANK

Website: www.metsa.com

Contact: sales@metsa.com

What’s Trending in Propane and How Can We Help?
Metsa Tanks can help with the rising demand for propane tanks for all types of customers such as residential, commercial, and agricultural. We are committed to our customers by delivering a top-quality propane tank all over the United States & Canada.

wip anniversaryThe NPGA Women in Propane Council is celebrating ten years of activities designed to advance the careers of its members, both women and men, at this year’s NPGA Expo in Nashville. Typically the organization hosts a Leadership Forum, a Roundtable and Cocktails for networking at the NPGA Expo. This year, in recognition of the ten year milestone, a Celebration Summit is also being held on Saturday, April 23 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, a day ahead of the annual Leadership Forum.

“We have some terrific events coming up in Nashville,” said Nancy Coop, founding chair of the Women in Propane Council. “Six speakers and a luncheon will be the highlights of a very high-energy, up-tempo, inspirational celebration of the Women in Propane Council,“ added Greg Wasson who leads the Communications & Marketing committee for the Council. Wasson stressed that despite the name of the group, men have always been welcome and encouraged to participate in the Council.

Coop will be one of six speakers at the Celebration Summit, joined by industry leaders including Paula Wilson, Michelle Bimson Maggi and Leslie Woodward. Participants will also hear from Alyson Van Hooser, whose presentation is “Own Your Leadership Success: Create a Highly Engaged Remote Team” and Margaret Morfort, CEO of HR Edge whose topic is “Why Should Someone be Led by You: Five Hard-Hitting Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Ability to Lead People.”

On Sunday, April 24, 9 am to 11:45 am, the Leadership Forum, typically the signature event each year, will be led by Alyson Van Hooser and Phillip Van Hooser who will discuss emotional intelligence and how mastering it can set you up for success. Promotional materials for the event state that with the Van Hoosers’ personal and professional success strategies in tow, attendees will return to work energized and equipped with future-proof tactics to level up the way they lead themselves and their team. “The timing is good for this program,” Wasson said. “So many people are dealing with the end of the pandemic and more team members coming back into the workplace.”

The WIP Roundtable will round out the Expo event with Joy Alafia, president of the Western Propane Gas Association, discussing her trajectory to becoming the president of the association. Promotional materials state that Alafia will share her inspiration, strategies, and resources that enable effective leadership. “She will reveal how to position yourself to be ready for executive opportunities and what to expect once you earn your seat at the table,” according to the Women in Propane newsletter.

“The success of these activities would not be possible without the support of the NPGA,” Wasson said. “They have been great to work with.” Information on Women in Propane activities and how to register can be found at www.npgaexpo.com.

TerraVest IndustriesTORONTO, ONTARIO – TerraVest Industries Inc., (TSX: TVK) (“TerraVest” or the “Company”) announces today that it has acquired all the issued and outstanding shares of Mississippi Tank and Manufacturing Company (“MS Tank”). MS Tank, with operations in Hattiesburg and Southaven Mississippi, and in Vincennes Indiana, is a privately-owned manufacturing company that produces and distributes a broad range of storage and distribution equipment for the propane and compressed gas markets in North America, including transport trailers, bobtail delivery trucks, and various bulk storage tanks.

Dustin Haw, Chief Executive Officer of TerraVest, welcomes the employees of MS Tank and looks forward to their continuing commitment to the business and its customers. “MS Tank is a well–run business with a long and successful history in the propane industry. We are delighted to welcome the employees of MS Tank to the TerraVest family and very excited to be a part of such a great business. MS Tank, with its broad offering of propane equipment and extensive manufacturing capabilities, is a highly synergistic acquisition that strengthens our position as a leading manufacturer of propane storage and distribution equipment.” said Mr. Haw.

TerraVest will acquire MS Tank using existing cash and credit facilities.

Otodata is pleased to announce the promotion of Gregory Bronner to a senior role as Marketing and Communications Senior Director. Bronner joined the company in 2016 and has played a key role in company success by overseeing and implementing the company’s marketing strategy. He has also helped to promote the Otodata brand and product offerings across North America.

A company update stated, “Bronner has more than 15 years of marketing experience across a variety of industries, and we have no doubt that he will continue to represent Otodata brilliantly and take the lead in promoting our new products and innovations as well as our future ventures!”

Otodata is also stressing that while hundreds of thousands of tank monitors ceased to function beginning in February due to a nationwide shutdown of the 3G Network, Otodata monitors are unaffected by the 3G Network shutdown. Various carriers began shutdown use of the 3G Network in February and are continuing to do so. It is recommended that those using tank monitors from other companies check to see if their reporting capacities will be impacted or not.

Recently, Conger LP Gas of Tifton, GA was able to restart cooking classes that were put on hold due to COVID-19. According to a company facebook post, “No matter how you ‘slice it,’ we’re having a ball with Chef Laura and the Italian Wooden Spoon! It feels so great to have our kitchen filled with great aromas and even better people again!” Conger LP Gas also shared other good news with Trending in Propane recently.

Presidential Choice Award

Conger LP Gas was recently awarded the 2020-2021 Presidential Choice Award from The Home Builders Association of South Georgia. The award was presented to Conger LP Gas by Derek Shaw, president of the Home Builders Association, at their 56th Annual Membership and Awards Dinner on December 2, 2021, at Quail Branch Lodge in Lake Park, Georgia.

Conger LP Gas, which joined earlier this year, has participated in several association events and hosted a Lunch & Learn in October for members to learn about the benefits of propane and all the possible applications for using it in new-home construction.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this recognition from the South Georgia Home Builder’s Association and its president, Derek Shaw, who is one of the premier homebuilders in the Valdosta area. Members like Derek have become not just customers, but also good friends and we highly value the trust and the relationships we have already made. Homebuilders in South Georgia are seeing the value of having propane appliances in their homes and the response with this association has already been amazing. Builders are replacing electric tank water heaters with efficient propane tankless water heaters and the homeowners love them,” said Conger LP Gas President and CEO Dan Richardson.

McAlpin Returns to Conger LP

Conger LP Gas is proud to announce that Kirsten McAlpin has returned as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. McAlpin, Conger’s former Communications Director, returns to the company with years of experience in public relations, marketing, advertising, and social media strategy. She will be overseeing advertising campaigns, event coordination, social media, and will be the media spokesperson for the company.

For many years, McAlpin was known through the Southeast as a country music singer/songwriter and then as a radio personality most notably with iHeartMedia in Georgia on Albany’s B100 WOBB, Columbus’ South 106.1 WSTH, and Atlanta’s 94.9 The Bull WRBL. While she was a radio personality, Kirsten became a spokesperson for Conger LP Gas where she became further interested in the company and the propane industry. She joined the Conger LP Gas team in June of 2018 as the Communications Director before leaving in January of 2020 to work for the City of Tifton, Georgia as the Marketing and Public Relations Manager.

Conger LP Gas is one of the largest independent propane companies in South Georgia serving residential, commercial, and agricultural customers in over 30 counties. The company has four locations in Tifton, Sylvester, Vidalia, and Moultrie.

Conger LP Gas

P3 safety articleArticle courtesy of P3 Propane Safety

When you work in the propane business, having great insurance is critical to protect your company and your employees. Insurance companies and their underwriters understand the risk that comes with owning and operating a propane business, so they are extremely detailed when it comes to writing and reviewing your insurance policy.
The good news is that there are helpful tools that can make sure your company stays in your insurance provider’s good graces, showing them that your company is fully compliant with regulatory requirements and that you go above and beyond to reduce risk in the workplace. One of these tools is your Policies & Procedures Manual. Read on to learn more about why insurance providers prefer their clients in the propane industry to have a written Policies & Procedures Manual.

Policies & Procedures 101 for Propane Suppliers

First, it’s important to understand exactly what a Policies & Procedures Manual is. Policies can be considered the “big picture” of your propane company’s daily operations. Written policies include language to cover legal issues that may arise due to the nature of the propane business, customer and employee health and welfare, and/or ethical concerns that may put the organization or employee in a position of conflict.

Procedures are the actual steps that are undertaken to uphold written policies. Written procedures identify individual tasks, who is responsible for the completion of each task, what steps are involved in the process, the sequence of each step, and how the progression of steps is performed.

Why Insurance Underwriters Love Policies & Procedures for Propane Businesses

1. Because Policies & Procedures help companies meet regulatory requirements.

Having a written Policies & Procedures Manual shows your insurance underwriter all of the federal, state, and local regulatory requirements that your company adheres to, and exactly how your operations maintain compliance every day

2. Because Policies & Procedures assist with employee training.

When businesses work with hazardous materials, a major concern for insurance providers is how employees are trained to work safely. Your Policies & Procedures Manual can be used as a guide for new employees, refresher for existing employees, and overall training tool for your management team. It will show your insurance provider that your employees have a clear understanding of their daily tasks and emergency response protocol in the event of any safety hazards.

3. Because Policies & Procedures reduce risk, period.

That’s the name of the game in the insurance industry: risk reduction. Your Policies & Procedures Manual is a critical part of your propane safety program and a leading factor in how your company avoids unnecessary risk

Share Policies & Procedures with Your Insurance Agent

If you already have a Policies & Procedures Manual in place, make sure your insurance agent knows about it! And if you don’t have one yet, contact P3 Propane Safety to get a free consult on a personalized Policies & Procedures Manual. P3 Propane Safety can also assist your propane business with other types of safety manuals, including security plans, operations & maintenance manuals, fire safety analysis, and emergency action plans. Get in touch with us to learn more!
P3 Propane Safety can be reached at 401-481-2281

rising pricesThe unprecedented surge in fuel prices, current volatility and future uncertainty create a dangerous cocktail for heating oil and propane companies. What do you need to do now, and in the coming months, to ensure you get through it with the least damage?

Three of the industry’s foremost experts shared their best advice for managing through this crisis.

Marty Kirshner, Partner & Chair of the Energy Practice at Gray, Gray & Gray, focused on successfully managing your cash flow, banking relationships and margins, and avoiding key missteps as this volatility continues.

Kirshner stressed the importance of communication between retail propane marketers and their banks. “Educate them on how your business is affected in the current environment. Make the case for an increased line of credit. There are not many lifelines when you reach the limit,” Kirshner said. He also discussed the possible benefits of refinancing, the importance of staying on top of collections, avoiding discounting right now, keeping parts inventory low and knowing your propane inventory status very well. “The bank can be your best friend or your worst enemy,” he said.

Rich Goldberg, President of Warm Thoughts Communications, will guided participants on strategies for messaging customer communications, dealing with price protection renewals and offerings, handling customer requests for modifying deliveries, budget plan issues, margin enhancement, and generally turning lemons into lemonade.

Goldberg discussed the importance of communicating with customers. “It is important to think like a customer,” Goldberg said. “Many think you are profiting more at their expense. Don’t wait for the phone to call. Reach out to them with the basic details. Don’t overstuff the message. Just let them know ‘We care, We’ve got your back, and trust us.'” He emphasized this is not a time to lower margins too much. “Be a price hawk. Keep the price as solid as it needs to be.”

JD Buss, President of Twin Feathers, addressed the forces that are driving volatility in the propane and heating oil markets, potential scenarios for the short and mid-term, and how to avoid making painful mistakes in supply and hedging for the coming year.

Buss said the propane market was already bullish before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “COVID was a factor, world demand was strong, and OPEC was not meeting production quotas,” he said. “Volatility only increased with the Ukraine invasion. We’ve seen a 41% increase in a five-day period, we’ve seen a 30% decrease in a short time as well.” Buss discussed how two major strategies, blending and optionality, can play a role in reducing risk and ensuring a decent profit margin year.

Watch a Replay of the Webinar Here

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autogas shuttleAlliance AutoGas (AAG), a national alternative fuel company based in Asheville, NC, and Bass Pro Shop’s Big Cedar Lodge, a premier Wilderness Resort in the Ozark Mountains, highlighted their new partnership at this year’s NTEA Work Truck Week (WTW22) event. An autogas hybrid Big Cedar shuttle van was displayed in the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) booth. Work Truck Week, North America’s largest work truck event presented by the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), took place March 8–11, 2022, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Located in Ridgedale, MO, Big Cedar was ranked as the “#1 Resort in the Midwest” for four years in a row in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards. AAG, in collaboration with the Missouri Propane Gas Association, partnered with Big Cedar in November of 2021 to convert two of their guest shuttles to autogas. Autogas, the third most popular automotive fuel in the world, is the name for propane when used as a vehicle fuel. When compared to gasoline, autogas substantially reduces greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, non-methane hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide. From transporting its guests between their resort golf courses, to picking up guests from the airport, Big Cedar shuttles stay on the road 18 hours a day. Each one of the converted vans runs an average of 120,000 miles per year, resulting in CO2 emissions reductions from one van alone being the equivalent of 584 trash bags of waste being recycled instead of going to the landfill, or the carbon sequestered by 16.8 acres of US forest in one year.

The passenger shuttle on display was a 2021 Chevrolet G3500 with 6.6 liter direct-injected engine, converted with an Alliance Engineered System featuring technology from Prins, a pioneer in fuel system development for more than 35 years. The autogas shuttles in the Big Cedar fleet are bi-fuel, hybrid vehicles, also operating on gasoline, eliminating range anxiety. AAG is the exclusive distributor of Prins Alternative Fuel Systems in the US.

Josh Budworth, Business Development Manager for AAG, says “Big Cedar Lodge has an outstanding team that is committed to focusing on sustainability throughout their entire operation. We are excited to partner with Big Cedar to develop their autogas program and look forward to helping them reduce their carbon footprint.”

propane-energy-marketing-conference-2022The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is hosting the “Energy for Everyone Marketing Conference,” April 5-6 in Minneapolis for up to 200 industry members to learn the latest techniques in marketing. This meeting follows a similar format to the “Can-Do Conference” held in Chicago in 2018. The first event received a lot of positive feedback from those in attendance, but COVID-19 slowed the Council’s ability to host a similar conference again until now.

With digital marketing technology still a very new concept to most retail propane marketers as well as many residents of rural area, this conference will also focus heavily on this topic as the 2018 conference did. Billed as “two days of fresh thinking and networking,” the 2022 event is at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis. Among the conference sessions, Brian Basilico of B2B Interactive Marketing, will review how email marketing tools have evolved from simple and spammy to Artificial Intelligence-infused, contact management systems that can turn leads into prospects – and prospects into customers. Attendees will learn how automation, integration, and segmentation can help earn trust and close more deals.

A keynote speaker, Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., CMPC, will kick off the conference with a presentation, “Beyond Grit: Embracing Passion & Purpose to Gain the High Performance Edge.” Kamphoff’s focus is helping people gain a high-performance edge by embracing passion and purpose in their work and life. She is the author of Beyond Grit: The Powerful Practices to Gain the High-Performance Edge and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, The Huffington Post, USA Today and Runner’s World Magazine.

Other topics for the two day event include:

For more information or to register, click here

safety trainingBy Eric Leskinen
When it comes to priorities for propane marketers, safety is certainly a top priority. Despite safety’s critical role in the overall success of a propane business, many marketers still rely on outdated or inconsistent protocols in the field. Without consistent safety policies and procedures that transverse all locations and technicians, marketers assume more risk than is necessary.

The first step in evaluating the effectiveness of your company’s safety protocols is to review the current written policies and procedures for daily operations. Safety-related policies and procedures are crucial to ensure that all employees operate according to a uniform set of guidelines. Written policies should include language to cover legal issues, the health and welfare of employees and customers, and requirements as determined by DOT, NFPA, and OSHA. Each individual procedure defines who is responsible for completion of the task, what steps are involved in the process, when each step is undertaken, and how the progression of steps is performed to complete the procedure.

Many marketers assume that employees and technicians operate consistently with respect to leak checks, pressure tests, cathodic protection, and other important procedures. In the absence of written protocols that are used for safety meetings and training, it is very unlikely that the consistency management hopes for is actually happening.

THE COST OF POOR DOCUMENTATION

Every propane marketer knows the saying, “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.” Establishing clear, consistent policies and procedures is the best way to ensure that every aspect of your team’s operations are performed and documented properly. This is probably the best risk mitigation process a marketer can implement when considering the economics of cost and benefit.

Consider This Case Study

The case of Wilmes v. Consumers Oil of Maryville from the article “Recent Cases Test Limits of Missouri Propane Immunity Statute,” by David R. Schlee, presents an example of how written policies and procedures can help protect marketers from liability claims. In this case, the customer, Mr. Wilmes, personally installed a radiant heater and ran the gas lines from the tank he owned at his residence to his barn. When the marketer delivered 400 gallons of propane to the property, Mr. Wilmes advised the delivery driver that the installation was new and asked the driver to check the gas line and the heater The delivery driver inspected the piping and installation and indicated that everything was okay.

Within the next few days, Mr. Wilmes operated the heater twice. The second time, he operated the heater and then shut off the thermostat without closing the tank valve. Upon returning from a trip, he switched on a light, turned on the thermostat, entered the building, and there was an explosion. Mr. Wilmes luckily survived but suffered extreme burns and spent 63 days in the hospital.

In court, the marketer was unable to provide evidence of the delivery driver’s inspection and approval of Mr. Wilmes’ personal installation and modification of the system. The trial court agreed with the marketer’s claim that “Wilmes modified the gas system by turning the gas off and on through his actions; however, this was not enough and the decision was overturned in appellate court.

What Went Wrong?

We can see from the results of this case that a major issue with the marketer’s defense was the lack of documented evidence of the delivery driver’s inspection of Mr. Wilmes’ installation. If the acknowledgment, inspection, and approval of Mr. Wilmes’ personal modifications had been properly documented, the marketer would have been able to use the documentation as proof that all systems were safe and sealed upon the delivery driver’s departure.

Could Written Policies and Procedures Have Changed the Outcome?

If the propane marketer had established policies and procedures in place, the written policies regarding new installations and state modification requirements would have dictated proper employee operations for these specific circumstances. Procedures would direct the delivery driver to perform the safety inspection as he did, but the final step would have been documenting the inspection for the company’s records.

Steps Toward Improvement

In light of this litigation case, consider how your company’s policies and procedures program would have held up. Do written policies and procedures exist and are they adequate? Unfortunately, litigation is engrained in the system within which we operate. To avoid consequences like the Wilmes case and adhere to your insurance company’s requirements, incorporate these critical components into your safety documentation program.

Be proactive and ensure that your company’s policies and procedures are current, consistent, and communicated effectively to all employees. The cost to benefit ratio will accrue in your favor.

Eric H. Leskinen, Executive Vice President, P3 Propane Safety, a veteran of the industry, has over 30 years of experience with career progression from field operations to corporate direction. He has designed, managed, and executed safety training and compliance programs for multi-state companies with up to 1,100 employees. As a true compliance and safety specialist, his background and skill set make the P3 Propane Safety training services invaluable to marketers seeking to improve their compliance and overall efficiency.

By Rusty Braziel

renewable propaneIt burns just like propane, smells just like propane, and gets transported just like propane. But instead of being extracted at gas processing plants or refineries, it is produced from renewable feedstocks like used cooking oil or soybean oil, and so it has a low carbon intensity. That means it is eligible for low-carbon fuel credits, like those available in California. Renewable propane has been around for years but has never gotten much traction due to a combination of technical and economic issues. Now that is changing, with a deal announced last week by a major propane retailer and a biorefiner showing the way to a win-win-win for the producer, the marketer, and the environment. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a deep-dive series on where renewable propane comes from, why it has been a challenge to get the market going, and what changes may create significant opportunities across the renewable propane value chain.

Propane, whether it is the traditional hydrocarbon product or the renewable variety, is a byproduct. It is made while producing something else. In the traditional hydrocarbon propane market, about 87% of annual U.S. supply is a byproduct of natural gas production and processing, while 13% is a petroleum refinery byproduct. When processing associated and rich gas, it is necessary to remove the propane (and most of the other NGLs) in order to make the natural gas suitable for delivery into pipelines. Refineries produce propane from crude oil as an integral part of the refining process used to make gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products. So in both cases, the propane gets produced concurrently with primary products, and thus must be sold and transported to a market.

Similarly, renewable propane is a byproduct of a biorefining process in which the primary product is renewable diesel. Renewable diesel, or RD, has emerged as a super-hot commodity in the past couple of years, as we’ve discussed in a number of blogs, including Playin’ by the Rules. There, we covered some RD basics, including the important facts that renewable diesel is produced from lipids (such as vegetable oil, used cooking oil, animal fats, etc.) and is essentially chemically identical to petroleum-based diesel. That means that it can be used as a direct “drop-in” substitute that is not subject to any blending limits (unlike biodiesel and ethanol). Then, in Green Grow the (Refineries), we zeroed in on HollyFrontier’s plan to shut down its petroleum-based Cheyenne, WY, refinery and convert it into an RD facility. Most recently, in our Come Clean blog series on low-carbon fuel standards, we said that the excitement around RD had continued to grow, and that the amount of operating and planned RD capacity had increased to 7.2 billion gallons per year (gal/yr), or 2.5 times the operating and planned capacity at the start of 2020.

Just like with oil refining, renewable propane is produced as an integral part of the renewable diesel production process. But unlike what happens at conventional refineries, renewable propane is usually NOT processed and sold as a commercial product. Instead, the propane is used in the refinery’s manufacturing process. It’s an issue of economics. The volume of renewable propane is relatively small, and it costs money to separate, clean up, transport, and market the product. In effect, the biorefinery has two options: (1) process the renewable propane and sell it into the market, or (2) use the renewable propane as a fuel within the biorefinery, basically replacing other boiler fuels (such as natural gas) with renewable propane. Why would a biorefinery do this? Well, as we just said, it costs money to process renewable propane into a product identical to traditional propane so it can be sold into the same markets. And it has to be transported to market in either trucks or railcars, which means that supporting infrastructure must already exist or be built. And of course, the renewable propane must be sold at a price high enough to cover these costs and generate a profit to boot.

Without special incentives, that cost-benefit equation does not pencil out. (For that matter, neither do the economics for most renewable diesel.) But if you factor in the value of credits from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program and the EPA’s Renewable Identification Number (RIN) program, the margins can become quite attractive, especially if there are buyers out there who are willing to pay a “green premium” for a product that can be marketed to their environmentally conscious customers.

That’s just what happened back in 2020 when U-Haul teamed with national marketer Suburban Propane to supply renewable propane produced from the Renewable Energy Group (REG) plant in Geismar, LA. That deal has been moving renewable propane by railcar to California for the past couple of years, and is by far the largest renewable propane marketing arrangement in the U.S.

But it is important to put the size of renewable propane flows in perspective. So let’s work through some renewable propane math. Today the REG plant has a capacity of about 90 million gal/yr of renewable fuels. When you convert that to barrels per day (b/d), a unit of measure that most RBN readers are more familiar with, you get 5,900 b/d. We figure that about 7%, or 400 b/d, of that total is renewable propane, with most of the rest renewable diesel. That 400 b/d (or 6.3 million gal/yr) is a respectable propane volume for U-Haul’s California market, but in the world of hydrocarbon fuels, the volume is tiny. (Note that REG is expanding the Geismar plant from 90 million gal/yr to 340 million gal/yr in a $950 million project scheduled to be fully operational in 2024.)

Unfortunately, that one deal makes up almost all of the renewable propane being produced today in the U.S. So right now, it’s a round-off error in the domestic propane market. But that’s in the process of changing. As we detailed in our November 2021 Drill Down report —titled Renewable Diesel’s Advantages Put It In The Driver’s Seat — a lot of renewable diesel manufacturing capacity is being developed. Today, stand-alone capacity is about 40 Mb/d and another 140 Mb/d is under construction. There is also another 20 Mb/d or so of co-processing capacity already operating or soon to be online inside traditional refineries. In addition, another 335 Mb/d of RD capacity at locations across North America has been announced.

Map

Figure 1.

The map in Figure 1 from that report shows existing (red dots) and planned (pink dots) for renewable diesel facilities — the larger the dot, the higher the capacity. The existing capacity is mostly in Louisiana, California, and North Dakota. The black lines on the map show the rail lines that can be used to transport renewable diesel from refineries to existing and prospective LCFS markets (dark-green and light-green shaded areas, respectively).

But will the propane yield from these facilities be produced and marketed? We think the odds look a lot better after a deal announced last week between a major propane retailer and a California biorefiner. The producer is Global Clean Energy Holdings (GCEH), a Torrance, CA-based biofuels company that processes, refines, and distributes renewable diesel. In May 2020, GCEH purchased the former Alon Bakersfield Refinery from Delek US for $40 million with a plan to retool the facility to produce renewable diesel, and possibly renewable jet fuel. Announced plant capacity is 15 Mb/d. The plant is expected to start up sometime in the first half of 2022. As the project proceeded, GCEH said nothing about an intent to produce renewable propane. Until now.

Last week, GCEH and AmeriGas, a subsidiary of UGI Corporation and the largest retail propane marketer in the U.S., announced a deal for AmeriGas to purchase and distribute renewable propane from GCEH’s Bakersfield biorefinery. GCEH will produce approximately 13 million gallons of renewable LPG during the balance of 2022, making it the largest commercially available renewable propane production facility to date in the U.S., and 2 to 3 times the volume produced by REG Geismar (though, as we mentioned, REG is planning an expansion). AmeriGas will market and distribute renewable propane to its customer base, primarily in California, making the product eligible for the state’s LCFS credits.

The deal is described as a multi-year “partnership,” which we understand means that it goes further than a simple supply arrangement. In order to make the economics work for both AmeriGas and GCEH, it incorporates sharing mechanisms across the value chain. That way GCEH can make the investment necessary to process the propane into a commercial product, and AmeriGas can incorporate that product into its distribution and marketing network. AmeriGas will be the long-term exclusive buyer of renewable propane from the plant.

(We at RBN have a long history with the Bakersfield refinery, with Rusty working NGL supply/demand and crude supply for the plant during the 1980s with Getty Oil and Texaco. The refinery has had many owners, going back to Mohawk Petroleum (1932-75), Getty (1980-84), Texaco (1984-2000), and Shell Oil (2001-05). The refinery was acquired by Alon in 2010 but the facility was eventually shuttered and has been idle for several years. When operating as a traditional refinery, it had a capacity of 66 Mb/d. At one time, the refinery was the largest supplier of asphalt in California.)

We expect that GCEH and AmeriGas will be looking at a whole range of strategies to expand their partnership and improve the value chain economics for renewable propane, including using feedstocks with super-low LCFS carbon intensity scores (camelina oil, for example), incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS) into the manufacturing process, using renewable coproducts (renewable butane, renewable naphtha) to displace natural gas, and even plugging renewable power into the process.

rusty brazielDeals like this one suggest that a lot more renewable propane could be pulled out of the many renewable diesel facilities that will be coming online over the next few years. In the next blog in this series, we’ll examine in more detail how such arrangements might work, including a nuts-and-bolts look at the sharing mechanisms that can benefit RD refineries and renewable propane marketers alike.

Rusty Braziel is the president and CEO of RBN Energy, a leading energy market consultancy and analytics company based in Houston, Texas.

patWelcome to the inaugural issue of TRENDING IN PROPANE! Each week, we’ll explore some of the most important topics on the plate of the independent retail propane marketer. Of course, such topics should be of interest to all stakeholders in the propane industry who support the independent retail propane marketer as they perform the important task of distributing these clean, non-toxic molecules of propane throughout the country. Always ready to warm homes, fuel many modes of transportation, power our farms and industrial facilities, and make outdoor living enjoyable, our retail warriors are also on standby to deploy our clean fuel when hurricanes, tornadoes, and other acts of nature cause outages to the electric grid infrastructure.

TRENDING IN PROPANE is conceptualized to be a useful tool at a time of unprecedented change and growth in our world. Wholesale propane represents the biggest “cost of goods sold” line item for every retailer. The evolution of America from net importer to net exporter gives us supply security but also makes us bid against the rest of the world for our popular American-made product. Environmental concerns and the need to curtail carbon emissions put propane in a new realm of challenges but also great opportunities. We’ll share the thoughts and activities of some of our industries brightest leaders on supply and the national energy conversation in almost every weekly issue. There will be plenty more to discuss as well!

With the acronym TIP, it is appropriate that our weekly featured articles will be part of the “TIP Sheet” and some issue-specific tips will be in “Today’s TIPS”. In this first issue we’ll share tips on storage tanks and strategies for purchasing and deploying them for maximum benefit.

Change has been a consistent theme since I joined the industry in 1996. My first role with Propane Resources was to lead a CD-ROM training program, the first such program in the industry. “Bleeding edge technology!” my boss, Dwain Willingham said, but soon internet-based training became the way of the future and the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) became the industry’s primary funding source. Wholesale supply, another endeavor for me at Propane Resources, introduced me to a volatile crude market a decade and a half ago. That along with the export factors mentioned earlier brought plenty of changes to propane supply and distribution.

Five years of writing for Butane-Propane News (BPN) helped me learn a lot more as the story of our industry continues to upfold. Warm Thoughts Communications is an outstanding resource helping to make TRENDING IN PROPANE a reality. For 30 years, they have been helping retail propane marketers to create the right message and have the best communication tools to share it in the marketplace. Check us out each week and stay up to speed on the important things going on with propane. Soon you will also see our website grow and we’ll have videos as well.

Everyone in the industry has unique experiences. Do you have subjects you would like to write about or tips to share? I’d like to hear from you and discuss your ideas for making TRENDING IN PROPANE more beneficial to you and fellow industry members.

If you would like to contribute, or have other ideas or feedback, please contact me at 913-909-7917 or thorntonpat@rocketmail.com.

Sincerely,
Pat Thornton
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

Ukraine flagWhile March came in like a lamb weather-wise following cold and snowy conditions the previous week across much of the United States, it was the shortage of supply and the start of a war in Ukraine that was causing a surge in propane prices along with many other energy commodities across the globe. Mt. Belvieu exceeded $1.53 a gallon again as March began, a price not seen since early October 2021 when exports were causing concern about volumes ahead of the winter.

As the reality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine set in, Brent crude oil shot up to $113 a barrel on March 2, a high not seen since 2011. The fluid situation in Ukraine has traders concerned about the many scenarios that could play out causing prices to surge higher. Russia produces 17 percent of the world’s natural gas and 12 percent of the world’s crude oil and Ukraine is along the route of pipelines delivering supplies, most notably natural gas, to the European continent as well as other destinations. Supply disruptions due to fighting, sanctions, Russia potentially cutting off supplies to adversaries and buyers possibly cutting off purchases from Russia are all factors that could be supportive of prices. Some analysts believe crude oil could hit $150 a barrel due to the crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia and Saudi Arabia are enjoying the bump in prices as they benefit from bumps in revenue amid higher priced oil. A meeting of OPEC on March 2 took only 13 minutes to decide not to increase the output any more than already planned. OPEC noted price volatility driven by “current geopolitical developments” rather than underlying fundamentals like supply and demand.

Sixty million barrels of crude oil were released from a total of 31 countries including the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in early March. While this was intended to calm prices, it may have had an opposite effect just like a release from the U.S. SPR failed to calm prices last fall. Often such moves cause fear in the market about what is to come rather than a sense of relief.

For propane, upward pressure on prices was already expected for March as supplies were very likely to hit some lows. Winter was winding down and the effects of a season of often record-breaking exports took their toll. Energy Information Administration (EIA) date released March 2 showed just 37 mmbbls. Year ago levels were 41mmbbls. IHS Markit had expressed concerns weeks earlier U.S. propane inventory could be as low as 32mmbbls at the beginning of March. The lowest stocks going back to 2015 was 33mmbbls. IHS Markit predicted days of disposition could fall to 11 days which could be the bottom for the year and they shows February 2022 peak demand double that of 2014 due to much stronger exports and higher heating demand due to population growth.

Despite expected growth for natural gas and crude oil production, propane volumes for 2022-23 could still be held down by exports. Propane exports from the U.S. were strong leading to the price peak at $1.53 in early October. Slower exports and warm weather for much of the fourth quarter caused a decline in prices to $1.00 for much of December before moving back up to $1.30 in January as degree days in much of the U.S. were at least 10 percent higher than a year earlier. Exports have a strong chance to move up again as traders have noted this year amid a heavier usage of propane to make plastics in Asia. For traders, it has a been a surprise just how much Asian companies are willing to pay for U.S. propane.

International activity is now characterized in the U.S. by 40 billion gallons per year produced with 25% going to the U.S. petrochemical market, 25% to U.S. residential and commercial customers and 50% to exports. Not much more than a decade ago, 4mmbbls per month was the maximum levels that could be exported from the U.S. A lot is being learned about the rapidly changing international market. It is a major concern that 5% annual demand growth of exports has been occurring while production growth has only occurred at a rate of 4% year over year.

Before the curve ball thrown at the energy markets by the Ukraine invasion, the EIA’s February Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) noted a wide range of factors affecting the marketplace. The expectation before the invasion was for Brent crude to average $90 per barrel in February and to fall to $87 in 2Q 2002. $75 per barrel was expected for 4Q2022 and an average of $68 was expected for a 2023 average. Crude oil production was expected to be 12mmbbls/day in 2022 and 12.6mmbbls/day in 2023. The record for crude oil production is 12.3mmbbls in 2019.

Natural gas has been a commodity propane is derived from more and more in the past decade. The Henry Hub average for January was $4.38 per million BTU’s, up from a December average of $3.76 per million BTU’s. Henry Hub was expected to average $4.70 million BTU’s amid strong demand for Liquified Natural Gas. Consumption of Natural Gas averaged 105.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in February, down 3% from February. Most of the declines have been in the residential and commercial sectors with the average of 43.8 Bcf/d, down 10% from last February.

Certainly, many factors are at play as we move out of winter 2021-22 and toward the winter of 2022-23.

For many retail propane marketers, engaging in environmental messaging has not been a significant role for the time they have run their businesses. With new challenges facing propane marketers from the “Electrify Everything” movement and the push for decarbonization, many industry leaders have been proactive in developing messaging demonstrating that propane has a very positive story to tell.

Recently, Chris Caywood, President of Caywood Propane Gas Inc., with offices in Albion, Coldwater and Hudson, Michigan, shared his thoughts on how environmental messaging is good for business. “What we’re doing about the environment really is a combination of both marketing and economics,” Caywood said. “On the marketing end in messaging, we’ve taken advantage of the materials made available to us by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) which has a number of learning materials and recorded sessions that you can take advantage of as a propane marketer.”

Caywood said that the first step in thinking about the environment was to learn more about the issue with the wealth of materials available. “The second thing we did was to use those materials to put together our own message and we have dedicated space on our website for customers who want to know more about propane’s role in the environment,” he said. “Our headline for any customer who is concerned about it is that propane is cleaner. Today, even if it’s conventionally derived from natural gas or oil, it’s cleaner than many other forms of energy, including electricity after one takes into account how electricity is generated. It’s also renewable, and that’s such a well-kept secret that a lot of propane marketers, in addition to the general public, mistakenly, believe that propane’s a fossil fuel and is nothing but a fossil fuel. While most propane refined conventionally today, there’s a near-term future with propane as a renewable resource.”

“From a messaging standpoint, and really important to the consuming public, propane is affordable,” Caywood said. “A lot of alternatives, whether it’s solar or wind, are going to involve heavy investments from the consuming public. And electric cars, in addition to being expensive, have a limited driving range between charges and may require battery replacement every 65,000 to 100,000 miles. They also use electricity generated at power plants, which means they aren’t even as clean as propane-powered vehicles when you consider how the electricity is currently generated. Getting those messages out there to the customer is vital.” Caywood said he likes the balance that comes with the message and that the balance makes common sense when all the electric movement talks about is the importance of net zero in all electricity. “They lose the sight of the time and investment required by the customer.”

“The all-electric movement also loses on speed to action,” continued Caywood. “Renewable propane may be distributed by both wholesale suppliers and propane marketers through existing channels, which requires very little capital investment or change in behavior. It’s similarly consumed by the customer using the tank, lines and appliances already in their back yard and home. At a minimum, it makes propane a fast, ideal energy source during any transition to net zero carbon emissions. This is a message that’s often overlooked in any conversation about a cleaner environment.

“The final, but maybe most important element of messaging is our own behavior and actions,” Caywood said. “We’ve just ordered propane-powered bobtails, and we’re also evaluating the conversion of our current fleet from fuel oil to propane. The clear message is that we believe in our product.” He believes propane marketers are sending the wrong message to customers if they continue to invest in fleets that burn gasoline or fuel oil instead of propane; he also believes using electric heat or natural gas in offices instead of propane sends the wrong message to customers. “An automaker wouldn’t allow or want their employees to be driving a competitor’s car into their parking lots to go to work. We ought to be using our product.”

Messaging aside, Caywood believes propane-powered fleets make economic sense. “Right now in Michigan, the cost of diesel fuel is over $3 a gallon and Mont Belvieu propane this morning was around a dollar a gallon. The cost of powering your propane vehicle is going to be dramatically less expensive. Even the acquisition cost may be lower, depending on the availability of grants and subsidies, which can approach up to 25% to 35% of a bobtail’s acquisition cost if you are replacing an older, fuel oil chassis.

Caywood finally notes that some propane marketers will continue to ignore the national energy conversation. “There will continue to be companies that don’t see value in trying to address the environment in either their marketing message or their operation. My only hope is that those businesses are near us and compete with us. I believe fundamentally that the consumer cares about the environment, especially in a case like this where their only obligation is to continue using propane and perhaps even convert aging or inefficient electric appliances to propane.”

price spikeRich Goldberg, President of Warm Thoughts Communications, was very new in the propane industry when he attended Congressional Hearings regarding price spikes in December 1989, one of the coldest months on record in the U.S. Not long after January 1990 began, temperatures rose and prices plummeted. Since then, Goldberg has helped energy providers deal with the fallout from many surges and declines. Goldberg hosted a recent webinar with 250 participants along with Marty Kirshner, Partner with Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP and Phil Baratz, CEO of Angus Energy to discuss the many issues that come about with higher propane prices and how to handle them.

“High prices drive a wedge between you and the customer,” Goldberg said. “Price spikes affect cash flow and bank relations, they squeeze margins and put employees on the defensive with customers, they make your company an easy target, and they invite speculation. The chance to mess up rises.”

Baratz listed several factors affecting prices during the past six months. He noted the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines has been supportive of prices by releasing pent up demand and that supply chain issues have certainly supported prices of most goods throughout the world. He pointed to further bullish factors as predictions of crude oil prices rising to $120 a barrel, pipeline/basis uncertainty compounded by increasing shortage of truckers and components, a permissive interest rate environment allowing for rallying commodity prices and inflation – without interest rate “penalties”, Iranian talks again leading nowhere, retail prices not impacting consumption due to strong personal bank account levels by homeowners, and the concept of being “one event away” from something that can boost prices.

On the bearish side, factors include another variant of COVID shutting down some sectors, regions or countries, OPEC folding to U.S. (and other) demands to increase production faster than anticipated, inflation hitting consumer pocketbooks lowering demand for all fuels, increased use of alternate fuels and “normalization” of demand across the country. The need to hedge and the need to be efficient were stressed by Baratz. He noted the importance of staying in touch with your customers, banks, and suppliers. He stressed the importance of knowing your data and how you are tracking versus your budget.

Kirshner stressed that in an environment with higher prices, cash is king. “Getting cash in the door quickly is key,” he said. “Incentives for credit card payments are useful. It may be worthwhile to give us some margin to get cash in the door faster.” He encouraged a robust collections plan with calls being made beginning 30 days out, not 60 to 90 days. On the payables side, he suggested holding payables as long as possible. “Talking to lenders is important. Most don’t understand our industry but working with a bank to have a line of credit is critical,” he said. “Consider getting cash in the door through contract renewals. Efficient routing is important in this environment.”

Messaging and messaging effectively was a key takeaway from Goldberg as he reviewed what he has stressed with clients during the past three decades. “You can’t just sit there and think customers aren’t sitting home thinking you’re making more money since they’re paying more,” he said. “You cannot be silent about prices. Customers are price sensitive.” He stressed they are less likely to look for a new propane provider if they know you are not benefitting from the additional money they are paying you. In addition, he suggests raising concerns about what happens if they leave you. “It’s important to tell them you’ve been in business for years and will take care of them before new customers.”

“Don’t just send letters,” Goldberg said. “Use email, send multiple letters, use social media and keep multiple messages going out that say you are on their side.”

He does feel increasing margins to compensate for increased costs is justified and necessary for the retail propane marketer. “Bad debt, credit card processing and bank defaults making lines of credit more expensive are all factors that make higher margins necessary,” Goldberg said. Engaging employees is another area that helps with company messaging according to Goldberg. “They get hammered when prices are up. Do a lot of employee training because what comes out of their mouths is important.” He suggested reviewing good answers to questions like, “Why are prices so high?” It is also good to discuss with employees how much they can negotiate with customers. “It may be OK to discount, but its not a good idea to make discounts permanent.”

Goldberg said that studies have shown that many customers may think the company makes more money when prices are up because employees also believe this so educating employees is important. He suggested a letter go out to customers who have a discussion with employees. “Customers will feel good that you responded.”

“Keeping pace with costs is a challenge because you can’t go up across the board,” Goldberg said, noting that fixed prices can’t be changed. He suggests adding a delivery fee which is a good alternative for customers who are riveted on cents per gallon. “Less than two percent will call to complain about a new delivery fee.”

Can you add customers during a price spike? “It’s a good time to go after new business,” Goldberg said. “Make sure to optimize your web presence to show up in searches.” Baratz agreed there is a tremendous growth opportunity during a price spike despite a natural inclination against ramping up customers. “Strategize how you can add customers without adding employees or trucks. Focus where you have a driver and truck that can handle 50 to 100 more customers.”

There are headlines in the news media everyday that paint a picture of propane… often as a clean fuel but all too often, propane is portrayed as a product that should be banned in favor of electricity and the battery. The argument against the use of propane as a clean-air solution is based on short-sighted misconceptions that electricity and batteries do not represent any carbon emissions. Mixed information is leading to mixed attitudes and as government leaders around the country take action, it is clear that conflicting legislative results detrimental to propane may come about in cases where leaders are not aware of the full fuel-cycle of various electric and battery-powered solutions.

In late 2021, a new $1.2 trillion law to improve America’s infrastructure, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was signed into law and included $9 billion in funding for refueling infrastructure and clean vehicles, including propane, which is identified in the Act as an emerging alternative fuel. Meanwhile, in California, The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently proposed a ban on Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) forklifts and material handling applications up to 12,000 lbs. of lift capacity. One action involves government leaders providing funding in support of the use of propane to benefit the environment. The other action involves government leaders seeking to ban the use of propane in favor of only using battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell forklifts.

ENSURING EQUITY AND REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS WITH INFRASTRUCTURE ACT

“The inclusion of propane is a major win for communities across the country, as fleet owners will have multiple alternative fuel options for reducing emissions and transforming their fleets for the better,” said Tucker Perkins, President and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). “With propane, fleets can accelerate decarbonization quickly and affordably.”

Perkins and his communications team at PERC tout propane’s simple, affordable, ready-now equipment ensures energy equity by cutting carbon emissions without the trillions of dollars that will be required to modernize an aging electrical grid and retrofit millions of homes and businesses. They stress that the burden for those upgrades would inevitably fall on those who can least afford it. Propane produces 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions versus electricity.

Propane-fueled vehicles and refueling infrastructure are eligible to compete for the following funding opportunities under the new law:

PERC notes significant benefits in each of the following product categories:
School buses: Propane buses reduce NOx by 96 percent and CO2 by 13 percent compared with diesel buses. They are one fourth the cost of electric school buses allowing for schools to replace their diesel buses faster.

Transit: Propane is often used for medium-duty paratransit vehicles like airport shuttles, vehicles associated with city or county regional transit and delivery trucks. For this type of vehicle, propane has the lowest cost of ownership due to low fuel and maintenance costs. Additionally, there is a 90 percent reduction in NOx and a 10 percent reduction in CO2 compared with diesel-powered medium-duty vehicles.

Port equipment: Propane helps improve air quality at our nation’s ports while reliably supporting global trade logistics. It fuels resilient, low-NOx generators for backup and prime power for cold ironing, charging and other large industrial applications. Propane-fueled port tractors produce fewer emissions and cost approximately $200,000 less than electric models, meaning ports can afford to replace more of their fleet and achieve carbon reduction goals faster.

Propane dispensers: Propane refueling infrastructure is affordable, scalable, and readily available for the nation’s alternative fuel corridors. Propane-fueled generators even provide for EV recharging.

MEANWHILE IN CALIFORNIA – TALK OF BANNING PROPANE FOR FORKLIFTS

As the nation implements the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CARB is proposing a ban on Internal Combustion Engines. Responding to the possible California mandate to ban internal combustion engine forklifts in the near future, PERC has released a new environmental comparative analysis comparing greenhouse gas and nitrogen oxide emissions between propane and electric forklifts. According to the research, propane forklifts provide a pathway to decarbonization today.

”Electrification is often touted as the only solution to full decarbonization, overlooking how electricity is generated, stored, transmitted, and consumed,” said Dr. Gokul Vishwanathan, Director of Research and Sustainability at PERC. “A single-energy mandate isn’t sufficient or realistic and the truth is, propane and renewable propane can lead to immediate decarbonization of this sector.”

The comparative data presents the following findings:

According to an Executive Summary provided by PERC, the analysis compares the lifecycle emissions profiles of propane and electric-powered forklifts, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Findings show, for several states, conventional propane engines are superior to electric forklifts, especially when considering marginal emissions. The case for internal combustion engine forklifts becomes even stronger with hybrids and renewable fuels. In fact, nearly all propane ICE forklifts technologies emit extremely low criteria pollutants compared to the regulatory standards.

Regulatory agencies should conduct detailed emissions lifecycle analysis on technologies before considering a ban on specific technologies. An abrupt shift toward zero-tailpipe emission forklifts would be a missed opportunity for accelerating decarbonization using low-carbon, renewable, and blends of renewable and low-carbon fuels.

Optimization of engines and fuels is key to the success of achieving decarbonization and reducing criteria pollutants. This is especially true as fuels and engine technologies continue to innovate, like with the development of high-efficiency engines and renewable propane and blends of propane and renewable dimenthyl ether (rDME).

Chris Caywood discusses environmental messaging strategy with Pat Thornton.

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NPGA and PERC Offer Training Materials

It never seems to be a good time to add more regulations and requirements for the independent retail propane marketer. February is typically the coldest month of the year in many areas of the U.S. lately and with a shortage of employees due to COVID-19 in a position that was already hard to recruit for, February 7 is the date for a new requirement for “Entry Level Driver Training” (ELDT) to take effect. This new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandate will require all new Commercial Driver License (CDL) and Hazards Materials Endorsement (HME) applicants to successfully complete classroom and behind-the-wheel training before the are eligible to sit for state CDL or HME exams.

The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) have been collaborating to develop educational materials to satisfy the ELDT mandate. In September of 2021, plans were announced to leverage the NPGA regulatory expertise and PERC’s learning management system to provide the propane industry with access to training resources needed to administer in-house classroom and behind-the-wheel training for CDL and HME applicants. Through PERC’s Learning Center, applicants can learn from interactive online classroom modules and receive in-person training from company staff with behind-the-wheel guidance materials developed by NPGA and PERC. With unlimited free access to these modules, NPGA members can also take advantage of NPGA regulatory experts to answer questions on the new requirements.

NPGA is also introducing its Administrative Compliance Experts (ACE) services. Red tape is always a hassle with training compliance and ACE is designed to assist companies in working with the administrative side of training and compliance. Companies can avoid FMCSA audit and ushers new drivers through the education and training requirements. NPGA describes ACE as a fee-based service less expensive than any third-party training aide or traditional driving school. It allows the 30-plus steps mandated by ELDT to be cut to five simple steps with NPGA guiding you from start to finish. The program can be used by both members and non-members of NPGA, however non-members will pay a higher price. For more information visit npga.org/ACE.

Example Module Discusses Importance of Enough Sleep

NPGA shared a “test drive” of interactive training modules at the Atlanta Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in October. A sample module of the driver training program reviews the importance of not being awake too long. Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that being awake for at least 18 hours has the same effect as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05% (2 drinks). Being awake for at least 24 hours has the same effect as having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. Common signs of fatigue are difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, rubbing your eyes, yawning repeatedly, daydreaming, trouble remembering, missing exits or signs, drifting, driving too closely, and feeling restless. The only remedy is rest or sleep.

The steps to preventing fatigue include getting 8-9 hours of sleep, preparing your route, avoiding medications that cause drowsiness, consulting a physician, exercising daily, wearing sunglasses, maintaining comfortable temperature, avoiding heavy foods and avoiding excessive caffeine.

calendarEIA inventory data released in mid-December showed overall propane inventory levels at 70.9MMbbls, lower than the 83.9MMbbls on hand at this time a year earlier. Nonetheless, considering the difference in inventory levels was double this just a few months earlier, suppliers and retail marketers are feeling less concerned about a price spike yet this winter.

A severely cold First Quarter is not foreseen but it would be very likely for temperatures to fall below those we have seen in Fourth Quarter. Most believe that even with a few cold spells, the market will be in balance enough to avoid serious price spikes. As always, wintertime is a time to keep very focused on all factors of supply – customer volumes, availability of product, and transportation and logistics issues in your region.

What factors have eased concerns? Afterall, supply consultants were painting this winter as possibly another Polar Vortex winter like 2013-14 when a perfect storm of challenges lined up. So far, 2021-22 has been unchecking boxes of the list of concerns one by one. The crop drying season was a non-event as conditions were just simply not wet enough. Those who did need crops to dry may have elected to let them dry in the field as propane prices were higher. November was one of the warmest Novembers on record not only in the U.S. but in the world and December temperatures have been mild as well for the first half of the month. Exports have declined significantly from levels well above 1.4MMbbls per day earlier in the spring and summer to a mere 847Mbbls during the past week.

The propane market became very bearish as domestic demand and exports slowed down. The news of the omicron variant during the Thanksgiving weekend added more pressure to crude oil and propane as well. Strong backwardation in pricing in future months had propane under a dollar a gallon just a few contract months out while October propane was peaking the first week of October a little over 150 cpg. Traders and marketers did not feel good about holding too much volume with values so much lower just a few months out. As the warm November got underway, prices dropped almost 40 percent during November after moving up at least 10 cpg each month from early summer to October. In December, Mont Belvieu propane has held just above a dollar for the first half of the month.

Nationally, according to EIA, average residential gallons which were $190 at this point last year are at a much stronger $2.70 this year. Average wholesale gallons were 72 cpg per gallon last winter at this time and are at $1.20 per gallon so far this winter.