Coronavirus Rolls Through Global Economy, Impacts World Industry

(February 21, 2020) — The coronavirus will have a larger negative effect on the global economy than the SARS outbreak in 2003, writes IHS Markit. At the time of SARS, China was the sixth-largest economy, accounting for only 4.2% of world GDP. China is now the world’s second-largest economy and represents 16.3% of international GDP. Therefore, any slowdown in the Chinese economy sends not ripples, but waves across the globe.
coronavirus update affects energy propane trade with china BPN reports the proapne industry's leading source for news since 1939
The London-based market intelligence provider notes that the coronavirus has brought large parts of the world’s second-largest economy to a standstill and the impact is being felt across industries, including energy. If the current and unprecedented confinement measures in China stay in place until the end of this month, and are lifted progressively beginning in March, the resulting economic impact will be concentrated in the first half of 2020, with a reduction of global real GDP of 0.8% in the first quarter and 0.5% in the second.

In this scenario, the coronavirus and resulting measures will reduce global real GDP by 0.4% this year. Conversely, IHS Markit expects the lifting of confinement measures to add 0.4% to global real GDP in 2021, as the release in pent-up demand filters through the economy. For an early lifting, the effects of the virus are seen as being most pronounced in household consumption and are somewhat mitigated in the industrial sector because factories are seasonally idle during January and February in China for New Year and Spring Festival holiday observances. Nevertheless, in many ways China’s economy is more vulnerable today than it was in 2003, with productivity and overall economic growth already slowing and with the effects of the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Observed is that Mainland China’s GDP has risen dramatically since SARS, therefore its impact on the world economy is also much larger than during the previous outbreak. A slowdown in Chinese growth may be a significant drag on global growth. In 2002, China contributed 23% of world GDP growth. In 2019, the country contributed an estimated 38%.

Further, China’s share of global manufacturing climbed from 6.7% in 2002 to 30.5% in 2019. Over the same period, its share of world high-tech goods rose from 7.2% to 26.3%. Manufacturing now accounts for 29.3% of China’s economy, up marginally from 27.1% in 2002.

Regarding oil consumption and trade, in 2019 China’s oil demand was 13.9 MMbbld, or 14% of the world market versus 5.6 MMbbld in 2003, which equated to 7% of world demand. China accounted for half of world oil demand growth in 2019. In 2003, the nation accounted for one-third. Mainland China is now the second-largest importer in the world, accounting for 10.4% of the world’s goods imports, compared with 4% of the world’s imports in 2002. China is also the number one importer of LPG in the world, followed by India and Japan.

China’s LPG imports rose 8.5% year on year to 20.61 million metric tons (MT) in 2019, reports S&P Global Platts. One metric ton equals 521 gallons of propane or 453 gallons of normal butane. LPG often refers to mixed cargos of various composition, evenly split or at various other percentages. These require intermediate conversion factors based on composition.

Market participants attribute the rise to increased demand from propane dehydrogenation, or PDH, plants, due to new plant startups and an increase in operating rates amid healthy processing margins. China imported 14.91 million MT of propane in 2019, up 10.8%, or 1.45 million MT from 2018. Meanwhile, butane imports rose 3.7% year on year to 5.56 million MT in 2019, customs data show. The United Arab Emirates remained the top supplier of LPG to China, followed by Qatar and Kuwait.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, February 24, 2020. Available by subscription)

New Mexico's First Propane School Buses
 Save District Money, Helps Environment

MORIARTY, N.M. (February 19, 2020) — In a partnership with the New Mexico Public Education Department, Los Lunas Public Schools, Magdalena Municipal School District and Moriarty-Edgewood School District have each purchased school buses fueled by propane autogas. The 17 Blue Bird Vision Propane Buses will be the first propane school buses to operate in the state.
Moriarty Edgewood School District in New Mexico purchases new Propane autogas School Bus fleet to reduce pollution, costs, noise reports BPN propane industy leading source for news since 1939 
“Our district has had to dip into operational monies to supplement our transportation costs over the last eight years. Adopting propane technology will be significantly cheaper in fuel and maintenance costs,” said Teresa Salazar, superintendent of MESD, which hosted the event.
 
Propane autogas prices average 50 percent less than diesel and reduces maintenance costs and wear and tear on the engine and components.
 
“It is very rewarding to see these New Mexico school districts lead the state toward adopting these near-zero emission propane school buses,” said Mark Terry, chief commercial officer of Blue Bird Corporation. “They will experience the cost- and emissions-reducing benefits with Blue Bird propane school buses, resulting in district savings that can find their way into the classroom.”
 
The districts’ propane buses emit fewer total hydrocarbons and harmful nitrogen oxides, and virtually eliminate particulate matter. Exposure to NOx exhaust can have negative health effects on children and is a leading cause of asthma, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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“Propane buses help districts lower their transportation budget by saving on fuel, fluids and filters,” said Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for ROUSH CleanTech. “Districts get all the emission-reducing benefits while also saving costs so that budgets can go to educating students and paying teachers.”
New Mexico schools upgrade to clean propane autogas Blue Bird School Buses to reduce costs, pollution from dirty diesel and noise reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news since 1939
Additional savings are available thanks to the extension of the Federal Alternative Fuel Excise Credit, which covers propane at 36 cents per U.S. gallon and propane fueling equipment up to $30,000 per property. VW Environmental Mitigation Trust and diesel replacement funds can also help districts with propane bus purchases.
New Mexico Schools Upgrade With 17 new clean-fuel Blue Bird propane Autogas School Buses saving district money and environmental benefits to community reports BPN the propane industry leading source of news since 1939. 021920
The event included a fueling demonstration and a propane school bus ride-along. In addition, school district transportation directors, drivers and technicians participated in a day-long training session presented by Tillery Bus Sales. The hands-on training included an overview of the propane fuel system, properties of propane, diagnostics and maintenance, and propane school bus fueling. Driver habits were also discussed to prepare for the adoption of the new propane buses.
Propane school bus training in New Mexico as new autogas fleet rolls out to lower costs, pollution and noise from dirty diesel buses reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news since 1939
“Our drivers learned a lot about propane school buses, including their cleaner and quieter ride and quick fueling,” said Bryan Baca, transportation director for Magdalena Municipal School District. “They were impressed with the benefits and can’t wait to drive them on their routes.”

The school buses, equipped with ROUSH CleanTech propane fuel systems, will begin operation for the 2020-2021 school year. More than 1.2 million students across the U.S. ride to school in safe, quiet propane autogas buses, making it the fastest growing segment of pupil transportation nationwide.
 
About Blue Bird Corporation: Blue Bird (Nasdaq: BLBD) is the leading independent designer and manufacturer of school buses, with more than 550,000 buses sold since its formation in 1927 and approximately 180,000 buses in operation today. Blue Bird’s longevity and reputation in the school bus industry have made it an iconic American brand. Blue Bird distinguishes itself from its principal competitors by its singular focus on the design, engineering, manufacture and sale of school buses and related parts. As the only manufacturer of chassis and body production specifically designed for school bus applications, Blue Bird is recognized as an industry leader for school bus innovation, safety, product quality/reliability/durability, operating costs and drivability. In addition, Blue Bird is the market leader in alternative fuel applications with its propane-powered, electric and compressed natural gas-powered school buses. Blue Bird manufactures school buses at two facilities in Fort Valley, Georgia. Its Micro Bird joint venture operates a manufacturing facility in Drummondville, Quebec, Canada. Service and after-market parts are distributed from Blue Bird’s parts distribution center located in Delaware, Ohio. For more information on Blue Bird’s complete line of buses, visit www.blue-bird.com.
 
About ROUSH CleanTech: ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of advanced clean transportation solutions, is a division of the global engineering company Roush Enterprises. ROUSH CleanTech develops propane autogas and electric propulsion technology for medium-duty Ford commercial vehicles and school buses. With more than 25,000 vehicles on the road, the Livonia, Michigan-based company delivers economical, emissions-reducing options for fleets across North America. Learn more at ROUSHcleantech.com or by calling 800.59.ROUSH.

NPGA Leaders Discuss Regulatory Successes, Challenges Ahead

(February 19, 2020) — Following the Midwest supply issues in the fall of 2019 that consumed most of their attention, the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Jeff Petrash, vice president and general counsel, and deputy counsel regulatory affairs, Sarah Reboli, are looking toward new concerns for 2020 and the coming decade. BPN recently spoke with the members of NPGA’s legal team about the successes and challenges the industry faces as it moves into 2020. “We still have a little unfinished business following up with FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] regarding the supply challenges,” Petrash said. “Then we have plenty to work on in the new decade.”
NPGA logo
Petrash continues to stress that decarbonization will be a huge focus for many years to come. “Electrification will be a big issue for a number of years ahead for NPGA,” Petrash said. “We had some in-depth discussions with NPGA’s Executive Committee and got some direction from them in August. Further discussion is taking place now.” He noted that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is starting to aggressively address the electrification challenge. “They are somewhat the ‘big kid on the block’ in the oil and natural gas industry,” he added.

GOING BACK TO FERC
This summer, beginning in June, Petrash will once again address with FERC how index pricing is set for liquids shipped on pipelines. “Five years ago, we spent about $190,000 to $200,000 in legal and consulting fees and saved the propane industry at least $250 million,” he said. “We worked in partnership with Valero Refining and Airlines for America then. Anyone who is a shipper of liquids or who consumes a fuel of any kind has an interest. All go through pipelines. We hope to work with more partners this time around to be more effective as well as to defray costs.”

Petrash also noted a few natural gas expansion issues he is keeping an eye on in Utah and Iowa. In Iowa, Black Hills Energy is proposing a new pipeline in the Dubuque area. They contend that it will assist in providing security of supply to their existing customers, but it will also facilitate the addition of new customers. In Utah, Dominion (previously known as Questar) proposes to bring natural gas service to Eureka, Utah. This proposed service would be subsidized by current Dominion customers in accordance with Utah legislation previously enacted.

Reboli noted that January 6 was a deadline set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for employers of CDL drivers to perform queries for commercial drivers’ alcohol and drug testing on the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. FMCSA designed the Clearinghouse to share information about commercial drivers’ alcohol and drug violations among employers, state law enforcement, and state driver licensing agencies. The objective is to prevent some drivers from misrepresenting their violations to a new employer and/or in a new state. The information in the Clearinghouse would not be available to insurance providers or lawyers.

In addition, Reboli said that FMCSA proposed to amend the 2016 final rule, “Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators” (entry-level driver training, or ELDT, final rule), by extending the compliance date for two provisions from the rule. The date for training providers to upload entry-level driver training certification information into the Training Provider Registry and for state driver licensing agencies to receive driver-specific ELDT information is extended from February 7, 2020, to February 7, 2022. This will provide FMCSA additional time to complete development of the electronic interface that will receive and store ELDT certification information from training providers and transmit that information to the state driver licensing agencies. Reboli shared that FMCSA may delay the entire regulation by two years, but that a final notice by FMCSA has not yet been published.

MORE HOS CHANGES?
FMCSA is also considering changes to the Hours of Service (HOS), but they were not finalized by the end of the year. The agency has been tight-lipped regarding changes that may expand and extend HOS requirements.

While the current White House is supportive of cutting red tape and regulation, Reboli noted that the process is often slow. “We continue to push for an expansion to the air-mile radius propane vehicles can drive before being required to maintain record of duty status (RODS) reports,” Reboli said. “Infrastructure has improved and bobtail technology has advanced as well since the requirements were written 50 to 60 years ago. We would like to see an increase in the air-mile radius from 100 to 300 miles. This would amount to a savings of $11 million in industry paperwork per year.” — Pat Thornton

Hard Facts Energy Primer Delivered to All U.S. Mayors in Washington

(February 18, 2020) — The Institute for Energy Research (IER) delivered copies of its Hard Facts: An Energy Primer to all mayors attending January’s 88th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. The report provides an in-depth analysis of U.S. energy resources and their significance to the economy. Distribution of the primer was aimed at grounding policy conversations in fact, not fantasy, IER said.

US Conference of Mayors receive Hard Facts Energy Primer reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for LPG news since 1939. Feb 2020The institute maintains too few in the U.S., be they policymaker or citizen, fully grasp the nation’s current energy story. That situation, the organization argues, is ripe for myths and misunderstandings, which can only be cleared up with undisputable facts. “Our mayors are ripe for deceit and should be very cautious about any energy policy coming out of Washington right now,” said Thomas Pyle, IER president.

“The names of these schemes seem to keep changing, but their respective results appear the same. Any proposal that attempts to up-end energy free markets should be labeled what it is—destructive. Energy drives everything in America, and proposals that restrict the use of America’s resources in favor of more expensive and unreliable alternative sources must be rejected. Affordable, reliable energy is the foundation of a free and prosperous society and that’s universal across every level of government.”

Hard Facts is a comprehensive energy primer that provides an essential foundation for a more informed discussion about American energy policy. IER staff stand ready to educate all elected officials about the importance of free-market energy policies. Americans, including elected officials at every level of government, must recognize that the U.S. has access to an abundance of energy resources that can continue to provide its citizens and allies around the world with reliable and affordable energy—provided the policy framework emphasizes the institutions of a free society: private property, competitive market exchange, and the rule of law.

A free download of Hard Facts: An Energy Primer is available at instituteforenergyresearch.org. IER conducts research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. It maintains that freely functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, February 18, 2020. Available by subscription)

New Irrigation, Power-Generation Engines Deliver Reliability, Remote Control

(February 17, 2020) — Propane has long been the fuel of choice for a variety of agricultural applications including irrigation and power generation. For good reason. It is cleaner burning, does not harm water or soil because it’s nontoxic, and produces a carbon footprint that’s more of a tiptoe than a stomp.

Propane Irrigation Engines deliver reliability, efficiency, zero emmissions with Remote Controls reports BPN the propane industry leading source for news and info since 1939. Feb 17 202020Recently, propane-fueled engine technology took a major step forward with the introduction of Industrial-Irrigation Services’ Reliable Horsepower line of engines. Available with displacements of 5.7-, 6.2-, 8.0-, 9.1-, and 10.3-liters, these engines cover the displacement ranges previously available, but are designed to not only provide more efficient operation, but to deliver never-before-available reliability, monitoring, and control options.

The Reliable Horsepower line is a result of a partnership between Industrial-Irrigation Services, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and Woodward Inc., a manufacturer of (among other things) electronic engine control systems. In addition to improved reliability and engine control, the new engines are EPA certified, which eliminates concerns about exhaust emissions compliance.

Agricultural engines have been required to meet EPA certification requirements since 2008, so the issue isn’t initial compliance, it’s ongoing compliance. The new control systems address that consideration head-on with their enhanced monitoring and control capabilities.

PERC was deeply involved in the development of the new engine line. According to Michael Newland, PERC’s director of agriculture business development, “Our overall mission is to promote safety, to look for additional business opportunities, and to help develop new uses and applications for propane. To that end, we often partner with manufacturers to assist with new product development and exposure.”

While PERC obviously has a vested interest in expanding propane use, it also has serious concerns about safety and reliability. It’s well documented that existing modes of power for agricultural applications (diesel and electric) often suffer from reliability problems, can be expensive, and may not be readily available.

According to Newland, “We’re excited about these new engines not only because they help advance the propane industry, but their control systems can help improve productivity because they require less maintenance and deliver more reliable operation. That translates to less downtime, so for irrigation, they spend more time pumping and less time shut down for repairs or adjustment. They’re also better for the environment. Propane is cleaner burning than diesel fuel or gasoline, and since these new engines meet the latest EPA certification requirements, they are especially clean running.”

Multi-Fuel Capability
Another advantage is that these engines can be switched from propane to natural gas with the flip of a switch. That means operators don’t have to shut down operation or engage in a lengthy switch-over if they need to change fuel sources.

That is obviously not a consideration at installations where propane is the only fuel source used. However, according to Jay Canada, Industrial-Irrigation’s vice president of sales and engineering, “There are quite a few farming operations that are located near natural gas pipelines, and that provides operators with a fueling option. Propane is the preferred fuel because it has a higher Btu content and that enables an engine to produce higher horsepower. However, multi-fuel capability is an advantage because it provides an option if propane is temporarily unavailable.”

Another reason for multi-fuel capability is that these engines are intended for additional uses beyond irrigation. Oil and gas production and power generation are two other applications for which these engines are ideally suited. When used for oil and gas production, the ability to switch fuels is especially attractive. Typically, when engines are used for pumping, they are started and run for a few days or weeks on propane. They aren’t switched over to wellhead gas until flow out of the ground is steady and reliable.

The Reliable Horsepower engines are based on existing GM architecture and, like their predecessors, incorporate components specifically designed for heavy-duty industrial use.

Impressive Torque
Horsepower ratings, which are a function of engine speed, are unimpressive as the advertised rating is at either 2800 or 3000 rpm. Torque is an entirely different situation as all engines generate impressive numbers at or below 2000 rpm. As an example, the 5.7-liter (350 cid) engine generates 437 lb/ft at 2000 rpm while the 10.3-liter (632 cid) version generates 798 lb/ft at 1200 rpm.

For pumping operations (such as with water, oil, or gas) torque is the relevant consideration—just as it is with a tractor or any other piece of farm equipment. Torque is an engine’s ability to overcome rotational resistance, such as that required by a pump. Horsepower is an engine’s torque output multiplied by engine speed. Internal combustion engines produce maximum torque at much lower rpm levels than maximum horsepower. Above the peak rpm point, torque decreases, although horsepower continues to increase—to a point—because of the engine speed multiplication factor.

Consequently, industrial engines, which operate under relatively constant and heavy loads, are designed to produce maximum torque at lower engine speeds.

The torque figures quoted are for engines fueled by propane. Output when fueled by natural gas is somewhat lower. As an example, the 10.3-liter engine produces 798 lb/ft of torque at 1200 rpm on propane, but only 723 lb/ft at 1800 rpm on natural gas. Obviously, propane is the better fuel as natural gas requires that an engine operate at higher speed to produce less power.

In addition to the five displacements currently available, Industrial-Irrigation Services plans to add both larger and smaller versions. According to Industrial-Irrigation’s Jay Canada, providing engines for irrigation system use is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. “There are needs for a variety of engine sizes (power output levels), but, currently, there isn’t a wide variety of choices, so we will be expanding the Reliable Horsepower line. We’re looking at the needs of farms from sea level to 6000 to 8000 feet. The higher you go, the less power an engine will produce, so an engine that’s perfect for operation at sea level won’t produce sufficient power at high altitude. The distance you have to push water is another factor that affects power requirements, as is lift distance. Obviously, more power is required to pull water out of a 1000-foot well than to pump ground water. Once the variables involved are defined, we can specify an engine to meet a customer’s requirements.”

All Reliable Horsepower engines utilize the time-proven cast iron blocks and cylinder heads which are cast and machined in North America. Other components include aluminum intake manifolds, forged steel connecting rods, forged steel or nodular iron crankshafts, steel billet camshafts, and hydraulic roller valve lifters.

“Techies” might be surprised that all engines in the line incorporate cast iron blocks and heads and overhead valves, as opposed to aluminum castings and overhead cams. Reliability, cost, and application considerations are the major factors driving component selection. As noted, these engines are designed to operate at low speed, hence there is no advantage to an overhead cam configuration, which offers its advantages at high engine speeds. Additionally, overhead cam engines are much more expensive to repair or rebuild and failure of the cam drive system can result in significant engine damage.

Updated Fuel System
The actual hard parts that comprise a Reliable Horsepower engine have proven their reliability. What was needed was an updated fuel system that was equally reliable—and offered options made possible by recent technological developments. The new fuel system is therefore designed to conquer the most commonly encountered types of engine problems—failure to start, rough operation, and unexpected engine shut-down—that are typically a result of issues with the fuel delivery system.

It’s difficult to achieve reliable horsepower with an unreliable fuel system, and as the name implies, the new Reliable Horsepower engines are optimized to be reliable. For irrigation use, that means the engines run from the time they’re started until they’re turned off—with no stumbles.

To that end, Industrial-Irrigation Services partnered with Woodward Inc. to develop systems that offered both the required operational reliability and never-before-available control. These systems are also configurable to meet individual customer preferences, which include fuel type. All engines are bi-fuel capable, hence controls can be specified for propane-only, or multiple fuel types (propane, pipeline natural gas, wellhead gas).

The new fuel systems can be configured to allow the operator to flip a switch to change fuel type, or controls can be incorporated to enable the system to automatically switch fuel type if one runs out. Electronics also enable a number of other advantages.

All engines incorporate a throttle body-style of electronic fuel injection and include exhaust system oxygen sensors that monitor air/fuel ratio and pass it to the engine control module (ECM). In turn, the ECM makes whatever changes are necessary to maintain the desired air/fuel ratio. The ECM is programmable, thereby enabling operators to create custom calibrations to suit their particular operating environments.

That’s difficult to do with one-size-fits mechanical or non-programmable control systems. Conversely, the Reliable Horsepower systems not only continually optimize fuel and ignition settings to achieve maximum fuel economy and minimal exhaust emissions, the system can also be remotely monitored and controlled and even incorporates an emergency “kill switch.”

Remote Control, Monitoring
If you use your smartphone to lock or unlock your vehicle, monitor security cameras, or turn lights or appliances on or off, you’re already familiar with remote control and monitoring technology. Most commonly, that technology is implemented through use of the Internet of Things (IoT), which provides a means for “things” to communicate with each other. Remote monitoring and control provide a new level of safety and efficiency. All an operator has to do is pick up his or her cell phone to check engine speed, coolant temperature, oxygen sensor voltage, or a host of other sensors. The system can also store multiple calibrations so operation can be optimized for changes in operating environment (i.e high temperature/dry or cool temperature/wet). In spite of the sophistication of the control systems, they are designed to be user friendly.

Rather than having to stand right next to an engine, operators can use their cell phone from literally any part of the world with cell connectivity to monitor and control an engine. Remote control capability also opens new options for engine placement. The ability to remotely raise or lower engine speed, or to kill engine operation means that engine location can be optimized for operation rather than access.

In terms of in-the-field use, one of the greatest advantages of the Reliable Horsepower engine packages is summed up by a statement from Industrial-Irrigation Services: “All those trips to the north 40 to turn on or shut off the pumps can be a thing of the past with our fully electronic engine packages. We help you conserve both time and water with engine packages featuring remote start/stop and remote monitoring.”

The bottom line is that reliability leads to more productivity and increased profits, and that’s exactly what the Reliable Horsepower engine line is designed to deliver.

Dave Emanuel has written seven books and 2500 magazine articles covering a variety of topics ranging from automotive racing and performance modifications to political commentary. His automotive books and articles are informed by his hands-on background with engines and drivelines.