Speaking Up For Propane — A Clean American Energy

(April 6, 2020) — When Ben McWhorter of Sequoia Gas Co. learned that a plan was being developed to phase out the use of natural gas and propane in Arcata, Calif., he made sure others in the community learned this too. While the proposal was still being discussed in the energy committee that advises the city council, he made a presentation to the council. City council meetings can be watched live and viewed on demand on television and on the city’s website, so he knew he would reach an audience far beyond those in the room.
Sequoia Gas Company Family owned propane company since 1930
Sequoia Gas has offices in Arcata and Fortuna, Calif., and McWhorter is the Fortuna branch manager. Before making the presentation, he reached out to others. He went to two large businesses in the area—one a user of propane within the city and the other a user of natural gas just outside the city—to see if they knew about this proposal. They didn’t, and immediately said they were willing to get involved. He also called a city council member he knew had lived in a remote area and used propane. She invited him make the presentation before the council.

Having received that invitation, McWhorter began work on the presentation, “Propane Infrastructure in a Renewable Future.” He found the Western Propane Gas Association (WPGA) to be a great source of information and advice. WPGA had informed him of what the committee in Arcata was considering and provided data for his presentation. “Any marketers that are not involved in their association are missing out on an opportunity to give back and to know what’s going on,” McWhorter tells BPN. “We have to stay engaged.”

During the Feb. 5 meeting of the Arcata city council, he opened the presentation by introducing himself as the third generation of a family-run propane business in the county in which Arcata is located. He outlined the number of people in the country and in the state who use propane; the applications for which propane is used; and the affordability, reliability, and clean energy of propane.

He noted that Sequoia Gas has only about 30 customers in the city, because the city is fed by natural gas, but that those customers need propane. The city’s largest user of propane is a manufacturer that uses propane for space heating and in its manufacturing process. Other users are restaurants. He also noted a growing interest in backup generators.

Concluding his presentation, McWhorter said, “I think Arcata residents deserve access to a diverse energy portfolio. I think that they should be able to choose the energy choices that they would like, and that they can really afford. Propane is clean, it’s reliable, and it’s affordable. And it’s also a non-methane gas, which natural gas is. Propane can provide uninterrupted energy at a cheaper rate than electricity and can serve as a primary fuel or complement to solar and other things.”

Following McWhorter’s presentation, the mayor of Arcata, whose profession is energy engineer, said, “My long-term goal, and the council adopted related goals a year ago, was to phase out the use of natural gas, not to phase out the use of propane. We need to treat these two fuels very differently.” He added, “I see an important complementary role of propane to renewable energy, as you pointed out, and I don’t see that for natural gas.” Later, the mayor concluded, “In my ideal future, I actually see a role for propane in Arcata, and growth of use of propane within Arcata, and having it as an important complement, especially for people who choose to use a gaseous fuel for cooking in restaurants or in individual homes. So my target is natural gas rather than going after or being hostile to propane.”

While the response was good—and McWhorter thanked the mayor for these comments—there are more meetings to come as the energy committee develops a proposed ordinance and then hands it to the city council for a vote. McWhorter says he will stay engaged. In the meantime, he has succeeded in making others in the community aware of the proposed ban.

“These meetings are televised, so everyone can watch it,” McWhorter tells BPN. “It’s a good opportunity to get the word out that this is something the city is thinking about. People don’t get engaged until it is something that affects them. We think banning natural gas will get people fired up.”

Summing up his experience in the political arena so far, he says, “When you’re a small company going in a hundred directions at once, and it’s wintertime and you’re delivering propane and setting tanks, it’s hard to get out of the office and get engaged. But we all have to get together, represent our industry, and be in the room when these decisions are being made. It takes time, but you have to meet people and stay engaged.”

McWhorter’s presentation can be viewed on the City of Arcata’s website, within the video of the Feb. 5 regular meeting of the city council (his presentation starts at the 54:30 mark in the video): http://arcataca.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=3061&Format=Minutes. — Steve Relyea

NPGA Board’s Agenda: Eliminating Roadblocks, Helping Industry Thrive

(April 3, 2020) — In recent months, the industry has faced several challenges having to do with decarbonization and has scored several successes positioning propane as clean energy. These were among the many issues reported on during the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) Board of Directors Meeting held Feb. 11, 2020 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

At the meeting, Steve Kaminski delivered his first president’s report. In it, he highlighted some of the work the association
has done since he became its president and CEO in late October.

He began by defining what NPGA should mean to the propane industry: “We should eliminate roadblocks to help your business thrive,” Kaminski said. “If there are roadblocks we need to eliminate that we don’t know about, let us know. You direct NPGA, not the other way around, so your feedback is what I value most.”

Among the association’s achievements he listed were the following:

Alternative Fuel Tax Credit: The AFTC has been extended from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2020. “For the first time, NPGA has provided an official guidance on how to claim the credit,” Kaminski reported. “Share it with your tax advisor.”

HUD Final Rule: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published a final rule incorporating an NPGA-advocated regulation interpretation. HUD had originally proposed that for a home to be eligible for certain federally-backed home loans, a propane tank of up to only 250 gallons could be within 300 feet. “We upped that to 1000 gallons, if it complies with NFPA 58,” Kaminski said. “This was four years in the making, and it came to fruition two weeks ago.”

Decarbonization: Gas bans are being debated in more than 100 cities and counties nationwide. NPGA is focusing its efforts in this space by creating a “stopgap toolkit” of materials to use to counteract these bills right away; working with PERC on a comprehensive long-term plan to tackle this growing issue; and supporting legislative action to counteract these bills—three states are considering bills that would prohibit municipalities from imposing such bans. Those states are Arizona, Minnesota, and Tennessee. (As of this writing, the bill in Arizona has passed.) “We have done our homework on decarbonization and started to take significant action,” Kaminski said.

Apprenticeships: NPGA has collaborated with PERC on the development of registered apprenticeship programs for drivers and service technicians. The association will administer the programs.

Collaboration: In the past month, NPGA has secured a position as a member of the National Clean Energy Week Steering Committee, has re-secured a previously-vacated position on the National Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Council, and has “re-engaged in a meaningful way” with the World LPG Association (WLPGA), Kaminski said. At a WLPGA event held the week before the NPGA board of directors meeting, he made three presentations.

Regulations: NPGA staff have undertaken “a massive set of initiatives” having to do with regulations. Among the issues they are addressing are gas bans, reach codes, carbon labeling, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) index rate for interstate liquids pipelines, and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Staff will also be working on the 2023 edition of NFPA 58. “There are tons of other regulatory programs we are addressing too,” Kaminski added.

Concluding his report, Kaminski thanked those who have furthered his education about the industry since his appointment was announced last fall. “I want to give a big thanks to NPGA staff and the executive committee for getting me up to speed.”

Energy of the Future
Earlier in the meeting, NPGA chair Randy Thompson focused on the climate change debate and the industry’s growing participation in it.
Randy Thompson NPGA chairman and board members address roadblocks to propane industry at feb 2020 board meeting reports BPN the LPG industry leading source for new since 1939
“We want a future for our industry, and propane is an energy of the future,” the founder and senior advisor at ThompsonGas LLC said while presenting the chair’s report. “The climate change debate is real. We can’t have our heads in the sand; we must stay engaged.”

Thompson reported that NPGA and PERC have been working on climate change messaging. He added that both groups have research resources that are available to members of the industry. “If you need help, call us,” he added. He concluded that in the climate change debate, the propane industry needs to keep putting forth a positive message.

“We are a small industry, so we need to have a big attitude,” Thompson said. “We need to believe we can win—and we can. We are the bedrock of America. Propane is the cleanest energy. We have a compelling story. We should be proud of the industry we serve. Let’s go and sell the message that propane is a fuel of the future.”

Successes in the Host State
At the beginning of the meeting, the executive director of the Arizona Propane Gas Association (APGA) shared recent successes seen in the state that was hosting the event. Presenting the introduction to the board of directors meeting, Barry Aarons highlighted three news items.

First, a bill was introduced in Arizona that would prevent municipalities from passing laws mandating the use of a single source of energy. Aarons said he expected the bill to pass and the governor to sign it into law. “The natural gas association came to us to form a coalition and ensure propane would be included,” he added. (During the week after the NPGA board of directors meeting, on Feb. 21, Gov. Doug Ducey did indeed sign the bill into law.)

Second, over a three-year period, a program in one county has distributed 2997 vouchers for discounts toward the purchase of new propane fire pits. The Propane Fire Pit Program was created to reduce air pollution caused by outdoor wood burning in fire pits. It was created by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department in partnership with APGA and Home Depot. “It is important that we work with environmental agencies to remove particulates from the air,” Aarons said.

Third, the Arizona Commerce Authority has reversed a policy that it wouldn’t declare parcels “ready for development” if they were more than 50 miles away from natural gas lines. After APGA went to the Authority and explained that its members can deliver propane, Aarons said, those parcels now can be developed “based solely on the availability of propane.” — Steve Relyea

New Refueling Infrastructure Installation Video Released by Propane Council

WASHINGTON (APRIL 2, 2020) – The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has released a new online video that gives fleet owners an in-depth look at what happens during the installation of a permanent, on-site propane autogas refueling station.
Propane Council introduces New Propane Autogas Refueling Infrastructure Installation Video for LPG professionals reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news since 1939The video walks through each step of the process, which includes the installation of a concrete foundation, one or more large capacity fuel tanks, a pump, one or more dispensers with meters, and crash protection.

“Fleets of all sizes are benefitting from their centralized propane autogas refueling station, and this video shows just how easy and convenient it is to get started with the support of their local propane and infrastructure suppliers,” said Steve Whaley, PERC director of autogas business development. “Propane autogas provides fleets with the lowest total cost-of-ownership, and the affordable refueling infrastructure is a big part of how that’s possible.”

While the video demonstrates one example of a large installation, propane autogas refueling infrastructure is customizable and scalable to meet the demands of any size of fleet. Local propane suppliers can help fleets select the right option for their business.

View the new video at Propane.com/Propane-Autogas-Refueling-Options. To learn more about the benefits of propane autogas for vehicle fleets, visit Propane.com/Fleet-Vehicles.
 
About PERC: The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is a nonprofit that provides leading propane safety and training programs and invests in research and development of new propane-powered technologies. PERC is operated and funded by the propane industry. For more information, visit Propane.com. 
 

Autogas: A Prime Choice For Vehicle Fleet Diversification

(March 31, 2020) — By Tucker Perkins… Propane marketers have a unique opportunity their competitors don’t have: customer interaction. Having propane delivered by real people from the community is very different from the customer experience of using natural gas or electricity. Our industry’s fine propane marketers do what they do better than anyone else, but in this age of specialization, it is important to have a function that you excel in.
Propane Autogas Is top choice for vehicle fleet diversification reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news since 1939. 032020For example, if you sell only to residential customers, do it in a way so that a homeowner would never consider going to another company or another fuel source. Create “Raving Fans,” like Ken Blanchard suggests in his book of the same name, and you’ll always be successful.

DIVERSE CUSTOMERS
Propane marketers also benefit from having a diverse customer base: customers that use gas year-round and aren’t sensitive to degree-days, like home heating. For some, that means finding customers with water heating, cooking, and clothes drying needs, and for others it means supplying propane to an engine, like a forklift or an agriculture engine. These markets offer benefits in supply planning, equipment usage, and reducing the peaks and valleys we all experience with seasonal business.

There’s another way to guarantee year-round customers, and that’s with autogas. You might view autogas with a raised eyebrow, but there are more and more fleet vehicles on the road that are using it, like delivery trucks, transit vehicles, and school buses. Take a look around—they are likely even in your own community.

If you’re not introducing local fleet operators to autogas or currently serving these types of fleets, you’re missing a major business diversification opportunity that’s only going to grow. And, you’ve got your own vehicles that could run on autogas. That’s quite an endorsement for propane—and perhaps the best marketing for your business.

MARKET ENTRY
How does a propane marketer enter the autogas segment? Slowly and cautiously, for sure, incorporating a lot of study. PERC has plenty of information to help you in your adoption and marketing. Propane.com is always a good place to start. If you want to take more steps, consider these three options.

Propane autogas is first choice among vehicle fleet owners mangers reports BPN the lpg industry leading source for news since 1939. 3020201. Target local fleets that are good candidates for propane autogas use. Current commercial customers are a good place to start. Do they drive 20,000+ miles per year; return to base each night; use vehicles that have autogas options like Ford, GM, and Freightliner; and keep those vehicles for about 10 years? Do they need to improve their emission-reducing image? Can they benefit from reducing their fleet costs to be more competitive? Commercial fleets as diverse as pest control to delivery companies are fueling with autogas. Autogas is also operating in thousands of public fleets across the nation, such as transit shuttles, school buses, and police vehicles. Target the local ones in your area.

2. Install an autogas dispenser at your location. This can attract local fleets and other users to your company. The recent federal tax credits available for infrastructure will help with initial cost while driving awareness of your brand and providing incremental gas sales. Once installed, implement marketing tactics to promote it, such as listing your dispenser on local alternative fuel websites and using social media.

3. Consider propane autogas for your own fleet. Crane trucks, service trucks, and bobtails are the typical choices. The obvious reason is cost savings. Autogas is cheaper than diesel or gasoline, the vehicles are simpler to maintain, and the cost per mile is significantly less than diesel or gasoline. There are tremendous benefits to your brand in using a clean fuel in your community as well, particularly when you message the benefits of quiet, clean, and healthier. Choosing propane for your fleet can be hugely beneficial to your brand, your community—and your business’ bottom line.

AUTOGAS BENEFITS
In a world consumed by environmental concern, autogas vehicles offer a rare combination of benefits to user and community. They are quiet, they are inexpensive to buy, operate, and maintain compared to many other choices, and the emissions are often the cleanest of any choice. They are strong and durable, so for fleets that have concerns over payload and range, autogas is the only environmental- and cost-conscious solution that makes sense.

And the autogas engine technology keeps getting better and better. We continue to see great innovation in technology that proves we can be competitive with diesel on durability, and with electricity on emissions. Plus, no fuel offers the entire package that propane can—quiet, capable for range and payload, simple and clean, ideal for all weather conditions, domestically produced, and most importantly, the very best total ownership costs for vehicle, fuel, and infrastructure.

But selling autogas to fleets is no small task. The sales cycle can be long, and you are connected to the fleet for service issues for the life of the vehicle. Enter the market with eyes wide open. Study, and study some more. Study the barriers, too, usually around service and dealer support. Talk to other marketers using or selling autogas, and if you want to know more, contact Steve Whaley, PERC’s director of autogas business development, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re here to help you be successful, both today and well into the future.

PROPANE'S FUTURE
As we study the future of propane and how propane marketers respond, a few major elements stand out. Whatever we do, we must do it well. Generalists will find it hard to prosper, and specialists will be in demand. Marketing is key; know the customer, tell the customer why they should choose you, deliver on that promise, and, like Ken Blanchard says, “create Raving Fans.”

Tucker Perkins is the president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council, based in Washington, D.C.

NPGA ALERT: Updated Federal Essential Worker Guidance and Essential Worker Documentation

(March 29, 2020) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with other federal agencies, has published an updated version of guidance on “essential workers” for state and local authorities that have or are considering ‘shelter-in-place’ ordinances or similar restrictions on movement. 

Butane Propane News (BPN) is the propane industry repository for coronavirus COIVD-19 LPG industry news, federal guidelines for essential workers Version 2.0: Guidance Memo on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response

Version 2.0: Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response

Version 2.0 is more expansive, in general, and reorganized. The only change for our industry is the inclusion of language to more specifically identify propane gas equipment manufacturers and distributors as among the essential workforce. The updated guidance includes many propane employees under the sectors for Energy and Transportation and Logistics. Some employees may fall under other sectors listed in the guidance.

The Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers is not federally mandated and does not have the force of law. States/local ordinances must directly incorporate or name the guidance for it to apply. Some states/local ordinances, however, have developed similar definitions for “essential workers”. 

Proof of Essential Workers. Some NPGA members have asked how they can demonstrate to officials that certain propane industry employees qualify as essential workers. Currently, there is no federal guidance on what to provide, but FMCSA suggests ‘essential workers’ keep on-hand the applicable state/local ordinance and the federal guidance, if applicable. In addition, to respond to member requests, NPGA drafted two template  statements for ‘essential workers’ of the propane industry: one for operations in states/localities that directly incorporate the federal guidance; and one is for operations in states/localities that do not directly incorporate the federal guidance but instead created their own list of “essential workers.”

Companies should first confirm there is a state/local ordinance in place. Then:
  1. If the ordinance directly incorporates or names the federal Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers: Draft Statement Naming Federal Guidance
  2. If the ordinance does not incorporate or name the federal Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, but details its own list of ‘essential workers’ to cover propane workers: Draft Statement Using State/Local List

The NPGA recommends that companies carefully review the details of the state/local ordinance to check the eligibility of each employee as an essential worker. The draft statements are available under COVID-19 Resources on the Membership Dashboard.

Please send questions or concerns about your state/local ordinance to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., NPGA State Engagement Program Manager. Please send questions or concerns about federal guidance to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., NPGA Deputy Counsel, Regulatory Affairs.

These documents are provided solely for informational purposes in response to COVID-19. They are not to be construed as legal advice or legal guidance. NPGA expressly disclaims any liability associated with the accuracy or content of the information contained in these documents. Users should consult the government authorities and resources for the most complete and current information pertaining to COVID-19 or contact an attorney for any specific advice.