Survey Shows Satisfaction With Commercial Propane Mowers

More than 85% of landscape contractors using commercial propane lawn mowers in their fleets are likely to continue adding propane equipment to their businesses, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).
Propane Mowers May 2019 3Of those polled, nearly all contractors started the transition to propane by installing a conversion kit on existing equipment, PERC reports, a quick and inexpensive path to reduce fuel costs and downtime on nearly any brand of commercial mower.

“This latest data is proof positive that contractors who make the initial transition to a propane mower are satisfied with their purchase, and frequently end up purchasing or converting more equipment to propane,” said Jeremy Wishart, PERC director of off-road business development. “The fact that most contractors start out using a propane conversion kit and end up staying with the fuel just shows that the initial investment is often offset by a quick return on investment and leads to long-term use as contractors observe the fuel’s benefits.”

The survey was answered by 374 landscape contractors. Through conducting surveys of contractors, PERC seeks to gain a better understanding of perceptions and purchase habits regarding propane equipment in the landscape market. Most of the contractors who have propane equipment responded they have used it for at least three years and observed their propane mowers have performed as well, or even better, than gasoline mowers.

A similar survey was conducted by PERC in 2016. In the ensuing years, fewer contractors overall are finding propane unapproachable, with 82% of those responding to the most recent poll saying they were neutral, or favorable, toward the fuel. In contrast, the number of contractors responding they were unfavorable toward propane dropped by more than 60% compared to the 2016 survey, with just 14% of all respondents in the recent survey saying they were unfavorable.

In addition, propane mowers received far fewer unfavorable responses than new electric mowers. Where less than 14% of respondents said they were unfavorable, or very unfavorable, toward propane, 62% said they were unfavorable, or very unfavorable, toward electric commercial mowers.

With the new survey data, PERC has identified an opportunity to continue improving contractor experiences with propane: awareness of the council’s Propane Mower Incentive Program remained low among contractors not using propane equipment. The program offers contractors up to $1000 for each new, dedicated propane mower purchase or $500 for each new qualified propane conversion kit, making it a way for contractors to reduce their initial investment and see savings faster. Knowledge of the incentives increased the likelihood of purchasing a mower for 57% of contractors surveyed.

Information on PERC incentives may be accessed at Propane.com/Landscape-Golf-and-Turf-Incentives. Contractors can learn more about how propane can be incorporated into the landscaping and lawn care business, and find other PERC tools, at Propane.com/Landscape.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, June 3, 2019)

College Propane 101 With Ted Johnson Propane

Professionals from Ted Johnson Propane Co. (Baldwin Park, Calif.) recently introduced local college students to the propane industry and the career opportunities it offers. Owner Julie Johnson delivered a classroom presentation at their school and then, the next day, she and operations manager John Weigel led students on a tour of the company’s bulk plant.
Ted Johnson Propane in California teams up to teach college courses for LPG ServiceTech vocational careers
Johnson’s presentation to the Operations Management Society and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) lasted 45 minutes. Her presentation began with a sort of “Propane 101”—what it is, how it is produced, and how it is distributed. For these particular student organizations, a slide from NPGA showing the propane supply chain was especially helpful. Johnson also covered propane’s role as an emergency fuel, its clean-running qualities, and its role in tomorrow’s energy. “We have to break it down so people outside the industry can understand it—even regulators,” she told BPN after the event.

About 35 students attended the presentation. Johnson found that some students knew about propane’s applications in barbecues, generators, and jewelry making. As far as a career, “energy wasn’t on anyone’s radar,” she commented. “One student said he didn’t realize there was a future in energy.”

She also told the students about the ways propane is used on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona. The school has forklifts and shuttlebuses that are fueled by propane. The school’s Rose Parade float, a project completed in conjunction with the school’s Central California campus, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, also runs on propane.

The bulk plant tour was held the following day. Eight students from the previous day’s event made the drive to the Ted Johnson Propane facility in Baldwin Park. The tour began with a presentation by Weigel. He pointed out that the company picks up propane at one of a few local refineries, transports it to load the tanks at its own bulk plant, and then delivers it with its own smaller trucks. He explained that the company may fill customer tanks, fill forklift tanks, or exchange tanks. There are parts of Los Angeles where bobtails can’t go, so there they can only do exchange tanks. The company also sells autogas and provides maintenance and repair for autogas-fueled vehicles.
Ted Johnson Propane Reaches College Students By offering LPG Service Tech College Courses
APPLICATIONS IN L.A.
None of the students participating in the tour lived in homes with propane, so Weigel explained that there are communities in the mountains around Los Angeles that are beyond the mains and rely on propane. He added that electrical power in the area can be irregular, so many celebrities living in and around L.A. keep propane-fueled generators on hand so they don’t have to go without power.

Weigel noted that the company has 150,000 gallons storage capacity at the bulk plant. He said company founder Ted Johnson put that in place in the 1970s and they were grandfathered in. A propane marketer in the area couldn’t do that today; they would be lucky to have 30,000 gallons capacity because the local government now wants tanks farther out from town. There has never been a problem with the tanks, he noted, but that’s the way it is.

Since these students were members of organizations focused on distribution, Weigel described that aspect of the business. He said the company has its own transport, bobtails, and cylinder exchange trucks. Each delivery vehicle drives about 100 miles per day. He also described the many licenses that a propane marketer must have and the importance of keeping them current.

Ted Johnson Propane in California Partners with local college to Teach career courses for LPG Service Techs reports BPN may 2019SAFETY IS NO. 1
Safety is the company’s No. 1 priority, he told the students. Hiring the right people is the most important contributor to that, so the company “hires slow and fires fast.” By the time a new employee has been at work 90 days, the employer will know if they fit the company’s culture. “If you just hire warm bodies,” he said, “you’re going to end up with an accident.”

Weigel then described the 90-day onboarding process for new employees. “We prefer to hire someone who knows nothing about propane, so we can train them our way,” he said. New employees start in the yard and become expert in all aspects of propane. They then accompany a driver making deliveries; the driver chosen for the first part of this process was selected because he has shown he has the patience, Weigel said. Later, the new hire may make deliveries with other drivers to see different areas and customers the company serves.

Following Weigel’s presentation, he and the students went outside to tour the bulk plant. He first showed the students the drive-off protection and the emergency shut-off that can close one tank or all the tanks. He also explained relief valves that allow propane to safely vent, even in the case of the wildfires recently seen in California.

Students were invited to ask questions at any time. They asked: Do you take inventory of the tank levels from outside or inside the office? Outside, manually. What is the industry standard for product loss? One-half of one percent. Why are there chairs between the tanks? For the person who watches as the bobtails are filled.
Ted Johnson Propane In California Partners With Local College to offer LPG Service Tech Career Courses 2019
They were then shown one of the bobtails. Weigel told the students that the company currently has five vehicles running on propane autogas and intends to add more and phase out diesel. “If we are going to sell autogas, we have to lead by example.” He then started up an autogas-fueled bobtail, let it idle, and noted how quiet it is compared to diesel.

A GREAT OPPORTUNITY
Weigel asked the students if they would like to drive the bobtail. One hand quickly went up. After this first student had driven a short circle inside the plant, he exited the vehicle saying, “It’s like riding a bike—a really big bike!” The other students had been a little hesitant, but grew more confident as they saw others drive the bobtail. One by one, they all got in the bobtail and drove the same short route. “That was fun! Are you hiring?” said one. Weigel later told BPN, “Once one student does the drive, they all will—especially after you honk the horn!”

The tour closed with a demonstration of the company’s fire suppression system. Weigel and Johnson explained that the system is renowned among first responders and they have demonstrated it for professionals who have visited the facility from around the world. As the hoses sprayed the tanks, Johnson told the students, “This is our grand finale!”

After the classroom presentation and the bulk plant tour, Johnson told BPN, “It was a great opportunity to educate college students about propane, whether they go into the industry or not.” — Steve Relyea

Propane-Fueled Forklifts: Time To Talk Benefits With Customers

At the age of 20, Gabriel Reding took a job in Toledo, Ohio as a maintenance tech at a steel factory. Over the years, he helped the company save money and maintained and repaired the material handling equipment (forklifts). He eventually went to work for a large multi-brand supplier of all things material handling.

“I had the opportunity to problem solve with massive Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “I’ve worked with customers who have had up to 500 forklifts in their fleet (both electric- and propane-powered). There’s pros and cons of both, but for me, 90% of the time, I want a propane forklift.”
Propane Forklifts provide better benefits better savings than electric models reports butane-propane news 05-19 the propane industry's leading source for news and information since 1939
There are many advantages to propane-powered versus electric-powered forklifts including cleaner emissions, lower costs, less storage, and greater efficiency, said Reding, who now is a maintenance leader for Novation IQ, a manufacturer of materials such as innovative foams and fabrication in Lenexa, Kan.

“Incorporating propane-powered forklifts into an equipment lineup can benefit both equipment distributors and their customers,” said Jeremy Wishart, director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Yet with all the advances in the propane industry, the benefits of propane forklifts have not been fully touted by members within the propane industry.

“Over the past few years, the propane industry as a whole took the material handling industry for granted and had become a little complacent,” he explained. At the same time, the manufacturing industry has been changing. Warehouse owners think differently about the footprint—expanding upward instead of outward. In addition, technology is also changing the manufacturing industry, requiring fewer people to do the same amount of work.

“From the propane industry’s standpoint, we did not keep up with the industry development,” Wishart said. “Over the past three to four years, propane forklift users have increased slightly, but the number of electric forklifts has increased exponentially. Our growth [in propane-powered material handling] has not kept up.”

As a consequence, the electric industry has had the opportunity to sell without much resistance or competition for the past five to 10 years. “It’s time to put information out there and make propane prominent again,” Wishart said.

“We have to remain engaged with our customers. We have to understand the whole process of purchasing a new forklift, so we can’t just sell the fuel. Most manufacturers don’t necessarily talk about propane as part of their pitch, thus we have to be ready to augment their efforts with our own messaging. As an industry, we need to increase our brand presence.”
Propane Forklifts provide better benefits, lower costs reports BPN the propane industry's leading source  0519
By doing a little bit of research in your market, such as learning regional needs and operations and getting to know your customers, retailers can provide complete solutions rather than just one part of a solution. Knowing how to articulate the benefits of propane-powered forklifts is key.

Benefits of Propane-Powered Forklifts

Full Power: Propane-powered forklifts can run 24/7, unlike many electric models. Propane tends to shine where it’s heavy loads constantly moving because they can run almost non-stop. A simple cylinder swap can be done in three to five minutes versus up to eight hours it may take to recharge an electric battery-powered forklift.

Less Emissions: Propane forklifts produce 16% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and 76% less SOx site-to-source emissions than electric. Because they operate so cleanly, they can work outside on loading docks and inside a properly ventilated warehouse.

Greater Productivity: With fast refueling, less maintenance, and indoor/outdoor use, they keep a business moving.

Safety: Propane helps forklift operators bypass many potential hazards. For example, operators can avoid electrical hazards from the daily use of recharging equipment for electric forklifts, hazardous spills from gasoline and diesel fuel equipment, and chemical spills from lead-acid battery-powered forklifts.

Less Cost: “Typically, upfront costs are $5000 to $10,000 lower with a propane-powered forklift than an electric-powered forklift,” Wishart said.  “It costs 10% to 25% more to buy an electric forklift out the box,” Reding said. In addition to the forklift, there is the cost of the charger and crane. “If you run a 24-hour shift, every eight hours need to charge. If you want to run 24 hours, multiply costs by three.”
Propane is Clean American Energy that doesn't pollute air or water and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Less Storage Space: Propane-powered forklifts require less storage space because they don’t need a charging or lifting station. “Storage for a standard propane forklift is about the size of a broom closet with room for about 30 cylinders,” Reding said. — Karen Massman VanAsdale

Will Home Automation Kill Residential Propane?

Home automation is significantly changing homeowners’ expectations and home builders are responding accordingly by offering homes that are smart and increasingly all-electric. Bob Torbin, director of codes and standards with OmegaFlex (Exton, Pa.), believes this is why NOW is a call-to-action time for the propane industry.
Torbin of OmegaFlex makes NPGA Expo Seminar About How Home Automation Is Killing Residential Propane use
“The gas industry could become a minor energy player, if not obsolete. I’m not saying home automation is going to kill LPG, but it’s going to be one of the contributing factors to a decline in sales,” Torbin said.

One solution, according to Torbin, is for the propane industry to offer home-automation-ready piping infrastructure and provide the features now. “The home automation world is blossoming around us, but no one thinks of propane and home automation. Manufacturers [of LPG appliances] are only thinking of making appliances safer and more reliable. Why not think ‘Alexa, turn on my gas grill’? ‘Alexa, cook my steak medium and call me when it’s ready’?”

Although the LPG appliance manufacturers are not yet offering smart gas appliances, Torbin said the resources are available to give new and existing houses the capability of being “smart-ready” and to have the infrastructure for the LPG appliances of the future added to existing houses at any time.

He addressed the benefits and logistics of preparing the LPG home for automation and the associated load growth during his presentation of “Low Cost Residential Load Growth Strategies” at the 2019 NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo.
OmegaFlex makes presentation at NPGA 2019 SE Propane Expo about how Home Automation Could Kill Residential LPG use
The propane industry can increase gas load per customer using semirigid metallic tubing operated at elevated pressure to create a multifunctional gas distribution network in homes. Gas lines can be routed cost-effectively to every portion of the home (including outdoors) during both construction and remodeling including pre-piping of key battleground areas, such as kitchens and laundries. Gas convenience outlets will permit gas appliances to be “plugged in” just like their electric equivalents.

Use of elevated pressure reduces initial cost while providing future load growth, Torbin said. A gas load center will permit the integration of the gas system with appliance controls/sensors and home automation systems. Automatic shut-off valves can be triggered to operate based on methane sensors, high CO levels, and smoke and fire alarms, as well as be integrated into other home security and life-safety systems.

DESIGNING THE INFRASTRUCTURE
“My presentation is meant to inspire members of the LPG industry to get on board before they get left behind. You don’t need an IT department,” he said. “When we think about new gas loads, such as power generators, tankless water heaters, gas logs—how do you accommodate for this load growth in a cost-effective way without having to replumb the entire house when remodeling?”

Designing the infrastructure for LPG appliances in advance provides several benefits. It allows you to anticipate future usage so you can add gas appliances in the future when home automation catches up. It also allows you to be prepared for changes in consumer demand and awareness. Future load growth starts with building strategies into the infrastructure from the very start.

“No one is doing this now. It’s not like a package you can buy at Home Depot, but the technology and know-how are already here,” Torbin explained.
“This talk is meant to ignite fresh thinking and strategy to at least stay up with the market curve on home automation. We’re not making smart gas appliances, but we can make smart gas piping systems.”

“We’re not doing enough to keep up with what’s going on in the electrical community. We [the propane industry] are not even in on the ground floor. We’re just trying to survive. We have to think beyond survival. We need to give people a better reason to have propane than just cost advantages.”
Code Director at OmegaFlex presents seminar at 2019 NPGA Propane Expo about how Home Automation Is Killing Residential Propane
“The writing is on the wall. Your electrical competitors are already planning for our demise,” Torbin said. “This presentation is a wake-up call.”
California, for example, is soon to be the first state to mandate solar-energy installations for every new single-family home as well as multifamily residential buildings up to three stories, including condos and apartment complexes. Many new subdivisions are already building only all-electric houses.

A CALL TO ACTION
There are challenges, Torbin admitted, to smart gas homes becoming reality:

  1. The propane industry is not prepared to address the problem. Nothing is going on in research and development to help LPG suppliers offer smart products; and
  2. Manufacturers are not incentivized to make smart gas products. “They keep selling the same things year after year,” Torbin said. “Why isn’t my furnace telling me when the air filter needs to be replaced or maintaining optimum air-fuel mixture?”
“No one has said no, they don’t want home automation in the LPG industry, but the problem is no one in the industry has risen to take charge or make the necessary technical commitment. I’m making the call to action. It’s possible to move forward toward smart-ready right now.”

Bob Torbin has spent more than 25 years pursuing a career-long effort in support of innovative piping systems and technologies. He has been involved with innovative, lightning-resistant corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) technologies, including revisions to all appropriate model codes, updating of product standards, coordinating various company and industry research projects, and advocating for state and local code acceptance. His work has included participation on many industry committees and organizations promoting the safe use of fuel gas products including installation practices and installer training. — Karen Massman VanAsdale

WINLPG Woman of the Year Advises “Be Courageous” To Achieve Career Goals

Early in her career, Lesieli Taviri walked into a meeting of business leaders and froze. She saw that she was the only woman in the room, she didn’t recognize anybody, and, for the first time in her life, she felt intimidated. She walked to the back of the room, sat alone for the duration of the meeting, and then left without having said anything to anyone.
WLPGA Propane Woman of year 2019 3
“I knew I had to make a choice of just avoiding such gatherings—which was an easy choice, but would not be beneficial from a business point—or make a courageous decision to try and belong,” Taviri told BPN recently. “So I chose the latter and knew I needed to find a different strategy to help build my confidence. I joined a networking club of professionals and committed to every event, volunteered with everything that came my way—from coordinating events and seeking sponsorship to public speaking—and eventually became the first female president.”

Building A Network
Today, Taviri is one of the most prominent business leaders in Papua New Guinea (PNG). She is CEO of Origin Energy PNG, one of the largest providers of propane in the Pacific region. She is a member of the board of directors of MiBank, a bank with 12 branches and many agents across PNG, and Nambawan Super Ltd., the trustee of a contributory pension fund that provides an income for PNG citizens who retire or become permanently disabled. She is also chair of the Business Coalition for Women (BCFW), a group of companies working to improve the equal economic contribution of women in the private sector in PNG.

“It was through the dealings of the club that I started to expose myself to other industries and influential people and built my network of advisors,” she said. “Today, I still attend such meetings but it’s now a different experience and as every woman walks through the door, I always remember that experience and I get a lift simply knowing that a simple act of courage can make it easier for other women to believe they belong.”

In recognition of her accomplishments and her efforts to help others, Taviri was honored last fall with the inaugural Woman of the Year Award presented by the Women in LPG Global Network (WINLPG), an initiative of the World LPG Association (WLPGA). The presenters explained that this award honors women who show a commitment to business beyond profit, show innovative thinking to achieving career goals, create a positive impact on their business by promoting diversity, and show innovation in company turnaround.

Extending Distribution of Energy
In her role as CEO of Origin Energy PNG, Taviri is working to expand its distribution of propane to communities who are off grid. Distributing energy in PNG is a challenge. The Pacific Island nation is about the size of California and has a population of only about 7 million. The terrain is mostly mountainous.

Only 12% of the population has access to electricity, Taviri said, “so the vast majority of PNG is still in darkness with people using kerosene lamps, torches, batteries, candles, and even open fire.”
World LPG Association announces 2018 Propane Woman of year reports Butane-Propane News magazine the propane industry's leading source for news and information since 1939.
“LPG reach is only about 5% to 7% of households, predominantly in the urban to semi populated district towns,” she added. “The challenge is 80% of the population still live in rural areas where there is lack of reliable transportation infrastructure, which results in high cost of distribution. The density per kilometer is only 18 people per square kilometer [46 people per square mile] and people are spread out across the entire country in little pockets as cultural families move around to protect land (majority of land is traditionally owned). That in itself provides challenges with economies of scale.”

“However, with improved infrastructure and services coming closer to these communities, we expect more accessibility to LPG using scalable models.”

With the help of International Finance Corporation (IFC), Origin Energy PNG has developed a lease-to-own, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system to extend the distribution of solar and propane. Currently in the pilot phase, the system uses a mobile payment platform provided by a bank and using the bank agent network. The PAYG package includes a solar panel with a light and a mobile charger, an LPG cylinder, and a two-burner cast iron stove with hose and regulator.

“Customers are provided a range of products depending on repayment affordability,” Taviri explained. “The repayment is over 12 months and the solar is unlocked and ownership is transferred once the kit has been paid for. The product helps to migrate the unbanked to bank as PNG is predominantly a cash economy and promotes the use of mobile banking. The benefit to the medium business is multiple streams of revenue from the repeat gas sales, a margin on the PAYG package, and a cut in the bank transaction fee where cash is exchanged for e-payment by the agent.”

Advancing Participation of Women
As chair of BCFW, Taviri is helping the organization provide tools and services for businesses to help them provide a more conducive working environment for women. These tools focus on four key areas that businesses in PNG feel are challenges to advancing the participation of women.

To support companies in addressing family and sexual violence (FSV), BCFW provides a suite of model policies, research, and awareness and training programs. “We provide training programs for businesses to help staff understand the economic and social impacts of FSV and work with other stakeholders to develop a support system to help victims of FSV,” Taviri said.

To promote women in leadership, BCFW provides a program that is aimed at preparing women for leadership roles. “We have also launched a mentoring and coaching program to help support women graduates,” she added.
WLPGA Woman of year 2019 2
To increase and retain female participation in the workforce, BCFW has created a suite of model policies and worked with businesses in the extractive sector to conduct audits and develop gender smart safety policies and practices. And, to expand opportunities for women-owned businesses in supply chains, BCFW aims to encourage businesses through policy to allow participation of women-owned businesses in their supply chain, either as resellers, customers, or suppliers.

Asked about the greatest improvements she has seen businesses make during her time with BCFW, Taviri answered, “Simply the response of businesses—more CEOs have become attuned to the business case of why equal participation of women can improve a business’s bottom line.”

She pointed to the findings of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) report released by IFC in 2017, three years after the establishment of BCFW. It said BCFW had impacted more than 50,000 employees across 47 businesses with at least one substantive change to policies, practices, or standards. Over the same period, BCFW hosted more than 70 workshops, training events, seminars, and conferences, with more than 950 participants.

Guiding Principles
Asked for advice she would share with women who aspire to become senior executives, as she has done since attending that difficult meeting of business leaders early in her career, Taviri said: “Be comfortable in your skin, play to your strengths, and develop a circle of advisors (internally and externally) who are able to complement your weaknesses. Always have a compass to give direction and a set of guiding principles to help you make decisions every day—from the kitchen to the boardroom table. Balance visionary with pragmatism and be courageous.” — STEVE RELYEA

(SOURCE: Butane-Propane News, May 2019)