Women In Propane: Seizing Career Opportunities With Determination

More than six years ago, at the suggestion of her mother-in-law, Chelsea Harrison applied to be the first in-house marketing/graphic designer for Foster Fuels in Brookneal, Va. She was a graphic designer with no prior knowledge of the propane fuel industry and no management experience.
BPN's Women In Propane profiles Chelsea Harrison, vp of marketing for Foster Fuels 12-2019
Today, as the vice president of marketing, Harrison manages a creative team of six for the company, which has grown from 65 employees when she began to 185 employees currently. Her role encompasses developing strategic marketing initiatives and overseeing the creation of all communications, including social media, multimedia, printed collateral, public relations, and advertising.

“If you’d asked me six years ago, I just would not have seen the growth,” she said. “Looking back on it and how things came to fruition and how I was given the opportunity to do more and more—it’s better than I would have ever expected. I love being able to work with a creative team and a company that supports you.”

Established in 1921, Foster Fuels Inc. is a privately held corporation with seven locations in Virginia, providing distribution of diesel, gasoline, Jet A, and propane to residential, commercial, and governmental customers. It also has an award-winning emergency fuel division, Mission Critical, specializing in business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. This year, the company was awarded a five-year contract from the Defense Logistics Agency to deliver emergency fuel support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during emergencies. The company has held a similar contract since 2006. The current contract covers all 50 states, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Harrison’s ability and determination to learn, a company culture of trust and empowerment, and Foster Fuels’ intentional growth is bringing continued success to both her and the company.

She maintains the same “sure we can make it happen attitude” she’s had since tackling her first project at Foster Fuels, turning a 40-page technical brochure into a one-page handout. It was a challenge, she said, but she was able to break it up into simple, understandable pieces both she and customers could understand.

“I had a lot to learn about fuel, and I feel like I am still learning. There are so many new things happening,” she said. “We try to stay up with what our customers are using and how we can reach them. We have seen things change.”

Although printed materials are still part of the marketing mix, Harrison has helped launch a mobile app and multiple social media platforms to better serve customers. She also recently implemented marketing automation software.

Rapid growth of the company and her department have brought some growing pains, she admitted. “Your weak areas become prevalent without your even knowing. Simple things like space in the office and processes. When it was just you, you could do it one way, but add more people and, to me, it’s an opportunity to ask ‘how can we improve?’”

One way Harrison keeps up with industry trends is by utilizing resources provided by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Last year, she attended the organization’s first Can-Do Conference specifically focused on marketing training. “I found that to be very valuable. I was able to make some connections,” she said. “You can be hard on yourself. It was helpful to meet others having the same challenges.”

A support system at work along with friends and nearby family has enabled Harrison to have a healthy work-life balance. Originally from North Carolina, she and her husband, Tyler, have a 2-year-old daughter, two toy poodles, and demanding jobs. Tyler is a first responder paramedic and until recently played in a band. The couple met when they were both on the cheerleading team at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. — Karen Massman VanAsdale

(Published in the November 2019 issue of Butane-Propane News magazine.)

Sulfur Limits Signal Sea Change And Potential Growth for LPG-fueled Vessels

(December 30, 2019) — Strict requirements for ships to significantly cut sulfur oxide emissions snap into effect Jan. 1, 2020, marking a sea change for the global fuel used to power oceangoing vessels. A new International Maritime Organization (IMO) rule will significantly reduce air pollution to the benefit of human health and the environment, but the change also represents a challenge for the industry.

new International Maritime Organization (IMO) rule will likely cause sea-change increase in clean-burning propane-fueled vessels reports BPN December 2019 the propane industry leading source of news since 1939Under the updated cap ratified by IMO, the United Nations’ standard-setting authority for the safety, security, and environmental performance of international shipping, the sulfur content of fueloil used by ships operating outside designated emission control areas shall not exceed 0.5%, which represents an 80% cut from previous 3.5%. So, the adjustment means most ships will switch to new types of compliant bunker fuels, so-called very low sulfur fueloil (VLSFO), or marine gas/diesel oil, or gasoil. The VLSFO blends are new to the market. Many shipowners are also installing scrubbers to curb emissions of higher-sulfur fuels, while to a much lesser extent others plan to bunker with LNG and LPG to achieve compliance.

In the lead-up to implementation, the LPG carrier freight market was bracing for disruption as IMO 2020 neared, reported S&P Global Platts. Owners and charterers of very large gas carriers (VLGCs) were ramping up efforts to install scrubbers ahead of the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline. In addition, sources told the business information provider that the transition appeared poised to split the LPG carrier sector into “flex” and “unflex” segments—between flexible vessels and ships without scrubbers—which would create uncertainty in the freight market if the price of low-sulfur fuel proves costly.

Two-tier Market
Opinions were mixed on the impact a two-tier market would have on the freight rate structure and the chartering strategies of shipowners. Some market participants said VLGCs with scrubbers could command higher rates to those not fitted with the emission-cleaning devices. Depending on tonnage, owners that fitted scrubbers and could sail their vessels at full speed might be inclined to keep their ships in the spot market to take full advantage of the upside. Vessel owners that missed the move toward scrubbers, or chose not to retrofit, might look to hedge the spreads between high-sulfur and low-sulfur fueloil, or marine gasoil, in the swaps market.

“One thought could be that there will be two sets of freight, one for scrubbers and one for the non-fitted, older tonnage,” one source said. “In general, there is interest to time charter out non-scrubber-fitted vessels with high consumption of low-sulfur fuel over the IMO January 2020 period.” While others downplayed a significant freight-rate divide emerging, they commented that owners of scrubber-fitted vessels could potentially earn higher margins on a time charter basis as bunker costs are reduced compared to non-scrubber ships, which will use costlier low-sulfur fuel or marine gasoil.

Knowns and Unknowns
One regional trader told S&P Global Platts that scrubber-fitted ships were expected to command a premium. “It won’t be easy to find bunker ports supplying gasoil, at least at the onset. Not all bunker ports will be ready for the change, so that would mean ships fitted with scrubbers should have more flexibility.”

The consultancy Wood Mackenzie observed that certainties regarding IMO 2020 are few and far between, and there are more unknowns than knowns on its impact. “The few things we can say with certainty are that the cost of ocean freight—and so international waterborne trade—will increase as shippers need to invest or buy more expensive fuels,” the energy research firm said. Added was that refinery earnings should improve with the tighter fuel-quality standards, and the relative value of crude oils will change as high-sulfur, heavy crudes become less valuable. Further, the consumer will pay for the change as IMO 2020 alters the values of all refined products.

Meanwhile, just ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline, VLGC rates at year-end 2019 were on the rise and looked poised to surpass $80 a metric ton. Contributing were higher war-risk insurance premiums due to tensions in the Middle East that saw attacks on vessels and on Saudi energy infrastructure, and higher bunker prices as the IMO 2020 deadline loomed. At the same time, the maritime low-sulfur switch was expected to help keep oil prices firm, which in turn impacts propane since crude is propane’s price guide, analysts noted.

Argus Media reports that the next few months will see significant disruption to the shipping and refining markets, with a permanent result being that high-sulfur fueloil (HSFO) prices will remain below pre-IMO 2020 levels. Power generation is expected to absorb the majority of HSFO globally after it can no longer be used by vessels without scrubbers. “HSFO demand will creep back up in the coming years as more scrubbers are installed, but we don’t expect scrubber uptake to reach a level where HSFO demand makes a full comeback,” said the energy intelligence provider. “[Scrubber] orders will slow once the HSFO price rises past a point that justifies the investment. The introduction of very-low-sulfur fueloil bunker grades will also ensure that the market share for HSFO never returns to pre-IMO levels.” A high percentage of bunker demand will also be met by marine gasoil, although it is a premium-priced product.

Argus added that shipping is set for a likely multi-fuel future. Included in the mix is LNG. “Interest in LNG bunkering has lagged exhaust scrubbers mainly because of the higher cost to retrofit vessel engines, the space LNG tanks take aboard ship, and the lack of LNG bunkering infrastructure at many international ports,” the consultancy said. “There are fewer than 200 LNG-fueled vessels, excluding LNG carriers, available today. Commissioned vessel retrofits and vessel newbuilds would more than double the number of LNG-burning vessels.”

And using LNG as a marine fuel would reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly eliminate sulfur oxides and particulate matter compared with vessels burning low-sulfur fueloil or marine gasoil. Interest in more use of the fuel in the future has been supported by the widening of the LNG discount to marine gasoil. “IMO 2020 has been all about sulfur emissions, but future regulations on the emission of nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases are already on the agenda at the IMO,” Argus observed. “For shipowners who have installed sulfur scrubbers, this won’t be welcome news. But this could be what drives more shippers to LNG in the future.”

LPG Bunkering
Concurrently, one of the world’s largest owners and operators of LPG carriers, BW LPG (Singapore), will use LPG-propelled engines as part of its IMO 2020 compliance strategy. The company has signed contracts, including future options, for the delivery and retrofitting of four dual-fuel engines in its fleet, telling the trade press the first retrofits will take place in conjunction with scheduled dry dockings in 2020.

Interviewed by the World LPG Association, Martin Achermann, CEO of BW LPG, said the vessels will be the first of their kind when retrofits are completed next year. “We are quite proud. BW LPG has been preparing for IMO 2020 for years and this is the culmination of our efforts to ensure we do our part for a cleaner future.” He added that LPG propulsion is both a clean and fuel-efficient solution. “Having dual-fuel engines means we are ‘IMO forever’ as we will be using fuel that has a greener emissions profile, including an inherent compliance with all current and future sulfur oxide emission regulations. Sulfur oxide emissions will be reduced by up to 97%, which also means that we will go beyond IMO’s global 0.5% sulfur emissions cap to also be in full compliance with emission control areas and sulfur emission control areas’ 0.1% cap.”

Ackermann highlighted that bunkering with LPG will cut emissions of particulate matter by 90%, greenhouse gases by 25%, and nitrogen oxides by 20%. “Above and beyond compliance, BW LPG is proud to move the maritime industry a step toward a cleaner future.” Apart from the environmental benefits, he outlined that the company also looked at compelling reasons on the financial and operational fronts, noting that in addition to savings from reduced fuel consumption, “we are buffered from price sensitivity to post-2020 fuel price scenarios with full dual-fuel flexibility. Our vessels will reduce fuel consumption by 11% when running on LPG when compared with compliant fuels. We will also have an easy storage of fuel, faster refueling, and wide availability of bunkering ships and facilities. Operationally, engines are cleaner whereas the fuel flexibility and full redundancy ensure uninterrupted operations. All these ensure that LPG is a long-term sustainable marine fuel.”

Ackermann reviewed that there was exhaustive study of alternatives leading up to the decision to bunker with LPG. “The main objective behind the regulation is for the world’s shipping fleet to reduce pollution. We believe the best way is to provide clean fuel from the source, just as lead was removed from gasoline at the pump in the early 1990s. There is much speculation around fuel cost spreads, heavy fueloil availability, long-term durability of scrubbers, refineries’ ability to deliver, and cost of compliant fuel. We do know that more than 90% of the world’s commercial fleet will be using compliant fuel, and at BW LPG our position is that every shipowner has his own technical strategy based on the technical specifics of their vessels, trading patterns, market views, and investment capabilities. We have a young fleet and we believe that opting for a combination of LPG and cleaner compliant fueloil is a more suitable and sustainable solution for the environment and BW LPG.”

In furtherance of LPG bunkering, South Korea is seen spearheading the establishment of international standards for shipbuilding. Business Korea reports that in the absence of such standards now, the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has submitted a guideline on LPG-fueled vessels to IMO. “We presented the guideline on safety standards for building LPG-fueled ships to the IMO, and experts from around the world will start discussing standards on building them in earnest,” said a ministry official.

South Korea is leading the charge to boost market availability and thereafter demand. Infrastructure is in place in the country, and in particular LPG is emerging as an alternative to other types of vessel fuel as IMO sharply lowers the upper limit for sulfur and other emissions.

Reported is that discussions on LPG-propelled ships began in South Korea in 2016. Kim Sung-chan, a lawmaker in the Liberal Korea Party, proposed a special act on environmentally friendly vessels that year and the legislation eventually passed the National Assembly as the Act on the Promotion of Development and Distribution of Environmentally Friendly Ships. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries launched a task force on LPG-powered ships in 2017 and the Korean Register of Shipping submitted a research report on the feasibility and safety of LPG-fuel vessels.

The South Korean LPG industry is a booster of LPG bunkering. “It is highly likely that the world’s first LPG-fueled vessels will be built in Korea,” said one industry official. “If the international community moves toward eco-friendly vessel fuels, demand for LPG-fueled vessels will grow further.” — John Needham

BPN Has Played Important Role In 50-Plus-Year Career

Written By Daryl McClendon… 

Dear Natalie,

Congratulations on the 80th anniversary of BPN! In the publishing field, that is quite an achievement. It is particularly impressive since the butane-propane gas mixture had only begun as a residential fuel approximately 25 years prior to 1939. Even then, the fuel didn’t really become well established until after World War II. So to have a publication that is devoted exclusively to the propane gas industry that dates back to 1939 is truly amazing.
BPN celebrates 80th anniversary as propane industry's leading source of news and is thanked by lpg industry leader daryl McClendon 1I am reminded that Bill Clark took over ownership of BPN in 1969—50 years ago! I find that significant since I began my career in the propane industry just one year earlier, in 1968. Like BPN’s roots, I also started my career on the West Coast. As a recently hired management trainee, I tried to absorb everything I could having to do with propane. For me, BPN was a “must read.” I would look forward to each new issue and would usually read it from cover to cover a number of times.

As part of my training and exposure, I was able to attend the Western Propane Gas convention within a year or so of my hire. It was at this convention that I was first introduced to Bill. I was impressed by the fact that he took the time to actually inquire about what all I was doing and about my background. For a young person just starting out in an industry about which I knew very little, I was totally blown away by the attention he gave me.

A few years later, I was transferred to the East Coast and shortly thereafter, price and allocation controls were placed upon the industry. My boss was William (Bill) Hill, CEO and chairman of the board of Pargas Inc. Bill Hill was an attorney, a tax specialist, and served on NPGA’s [National Propane Gas Association] board. He quickly became the propane industry’s go-to guy for all matters dealing with the onerous regulations imposed upon the propane industry. It was during this time that I got to know Bill Clark much better as he would visit with Bill Hill frequently so he could gather information on the regulations and their impact on the propane industry. I was often in attendance at these meetings.

By the mid-1980s, I had become more and more involved in NPGA’s leadership and BPN continued to be a great resource for me to stay up-to-date on industry matters. Then, in the early 1990s, Milford Therrell began his crusade for a check-off program to fund industry projects that would serve and benefit the industry. Bill Clark picked up the mantle and was diligent in discussing and supporting the program with periodic updates published in BPN. Despite constant effort by Milford and others, the concept was fairly slow to develop and gather momentum within the industry. It wasn’t until John Blossman’s term as NPGA president (four years after Milford) that the concept started gathering serious momentum. I followed John Blossman to the presidency and it was during the time leading up to and during my term that Bill Clark, Milford Therrell, and I would talk on a frequent basis.

BPN celebrates 80th anniversary as the propane industry's leading source of news and info is thanked by LPG industry leader Daryl  McClendon 2Bill was always supportive and made a point of getting out the latest updates regarding the check-off program, which later became known as PERC. As a condition of the passage of the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), we had to get a double (separate votes for producers and retail marketers) and a supermajority (two-thirds) by the number of gallons sold by producers and the number of gallons sold by retail propane marketers in order to pass PERA. I don’t believe PERA would have passed had BPN not provided its strong support and information nationwide.

Natalie, I share all of this personal background to indicate the important role BPN has played throughout my 50-plus years in the propane gas industry. I’m pretty certain there are similar stories by others. Once again, congratulations on BPN’s 80th anniversary! Good luck and I hope the magazine continues for many, many more decades to come.

Daryl McClendon

About Daryl McClendon:
Daryl started his propane career with Pargas Inc. in 1968. He later served as a vice president and officer of Pargas, beginning in 1976; a vice president and division manager, and eventually senior vice president in charge of all supply and transportation, at Suburban, beginning in 1984; and senior vice president of Superior Propane and COO of Skelgas Inc., beginning in 1994. He is a past president of NPGA, a founding member of PERC, and was the second chairman of PERC after Milford Therrell. He is a recipient of the NPGA Distinguished Service Award and PERC’s Exceptional Energy Award, and is a member of the LP Gas Hall of Fame.

Westmor Industries Unveils New Website Built With Users In Mind

Morris, Minn. (December 27, 2019) — Westmor Industries, LLC., one of North America’s most comprehensive energy storage, transportation and dispensing equipment manufacturers and suppliers, launched a newly designed website this month at westmor-ind.com.
Westmor Logo 1
Filled with more robust photos, customer stories, literature and product details, the new Westmor website improves the company’s ability to communicate a growing list of products and services. Built with the user in mind, the new site has an easy-to-navigate menu bar and a sleek mobile-friendly design. It also includes a stock inventory listing where customers can find a list of current, stock units.

Westmor aims to stay on the cutting edge with technology in order to better serve its clients, and the new website is just one point on the strategic roadmap.

About Westmor Industries, LLC:
Headquartered in Morris, Minnesota, with satellite locations throughout the United States, Westmor Industries is a privately-owned company with more than 250,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 500 employees. The 46-year-old company supplies its customers with a diverse group of product offerings used to store, transport and dispense petroleum, propane and other liquids and gases from Pipeline to Pump®. In addition, Westmor provides customers with vast aftermarket support including parts sales, product repair, infrastructure installation and in-field services.

NPGA Applauds Congressional Passage of Propane Alternative Fuel Tax Credits, R&D Appropriations

Washington, DC (December 28, 2019) — Congress recenlty passed H.R. 1865, which will provide the propane industry with prospective tax certainty, as well as valuable research and development funding.

NPGA Legislation Alert LogoNational Propane Gas Association (NPGA) President and CEO Stephen Kaminski applauds the work of Congress on passing critical year-end legislation that supports small businesses and energy consumers across the country.

“When Congress and the private sector work together, America wins,” Kaminski said. “This legislation will motivate consumers to make smart, green energy decisions, drive the development of modern technology using resilient energy sources such as propane, and promote the growth of small businesses.”

H.R. 1865 includes an extension of the alternative fuel tax credit and the refueling property credit, covering the years 2018-2020. These credits incentivize the use and adoption of propane as an engine fuel. These propane-powered vehicle credits are worth more than $500 million, putting more clean vehicles on the road and money back in the pockets of consumers.

Following Senate passage, H.R.1865 is headed to the White House, where it is expected to be signed into law before midnight on December 20 by President Donald J. Trump.

For the first time since 2015, Congress has extended these credits prospectively—through December 31, 2020. “Congress is sending a clear message to the country that it recognizes propane as a clean and green fuel of the future,” said Kaminski. NPGA thanks Representative John Larson (D-CT) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) for their bipartisan and bicameral leadership to advance these essential policy initiatives.

In near future, NPGA will provide guidance to the industry from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on how to claim the credit retroactively and for 2020.

Recognizing the advantages of propane as an independent energy source with wide-ranging applicability, H.R. 1865 also provides funding for U.S. Department of Energy research, development, and demonstration projects, including $5 million for propane vehicle engine technology development and access to up to $10 million for propane combined heat and power systems development.

In addition, NPGA will continue to advocate for H.R. 5089, the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit Extension Act of 2019, which would extend the alternative fuel tax credit prospectively for several more years. “Long-term credits give customers and communities certainty, providing the best incentives to increase investment in low-emission, propane-powered vehicles,” Kaminski said. “The association looks forward to working with Congress in the coming years to build on this significant victory and bring value to propane customers across the country.”