Women In Propane: How A Passion For Horses Led To A Career In Propane

Growing the liquefied petroleum (LP) transportation sector of a national insurance company was not Michelle Ceschan’s career goal when she graduated from Robert Morris University 15 years ago with a degree in communications and a passion for horses. She knew nothing about insurance or propane distribution.
Women In Propane's Michelle Ceschan's love of horses led her to a career as LPG Insurance professional reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news and information since 1939
Growing up with horses, cattle, sheep, and cats in a rural community in Ohio, Ceschan, now a business development specialist for propane operations at National Interstate Insurance Co., did know hard work and responsibility. Taking care of the animals before and after school was part of her daily routine. She began riding horses at age 2 and was involved in 4H along with her brother. In high school, she began working at a local tack shop and continued there even after graduation. It was a coworker at the tack shop who nudged her to apply for a job at Progressive Corp.

While at Progressive, she became immersed and worked her way up to becoming a commercial auto inside sales representative. Nine years later, she moved to National Interstate, a specialty property and casualty insurance company based in Richfield, Ohio.

The new position brought tremendous opportunity, which changed the course of her career and opened the door to the propane industry. Within six months, Ceschan was brought in to focus on growth of the company’s Transportation: LP division, working with propane distributors.

“I’ve made a career out of insurance,” she said. “If you’d asked me in high school if I would be building a career based on insurance and propane, I would have said never.”

National Interstate offers both a traditional insurance program designed specifically for LP distributors and an alternative risk transfer program specific to this class of business. Alternative risk transfer insurance, or ART, allows propane distributors to basically become their own insurance companies. Premiums are paid into the customized program. If the company doesn’t suffer significant losses, a portion of the premium, along with investment income, may be returned.

“It’s definitely a niche. Not everyone is the same size. We do different solutions for customers,” she said, explaining her customers may have anywhere from three transportation units to 400 units. “We like to lay it all out for our customers to have options. Buyers are more interested in seeing what they can get for their money.”
Although her official title is business development specialist, Ceschan also plays a customer service role working with both agents and customers when they have a claim or issue. “The nice thing about propane, they [her clients] are very safety focused. There’s not a lot of crisis-focus activity.”

Her clients and agents are located primarily in the Midwest, but a few are sprinkled throughout the country. She travels quarterly to visit customers and agents and attend industry conferences.

One of the fun parts of her job is when her propane career intersects with her passion and hobby of showing horses. An avid rider of both English- and Western-style, Ceschan has won several regional and national horse shows. Once the show season rolls around—spring through fall—she’s on the circuit where she occasionally runs into her customers.

“There are some of our current clients who show the same breed, but in different states. Similar to propane, it’s a close-knit community,” she said. “It’s kind of neat to have that different connection with someone.”

Several years ago, Ceschan also started a side business out of her home related to her love of horse shows: Hold It! Magnetic Numbers, custom-made Swarovski number holders for equestrians. And, she and her husband, Justin, still find time to travel and attend their niece’s and nephew’s activities.

Her secret to managing a demanding career, horse shows, and family? “It’s just a matter of being organized. I have a planner I pull out every morning to review daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and events. I use a lot of Post-it notes, and also have a running list of notes on my phone for various activities in the event I’m not by my planner. I also find reminders work wonders, too!” — Karen Massman VanAsdale

(SOURCE: Butane Propane News, April 2019. If you know of an amazing Woman In Propane contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

New Online Resource Center Helps School Transportation Professionals identify and apply for Volkswagen Settlement Funds

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2019) – The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) launched a new resource center that will provide school transportation professionals with in-depth information about the advantages to purchasing propane autogas school buses and a Volkswagen Trust Resource Center-curated state-by-state map with details regarding how to identify and apply for Volkswagen settlement funds.

New Online Resource Center Helps School Transportation Professionals identify and apply for Volkswagen Settlement Funds For No-Emission Propane Autogas School busesWith the resources provided in the Volkswagen Trust Resource Center, school transportation professionals will learn more about the benefits of propane autogas, how to accurately evaluate  NOx reductions and how to calculate the total cost savings for propane autogas. 

Propane autogas school buses reduce NOx emissions by up to 96 percent compared to model year equivalent diesel school buses. Plus, propane autogas is 93 percent more cost-effective than clean diesel and 66 percent more cost-effective than electric, providing school bus fleet owners with the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel.

The resource center also includes an interactive map where school transportation professionals can research their state mitigation plan, identify potential funding opportunities and learn how to apply for VW settlement funds. Many states have finalized their mitigation plans and are actively accepting funding applications for new school buses which could be powered by propane autogas.

“Over 900 school districts nationwide are realizing tremendous value with their propane autogas school buses, thanks to the lowest total cost-of-ownership and reliable, clean operation,” said Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development at PERC. “We encourage school transportation professionals to visit our resource center to see for themselves why propane autogas is the right choice for their fleet and how to start the VW application process.”

Based on the most recent data from PERC, since 2012, propane autogas school bus registrations have increased by more than 700 percent, with more than 17,000 propane autogas school buses on the road nationwide. Over one million students in 47 states are safely transported to school and home every day aboard propane autogas school buses.

For more information about purchasing propane autogas school buses with VW settlement funds, visit Propane.com/Volkswagen-Trust-Resource-Center/.
About PERC: The Propane Education & Research Council 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.

Energy Distribution Partners Makes 23rd Acquision With Pacific Propane In California

 (May 7, 2019) — Energy Distribution Partners (“EDP”), based in Chicago, Illinois, announced the acquisition of Pacific Propane which serves propane customers in and around Castroville, California. This is EDP’s 23rd transaction.

Pacific Propane in California Acquired by Energy Distribution Partners reports BPN May 7, 2019Pacific Propane was founded in 1998 and was later purchased by Maskey and Paula Heath. After Maskey passed away in 2016, Paula continued to build the business through focusing on providing exceptional service to their customers. Pacific Propane primarily serves residential propane customers in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties.

Energy Distribution Partners CEO Tom Knauff said, “We are extremely pleased to assume ownership of Pacific Propane. We welcome their employees to EDP and are committed to continuing to provide the high level of service Pacific Propane customers have come to expect. We are also pleased to continue expanding our footprint in California.”

About Energy Distribution Partners
Energy Distribution Partners is a rapidly-growing company in America's fast-changing energy landscape – with deep experience in retail and commercial propane sales, operations and finance. The company provides safe, reliable propane service to residential and commercial customers in California, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina. Energy Distribution Partners pursues a long-term strategy of purchasing successful operations in propane and other fuels and in the midstream energy sector, retaining the brand name, preserving local management and delegating to leaders in local communities. EDP is actively seeking partners for growth. For more information, please visit www.edplp.net.

Insurance Industry Losses Mean Higher Premiums for Propane Marketers

By Frank B. Thompson…  

The headline from the Insurance Journal read, “A.M. Best Sees $12 Billion P/C Insurance Underwriting Loss for 2018.”

This was followed by even worse news: “The U.S. property/casualty industry is expected to report that 2018 was its third consecutive year with an underwriting loss.” That loss in 2018 follows a $25.3 billion loss in 2017, and a loss of $7.3 billion in 2016.
Frank Thompson Propane Insurance Broker and president of PT Risk Managment for LPG marketers
So what does that mean to propane marketers? The answer: higher premiums. The property and casualty insurance market has been stable over the past six years. Rates have stayed flat, which allowed some new insurance companies to enter the propane marketplace.

The focus of the propane industry has been on CETP training, which has reduced the frequency and severity of liability claims. This allowed the newer insurance companies to enter the marketplace with lower premiums; however, claims outside of general liability have increased substantially. Property claims from forest fires, tornados, wind, and hail storms are increasing in frequency.

All insurance companies, whether new or old, are experiencing an underwriting loss when it comes to vehicles. Weather-related claims, such as fire damage and flooding along with fog and snow, increase the loss ratio. Auto parts and repairs are rising, as are distracted driving accidents. All of the above are reasons why there is the $12 billion underwriting loss.

Why is the huge loss terrifying? Because for the past six or seven years, when an insurance agent called on a propane marketer, their sales pitch was that they had an insurance company that could beat the existing company’s price. This forced the insurance producer that had the business to go back to the insurance carrier they were using and try to get a price reduction to match the lower quote.

Now the price increases place the shoe on the other foot. The insurance companies are forced to raise insurance premiums for their customers. The increased cost will cause some marketers to forget the savings they got in the good times and they will be out shopping their business due to the price increases.
A new agent, just starting out, explained to me how terrifying the future looked to her. She has been calling on new accounts to quote and every time she gets an opportunity to quote, she is higher than last year’s premium. It is hard to sell a new account when the buyer was expecting 2018 pricing and, due to rate increases, now has no price advantage.

My response was that she was going to have to learn to sell the coverage and service differences between the insurance companies, which did not make her happy. This gets back to the old saying, “there is a fair price for any item, everyone in the chain has to make a profit,” which is also true about the price of insurance.

Frank B. Thompson is a chartered property and casualty underwriter based in Phoenix. He is the owner of PT Risk Management, an independent insurance company specializing in writing propane and petroleum risk policies throughout the U.S.

U.S. to Terminate Sanctions Waivers on Iranian Exports

The Trump administration said April 22 the U.S. would end all waivers from Iran energy export sanctions when they expired May 2. S&P Global Platts reports the announcement sparked an immediate threat from Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s busiest oil transit choke point. In turn, crude oil futures settled at new six-month highs April 22 as the market eyed an increasingly tight global supply picture in light of the White House decision.
Map of Iran USA Terminate Sanctions Waivers on Iranian Propane LPG Oil Exports
The business information provider notes that Iran’s top customers, among them China, India, and Turkey, will be risking U.S. sanctions enforcement if they continue to import Iranian oil after their waivers expire. The Trump administration has asserted it intends to “bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.”

Iranian oil exports averaged more than 1.7 MMbbld in March, including nearly 628,000 bbld sent to China and more than 357,000 bbld shipped to India, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow data and shipping sources. Iranian exports had fallen below 1.06 MMbbld last November when the U.S. re-imposed sanctions. That level was down from just below 2 MMbbld in November 2017. Analysts had widely expected the U.S. to extend waivers for some of Iran’s biggest buyers of crude and condensate, including China, India, South Korea and, potentially, Turkey.

“The decision will not only mean maximum pressure on Iran, but also maximum pressure on oil markets, especially as we head into the high-demand summer season,” said one analyst. S&P Global Platts sees “much tighter” oil supply for the remainder of the year,” adding that the sanctions move “nearly exhausts the oil market’s spare capacity in a time when risks to oil supply are high.”

Further, China’s response to tougher U.S. oil sanctions on Iran will be crucial to the 2019 oil supply and price outlook. The top importer accounted for 40% of Iran’s shipments in the first quarter of this year, and China has the ability to skirt sanctions without damaging its economy, analysts said. India, Iran’s second-largest customer, accounted for 23% of first-quarter shipments. India is expected to largely comply with U.S. sanctions, analysts said. Japan and South Korea, which each accounted for 13% of Iran’s first-quarter exports, will almost certainly halt trading with Iran when their waivers expire.

“China is the big $80/bbl question, and one that oil markets will be closely following,” remarked an analyst. “I think China will further reduce imports from Iran in a nod to U.S. policy, but will continue buying Iranian crude in defiance of U.S. sanctions.” Trade talks between the U.S. and China complicate the question of Beijing’s compliance with Iran sanctions. Analysts said the U.S. may find a way to ease up on sanctions enforcement in exchange for concessions as part of any eventual trade deal. Still, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo told reporters April 22 the U.S. would strictly enforce the sanctions and monitor compliance. “Any nation or entity interact- ing with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution,” he said. “The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”

Pompeo said U.S. officials “have used the highest possible care in our decision to ensure market stability,” including discussions with importing countries to help find alternate supplies. He said rising U.S. oil production has also helped with the transition, citing Energy Information Administration (EIA) data on U.S. output growth of 1.6 MMbbld from 2017 to 2018 and expected growth of 1.5 MMbbld this year. He said he was confident Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would make up any supply gaps. “They have committed to making sure that there’s sufficient supply in the markets, and I’m confident that we’ll achieve that. I’m confident that they’ll support this policy that is consistent with their objectives as well.”

President Donald Trump tweeted April 22 that Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members will “more than make up the oil-flow difference in our now full sanctions on Iranian oil.” However, analysts said global output cooperation would be more challenging. “The U.S. wants to leave the impression that its Gulf partners will replace Iranian oil barrel for barrel,” said Ellen Wald, an energy industry and policy consultant at Transversal Consulting. “But the Saudis can’t publicly commit to anything more than a general market management.”

S&P Global Platts reports while Saudi Arabia has the ability to replace Iranian barrels, doing so would strain its spare capacity and ability to replace other supply at risk, including threatened supply from Venezuela and Libya. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, curtailed its output by 280,000 bbld in March to 9.87 MMbbld, its lowest since February 2017. “For the next month and a half, Saudi Arabia can increase production above 10.3 MMbbld if it wants, because its production over the last few months was lower,” Wald said. “However, heading into the June 25 OPEC meeting, Saudi Arabia will need to convince its OPEC and non-OPEC partners that it is not beholden to a deal with the United States. Otherwise, Saudi Arabia will lose leverage in Vienna.” At the same time, the April 22 sanctions announcement came as the U.S. is still considering secondary sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports, although analysts said those would likely be delayed.

Meanwhile, Iran’s response has been aggressive. The nation repeated its threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, drawing a U.S. military pledge to respond. The strait, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is viewed as the most important oil chokepoint in the world, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates all dependent on it to transport crude and refined products to world markets. S&P Global Platts, citing EIA, reports that in the first half of 2018, about 18 MMbbld of crude and condensate, roughly 4 MMbbld of petroleum products, and about 300 million cu meters per day of LNG were shipped through the waterway.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, May 6, 2019)