Propane People "In The News"…

(July 2019) — During the annual meeting of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) board of directors in early June, Randy Thompson of ThompsonGas LLC was sworn in as chairman; Denis Gagne, Eastern Propane Gas (Rochester, N.H.), chairman-elect; Robert Barry, Bergquist Inc. (Toledo, Ohio), vice chairman; and Michelle Bimson Maggi, AmeriGas/UGI (King of Prussia, Pa.), treasurer.

Propane People In the News July 2019 new officers and directors announced for National Propane Gas Association & distinguished service awards and other new employees to join LPG industry July 2019 A number of presentations were made to honor NPGA members during the meeting. Dan Myers was given the industry’s highest honor, the 2018 Distinguished Service Award. Myers was NPGA executive vice president, general manager, and general counsel from 1976 to 2003. During this time, he transitioned NPGA to a fully functional accounting system; oversaw a major dues restructuring; created new field staff positions; expanded annual sales of safety, training and marketing publications; coordinated a congressional lobbying campaign to create PERC; and spearheaded NPGA’s move from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in 2003.

Past chairman Chris Earhart awarded three Chairman’s Citations to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the industry: Dan Balmer of Penn Valley Gas Inc. (Telford, Pa.); Robert Blackwell of Independent Propane Co. (Pine, Colo.); and William Young of Superior Energy Systems Ltd. Dan Richardson of Conger LP Gas Inc., and Georgia State Director, was honored as State Director of the Year.

Three outgoing committee chairmen were also recognized. They include Billy Cox, O’Neal Gas Inc. (Choudrant, Ala.), Audit committee; Ray Murray, Ray Murray Inc. (Lee, Mass.), Distinguished Service Award committee; and Jim Zuck, Marshall Excelsior (Marshall, Mich.), TS&S committee.

Fourteen new directors were introduced during the meeting. They include: Alabama Director, Mark Denton, Blossman Gas Inc. (Ocean Springs, Miss.); Delaware Director, Jason Hickman, AmeriGas Propane LP (New Castle, Del.); Director at Large, Joe Rose, Lin’s Propane Trucks Corp. (Loudon, N.H.); Distributor Section Director, Lauren Clark, Bergquist Inc. (Toledo, Ohio); District 7 Director, Daniel Dixon, AmeriGas Propane LP (King of Prussia, Pa.); Individual Member and Services Section Director, David Lowe, Pro Image Communications (Grand Blanc, Mich.); New Jersey Director, Beth Karr, AmeriGas Propane LP (Windsor, N.J.); and Propane Supplier Section, Tyler Kelly, CHS Inc., Inver Grove Heights, Minn.). Additional directors include PropanePAC Committee Chair Chad Kroening, Boehlke Bottled Gas Corp. (Cedarburg, Wis.); Services Section Director, Tom Mullaney, Aegis General Insurance Agency (Conway, Ark.); Services Section Director, Steve Wambold, Team Drive-Away Inc. (Olathe, Kan.); Technology, Standards, and Safety Chair, Johnny Patrick, Rutherford Equipment Inc. (Covington, Ga.); Virginia Director, Brian Atwood, Parker Oil Co. (Suffolk, Va.); and Washington Director, Mark Dettloff, Blue Star Gas (Santa Rosa, Ca.).
New Propane Industry People In The News Tank Utility announces Blaire Fernandez Joins firm as Vice President of Customer Success in july 2019 reports BPN the propane industry's leading souce for news and information since 1939.
Blaire Fernandez has joined Tank Utility (Boston) as the vice president of Customer Success. For the past seven years, she has run teams with this function in Silicon Valley. The team takes a consultative approach to managing accounts and is dedicated to ensuring Tank Utility’s customers reach goals for tank monitoring and profitability.
Tank Utility Names Phillippe Bo as new CFO propane people in the news, July 2019 BPN the propane industry's leading source for LPG news and info since 1939.
Philippe Bo has been appointed to vice president of finance with responsibility for overseeing Tank Utility’s financial strategy. Previously, Bo had been CFO for Brinks in charge of the Americas region, where he built a strong expertise in logistics. He began his financial career with GE and has held several divisional CFO roles within GE Capital.
Energy Distribution Partners (EDP) announces Clayton Cook hired as new General Manager of United Propane, July 2019
Clayton Cook has joined Energy Distribution Partners (EDP; Chicago) as general manager for United Propane, which serves residential, commercial, and agricultural customers in a seven-county area around Lancaster, Ohio. It was formerly part of United Landmark, which included propane, agronomy, and retail sales. Cook began his career with United Landmark while he was still in college, learning every aspect of the propane business, from painting tanks to sales. After graduating, he became involved with the company’s commercial energy sales and marketing, and in 2012, Cook became the general manager of propane operations and continued in that role as the company transitioned to be known as United Propane.
Energy Distribution Partners (EDP) announces Dan Boyd new general manager for Anderson Propane. BPN's Propane People in the News,  July 2019.
Dan Boyd has joined EDP as general manager for Anderson Propane Services, which serves residential and commercial customers in the Caldwell and Uhrichsville, Ohio, areas. He started his career in 1994, working as a Suburban Propane service technician before moving into management with Propane Continental, where he managed a retail location for several companies including Titan Propane and Heritage Propane. He joined Anderson Propane in 2015 and now manages all aspects of the business, with a focus on providing exceptional customer service.

Mike Lorenz has joined Teeco Products (Irvine, Calif.) as regional sales manager for the Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions. Previously, he held operations management and sales roles in a variety of business segments before becoming a member of the propane industry in 2015, working in sales management for AmeriGas.

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Forward Energy Purchases Propane Division of Hirschman Oil

Forward Energy, a subsidiary of Forward Corp. (Standish, Mich.) has acquired the propane division of Hirschman Oil and Propane, an 85-year-old company headquartered in Reese, Mich. Details regarding the transaction were not released.
Forward Energy propane acquired the propane division of Hirschman Oil and Propane reports BPN The Weekly Propane Newsletter July 22, 2019
Forward Energy said the purchase boosts its strategic growth, both in number of customers and service area. Now primarily serving customers in central and northern Michigan, the acquisition expands Forward Energy’s reach farther south and into
the state’s Thumb region.

Forward said it will now serve more than 6000 propane customers across 23 counties, making it one of the largest locally owned suppliers in Michigan. “This is a very exciting time for Forward Energy,” said Abby Moniz, president of Forward Corp.
“Our propane division continues to thrive, and acquiring a quality, well-respected company such as Hirschman will make us stronger and give us more opportunity to serve our customers.”

Family owned and operated since 1934, Hirschman Oil and Propane will continue to do business as Hirschman Oil Supply, focusing on fueloil, diesel, gasoline, and lubricants. The company will move to a new office building later this summer at 2727 W. Vassar Road in Reese. Forward Energy will maintain an office in Reese in the current Hirschman building, in addition to its main office in Standish and a satellite office in Roscommon. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner in this transition,” said Mark Hirschman, president of Hirschman Oil Supply. “We wanted to make sure our propane customers were well taken care of, so we’re happy to be passing the torch to another local, family-owned company such as Forward.”

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 22, 2019)

Tech Recruitment Programs Growing Gallons, Propane Workforce

Sharp Energy (Georgetown, Del.) has developed a program that will give students a close-up look at the workday of a propane service technician. The program also will give the company a chance to recruit, mentor, and perhaps hire a new generation of techs.

Sharp Energy Launches Tech School Recruitment Program to train propane LPG service technicians reports BPN June 2019A subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities Corp., Sharp Energy distributes propane in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It is also a partner of Alliance AutoGas. In this new program, the company is partnering with a local high school and two community colleges: Sussex Tech High School (Georgetown, Del.), Delaware Technical and Community College (Dover, Del.), and Wor-Wic Community College (Salisbury, Md.).

In a part of the program that will be offered for the first time this summer, students will work full time, shadowing a technician. Two students from each of the three schools will be offered this summer internship. The idea is to give students the hands-on experience they need to earn a certificate; give schools an opportunity to place students in jobs after graduation; and give Sharp Energy a chance to evaluate the performance of interns before offering them a job.

“When they graduate after a successful stint in the program, we hope to invite them to come to work for us,” says Andy Hesson, vice president of Sharp Energy, who developed the recruiting and mentoring program. “It’s not a sure thing, but we hope they will.”

A PRETTY COMPELLING STORY
“We have a pretty compelling story,” he adds. “This is an opportunity for people who are not going to college. For students who like working with their hands, this opportunity is out there.”

The program has been in the works for about a year, Hesson says. Like other companies in the propane industry and other industries, the company has found it increasingly difficult to find and hire service technicians.

“There has been an overall change in the last five years or six years,” Hesson says. “People used to line up to work in jobs like these. Then we couldn’t find people and we had to pay top dollar for those we could find.”

“For people who have grown up with computers, field work is something they are not familiar with,” he adds. “It’s an unknown what propane technicians do.”

When Hesson took the idea of the internship to administrators at the schools, he explained to them the industry and the opportunities it offers. “The first time we met with them, they asked, ‘What does Sharp Energy do? What does a propane field service technician do?’ We had to sell what our company does and what our industry does.”
The company made a video that includes this information. It has shown the video at schools and job fairs. The schools it now partners with also play the video between classes as students are walking around. “Anything to get our message out,” Hesson says.

A FULFILLING CAREER
“Our message is that we care about the future of students and for those with aspirations of having a fulfilling career, this can be that opportunity,” he adds. “We have had service technicians go into management, engineering, business, and analyzing. We have a service technician now managing our Dover district. He was a technician, then a service manager, then a district manager. These are real-life examples.”

The company’s partnership with the schools has already resulted in one hire. “We had one student who had been studying auto mechanics come to us,” Hesson says. “It was a great transition. That is one of the industries we are competing against for talent. People with a hands-on, mechanical mind get up to speed in half the time.”
The video Sharp Energy uses to introduce the company and the propane industry to school administrators and students—“Who We Are”—is available for viewing on the home page at sharpenergy.com. — Steve Relyea

(Copyright: Butane Propane News, June 2019)

Propane Tank Producers Applaud Injury Decision; Appeal Antidumping Determination for Thailand

WASHINGTON (July 17, 2019) — U.S. producers of steel propane cylinders hailed today's final determination of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that imports of steel propane cylinders from China and Thailand are causing injury to the domestic industry. The Commission vote was unanimous, with four members of the ITC voting in the affirmative and one member recused. 

Worthington and Manchester Tank producers of Steel Propane Tanks Applaud International Trade Commission Injury Decision; Will Appeal Commerce Department Final Antidumping Duty Determination for Thailand This was the final step in the antidumping and countervailing duty investigations filed by Worthington Industries, Inc. and Manchester Tank and Equipment on May 22, 2018.  The ITC's decision follows the June 17, 2019 determination by the U.S. Department of Commerce ("Commerce") that imports of steel propane cylinders from China and Thailand were dumped and that imports from China were also subsidized.

Imports from China and Thailand surged into the U.S. market in recent years, displacing U.S. producers' sales and market share.  The domestic industry stated that this import surge was driven by low import pricing that caused U.S. producers to suffer from reduced prices and profits. 

Paul Rosenthal, counsel to the U.S. producers, applauded the ITC's decision, saying, "This determination will lay the foundation for restoring fair pricing to the marketplace."

As a result of the ITC's vote, the Commerce Department will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to require U.S. importers of steel propane cylinders from China and Thailand to deposit estimated antidumping duties at the time of importation as follows:

Country Dumping and Subsidy Margins
China 37-217 percent (combined)
Thailand 10.77 percent
  
If the foreign producers continue to dump, these duties could increase in subsequent years.  In the meantime, the two domestic producers announced their intention to appeal the Commerce Department's antidumping duty determination for Thailand with the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, NY.  The U.S. producers contend that the Commerce Department made errors that resulted in a significantly understated margin of dumping by Thai producer Sahamitr Pressure Container Public Company Limited. 

Mr. Rosenthal added, "The Commerce Department made several errors in its analysis of the final dumping margin for Sahamitr.  We intend to appeal Commerce's final determination. We are confident that a court order for Commerce to reevaluate its analysis will result in a significantly higher antidumping duty deposit rate on imports of steel propane cylinders from Thailand."

Domestic Producers: 
The steel propane cylinders subject to the investigation are used in recreational vehicles, outdoor barbecue grills, fire pits and heat lamps. The domestic producers that petitioned for antidumping and countervailing duty relief from imports of steel propane cylinders from China, and antidumping relief from Thailand, are Worthington Industries, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio and Manchester Tank and Equipment of Franklin, Tennessee. The companies are represented by Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, Washington, D.C.

(SOURCE PR Newswire, July 18, 2019)

Studies Show Propane Weed Flaming Best Organic Certified Method For Farmers

The clean, green weed control that propane provides benefits organic farmers by reducing costs, increasing yields, and by giving farmers the ability to weed when the ground is wet, several new research studies report.

Flaming weeds using propane only certified-organic option available that benefits organic farmers by lowering costs, increasing yields, reports butane propane news 072019When Randy Fendrich was invited to participate in a research project on flame weeding, he had never before used it at his organic farm. After joining the project and using a four-row flamer to kill weeds in his rows of corn, he was so pleased with the results, he built himself a 12-row flamer. He built it before the project was even complete and he is still using it today.

Flame weeding uses heat for weed control. Equipment mounted to a tractor and fueled by propane sends out plumes of flames directed at weeds in a crop. This does not ignite the weeds, but kills them. The tractor moves through the field at about 4 mph and the weeds are exposed to the high heat for 1/10 of a second. They wilt, fall on the ground, and die. When it’s done properly, the crops are unaffected.

Prior to the research project, Fendrich had been using a rotary hoe and cultivator for weed control in his cornfields at Fendrich Family Organics (Linwood, Neb.). “The biggest benefit is that the flaming gets the weeds so I don’t have to hire workers to cut them,” he says. “I save money.”

SAVING MONEY AND TIME
Larry Stanislav, another organic farmer, also continued using flaming after learning about it during the research project. At Stanislav Farms (Abie, Neb.), he uses it with corn and soybeans. He started with a four-row flamer and has since added a six-row flamer. Stanislav, too, says flame weeding saves him money and time. What’s more, he adds, it allows more nutrients and moisture to go to the crop rather than weeds.

“Anytime I don’t have to disturb the soil, I’m not breaking down the microorganisms that feed the plants and help them grow,” he explains. “If I can reduce the number of tillage passes, I can improve fertility and save water. It’s beneficial for soil life and it adds to the bottom line. I get a healthy crop and a nice harvest.”

Stanislav adds that using clean-burning propane flamers reduces the need to burn other fuels in other equipment. It also eliminates using sprays or poisons that affect beneficial insects, the ones that pollinate crops, as well as harmful ones. “Propane can be a help in reducing the amount of chemicals guys are using.”

GALLONS PER ACRE
Both Stanislav and Fendrich report that flaming consumes about five gallons of propane per acre. Fendrich does it once a year, right at the beginning of the season when the corn and weeds are small. Stanislav flames the corn once or twice a year and the soybeans once a year, but this year he will try flaming the soybeans a second time as well.

The amount of propane used by other farmers in the research project varied, depending on the method being used, says Dr. George Gogos, one of the researchers who led the study. Banded flaming treats a band up to a foot wide, centered in the crop row. This consumes five gallons per acre, generally twice a year. Full flaming treats a band that’s 30 inches wide. This method consumes 10 gallons per acre, twice a year.

Flamers have many other uses on farms. Some consume as much as 20 to 30 gallons of propane per acre.

The Farm Research Center (Garden City, Mo.; thefarmgc.com), an independent research farm, has found that using a broadcast burner to burn the entire area of the field consumes 10 to 20 gallons per acre. A broadcast burner is used in the fall, after the combine, to reduce weed pressure in the spring. “If you start clean, you’ll stay clean, especially in organic farming,” says David Yoder, farm manager at The Farm Research Center.
Flaming weeds benefits organic farmers reducing costs reports Butane Propane News 07 2019
Flame Engineering (LaCrosse, Kan.), a U.S. manufacturer of agricultural equipment since 1959, has seen propane consumption rates of six to 10 gallons per acre on the tractor-mounted equipment currently used by farmers. Darren Viegra, who handles sales at Flame Engineering, says farmers use the company’s row crop flamers and pre-emergent flamers two or three times a year, depending on Mother Nature. Farmers use the company’s vineyard and orchard flamers much more often—every 12 to 15 days.

Earth & Sky Solutions (White Hall, Va.; earthandskysolutions.com), an agricultural equipment dealer serving the Mid-Atlantic region and other states, tells farmers they can expect to use three to six gallons per acre for vineyard and orchard flaming; four to seven gallons per acre for vegetable bed flaming; five to 10 gallons per acre for row crop flaming; seven gallons per acre for tobacco row crop flaming; and 20 to 30 gallons per acre for alfalfa hay field and potato vine flaming. For poultry house flame sanitation, Earth & Sky Solutions tells customers they can expect to use 25 gallons when flaming a 40-foot by 500-foot house when moving at 1/2 mph.

A GROWING MARKET
Gogos, a professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Dr. Stevan Knezevic, a weed management expert at the same university, led research funded by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The project ran from 2007 to 2012 and concentrated on row crops. Gogos’ combustion lab was used to develop torches and then these were tested in university fields and by five organic farmers. Each farmer would grow crops in five acres using traditional methods and in an adjacent five acres using flaming. At the end of each season, they compared the yield. In the areas that were flamed, “there was consistent yield increase,” Gogos says. “We got yields comparable to hand weeding or conventional farming with chemicals.”

The Farm Research Center has had similar results in its trial of burning for weed and insect control. It grew corn and soybeans and compared the yield of areas that were burned to the yield of areas that were hand weeded. There was no yield difference between the two areas. It also found that when burning is done to crops in the field, it is not damaging as long as the growth portion of the plant is higher than the torches on the burner. This research began five years ago and is ongoing.

The results were phenomenal,” Yoder says. “We found burning was a very efficient way to eliminate weed pressure. We didn’t see a yield drag. If anything, we saw a yield increase, because the crops are not competing with weeds.”
Weed Flaming Cheap Organic Way to Weed crops Butane Propane News. 07 2019jpg
Flame weeding is not new, Gogos explains. It started in the 1850s and was used by as many as 30,000 farmers up to the 1960s. Then, chemical pesticides came into use and flame cultivation almost died out. It was revived in the 1990s, however, when organic farming started becoming popular. Organic farmers can’t use most chemicals, and those they can use are very expensive. They can only eliminate weeds with mechanical cultivation, meaning with a cultivator or by hoeing.

Today, there is room for growth. Only about 0.5% of U.S. farmland is certified organic, but there is double-digit growth every year, Gogos says. In Europe, 5% of the land—10 times the percentage in the U.S.—is organic.

“If you are in organic farming, propane flaming is the tool,” Gogos says. “There is no other organic certified method to get the weeds in the row that compete with the crop. That is the value of flaming.”

There is room for growth among conventional farmers as well. Gogos says he has received calls from conventional farmers seeking a solution for weeds that have developed resistance to chemical weed killers. “It’s a challenge, though, because it is much quicker and easier to spray chemicals indiscriminately than it is to flame,” he adds.

Viegra of Flame Engineering says most of the company’s customers are organic farmers, but its equipment is used by conventional farmers, too. “Weeds are becoming resistant to chemicals, so they come to us to learn about flame technology,” he says. He adds that another benefit to all farmers is that flaming also eliminates insects and larvae and their habitat.

EQUIPMENT, METHODS
Flame Engineering offers a variety of flamers. For agricultural use, it offers row crop flamers; vineyard and orchard flamers; alfalfa flamers; and pre-emergent flamers. The company also offers a poultry house sanitizer. For smaller farmers, Flame Engineering offers hand-held and walk-behind flamers as well as pull-behinds that are used with an ATV or a tractor. “There’s no specific customer—we have flamers for everything from the backyard to the field.”

Viegra adds the crops flamers are most often used with are corn, orchards, and hemp. “We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls in the last year from farmers growing hemp,” he says. “Growers can’t put chemicals on that; it’s all organic hemp. They can only do hand weeding and mechanical, so flaming is very cost-effective.”

“It’s a good product,” he adds. “With the price of propane, it’s a lot cheaper than hand labor. Plus, weeds will never become resistant to 2000 degrees of heat.”
Earth & Sky Solutions specializes in environmentally friendly solutions for agriculture, including flame technology for chemical-free agriculture. The company supplies Flame Engineering’s Red Dragon flame weeding equipment. Most of its customers are organic farmers, but poultry house flame sanitation tools go to conventional farmers as well. The company also has Red Dragon’s solutions for small-scale growers on its garden tools website (waycooltools.com).

“We field a lot of questions from farmers who are unfamiliar with flaming,” says Charles House, owner of Earth & Sky Solutions. “Many of those who call are transitioning to organic farming and are looking for non-chemical solutions. I pass on a lot of information.”

Some ask if flaming will hurt the soil or microorganisms. House answers that there is minimal damage to either. Some are concerned about propane, saying it’s a fossil fuel. He answers that propane is nontoxic and can’t hurt the environment. “Propane is a real good fit for organic farmers,” House says.

When a farmer has decided to use flaming, he sets them up with the proper equipment for their crop and situation.

“Any equipment I sell, I go out to the farm for a day to show them the safety features and how to adjust everything,” House says. “My goal is to leave them confident using the equipment. I also provide phone consultation anytime they need it.”

“One thing I say is, ‘Don’t wait for a weed emergency; have the equipment ready before you plant. Be prepared.’”

21ST CENTURY FLAMING
After seeing the results of their research project, Gogos and Knezevic established a company to build flaming equipment. Today, in addition to his post at the university, Gogos is CEO/lead product developer at the company, Agricultural Flaming Innovations (AFI; Lincoln, Neb.; agflame.com). “We brought flaming into the 21st century,” he says. AFI currently offers one piece of equipment that provides weed control in corn, soybean, sunflower, and sorghum crops. It is available in different sizes, measured by the number of rows it can treat: two, four, six, eight, 12, and 16. These four crops are similar enough that they can be flamed with the same equipment, though the shields that direct the flames must be adjusted.

AFI collects orders from farmers and then produces the equipment at certain times of year. The company currently has one production run in January and a second in March/April. This year, due to growing demand, it will add a third production run in August. It is considering adding a fourth in the fall.

The company also teaches the right method, or “recipe,” to use with the crops. Flaming must be done in such a way that it removes the weeds, but does not harm the crop. “You can develop a great machine, but you must also tell the farmer how to use it with different crops,” Gogos says. “You need to know the sensitivity of the weed and of the crop.”

Gogos and Knezevic have submitted a proposal to PERC for funding to develop a recipe for one more agricultural product: alfalfa. Alfalfa was chosen because flaming does a great job controlling weevils. They are also planning to pursue funding to develop recipes for cotton and industrial hemp.

TAKING OFF SOME OF THE STRESS
In addition to his position at The Farm Research Center, Yoder is also research farm manager and product sales at BigYield.us, AgMaxx Inc. (Garden City, Mo.; bigyield.us), a distributor of Flame Engineering’s Red Dragon equipment. In that capacity, he travels to farms to set up the equipment and show the farmer how to operate it.

“Flame cultivation is an awesome tool,” Yoder adds. “We have found ways to simplify organic farming and take a lot of the stress off. With burners, there is more flexibility on timing. For example, we can do it when it’s muddy; we can do flame cultivation when we couldn’t do it with conventional cultivators. We actually saved a crop of soybeans that way. Organic farming is not easy; if it was, everyone would be doing it. But this is a tool we’ve found that simplifies it.”

The equipment and the idea of flame cultivation has spread among organic farmers primarily by word of mouth. “Organic farmers are well organized and they know each other,” Gogos says. He and others from AFI also present workshops at meetings of organic farmers.

At Stanislav Farms, Larry Stanislav found there is a learning curve with flame weeding as there is with any new technique or tool. He says the key to success is doing the treatment at the right time during the crop’s growth. “It’s not foolproof,” he says, “but it is an effective tool in your arsenal and it allows you to reduce the use of other tools.”

(Butane-Propane News magazine, July 2019)