NPGA Leaders Discuss Regulatory Successes, Challenges Ahead

(February 19, 2020) — Following the Midwest supply issues in the fall of 2019 that consumed most of their attention, the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Jeff Petrash, vice president and general counsel, and deputy counsel regulatory affairs, Sarah Reboli, are looking toward new concerns for 2020 and the coming decade. BPN recently spoke with the members of NPGA’s legal team about the successes and challenges the industry faces as it moves into 2020. “We still have a little unfinished business following up with FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] regarding the supply challenges,” Petrash said. “Then we have plenty to work on in the new decade.”
NPGA logo
Petrash continues to stress that decarbonization will be a huge focus for many years to come. “Electrification will be a big issue for a number of years ahead for NPGA,” Petrash said. “We had some in-depth discussions with NPGA’s Executive Committee and got some direction from them in August. Further discussion is taking place now.” He noted that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is starting to aggressively address the electrification challenge. “They are somewhat the ‘big kid on the block’ in the oil and natural gas industry,” he added.

This summer, beginning in June, Petrash will once again address with FERC how index pricing is set for liquids shipped on pipelines. “Five years ago, we spent about $190,000 to $200,000 in legal and consulting fees and saved the propane industry at least $250 million,” he said. “We worked in partnership with Valero Refining and Airlines for America then. Anyone who is a shipper of liquids or who consumes a fuel of any kind has an interest. All go through pipelines. We hope to work with more partners this time around to be more effective as well as to defray costs.”

Petrash also noted a few natural gas expansion issues he is keeping an eye on in Utah and Iowa. In Iowa, Black Hills Energy is proposing a new pipeline in the Dubuque area. They contend that it will assist in providing security of supply to their existing customers, but it will also facilitate the addition of new customers. In Utah, Dominion (previously known as Questar) proposes to bring natural gas service to Eureka, Utah. This proposed service would be subsidized by current Dominion customers in accordance with Utah legislation previously enacted.

Reboli noted that January 6 was a deadline set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for employers of CDL drivers to perform queries for commercial drivers’ alcohol and drug testing on the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. FMCSA designed the Clearinghouse to share information about commercial drivers’ alcohol and drug violations among employers, state law enforcement, and state driver licensing agencies. The objective is to prevent some drivers from misrepresenting their violations to a new employer and/or in a new state. The information in the Clearinghouse would not be available to insurance providers or lawyers.

In addition, Reboli said that FMCSA proposed to amend the 2016 final rule, “Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators” (entry-level driver training, or ELDT, final rule), by extending the compliance date for two provisions from the rule. The date for training providers to upload entry-level driver training certification information into the Training Provider Registry and for state driver licensing agencies to receive driver-specific ELDT information is extended from February 7, 2020, to February 7, 2022. This will provide FMCSA additional time to complete development of the electronic interface that will receive and store ELDT certification information from training providers and transmit that information to the state driver licensing agencies. Reboli shared that FMCSA may delay the entire regulation by two years, but that a final notice by FMCSA has not yet been published.

FMCSA is also considering changes to the Hours of Service (HOS), but they were not finalized by the end of the year. The agency has been tight-lipped regarding changes that may expand and extend HOS requirements.

While the current White House is supportive of cutting red tape and regulation, Reboli noted that the process is often slow. “We continue to push for an expansion to the air-mile radius propane vehicles can drive before being required to maintain record of duty status (RODS) reports,” Reboli said. “Infrastructure has improved and bobtail technology has advanced as well since the requirements were written 50 to 60 years ago. We would like to see an increase in the air-mile radius from 100 to 300 miles. This would amount to a savings of $11 million in industry paperwork per year.” — Pat Thornton

Hard Facts Energy Primer Delivered to All U.S. Mayors in Washington

(February 18, 2020) — The Institute for Energy Research (IER) delivered copies of its Hard Facts: An Energy Primer to all mayors attending January’s 88th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. The report provides an in-depth analysis of U.S. energy resources and their significance to the economy. Distribution of the primer was aimed at grounding policy conversations in fact, not fantasy, IER said.

US Conference of Mayors receive Hard Facts Energy Primer reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for LPG news since 1939. Feb 2020The institute maintains too few in the U.S., be they policymaker or citizen, fully grasp the nation’s current energy story. That situation, the organization argues, is ripe for myths and misunderstandings, which can only be cleared up with undisputable facts. “Our mayors are ripe for deceit and should be very cautious about any energy policy coming out of Washington right now,” said Thomas Pyle, IER president.

“The names of these schemes seem to keep changing, but their respective results appear the same. Any proposal that attempts to up-end energy free markets should be labeled what it is—destructive. Energy drives everything in America, and proposals that restrict the use of America’s resources in favor of more expensive and unreliable alternative sources must be rejected. Affordable, reliable energy is the foundation of a free and prosperous society and that’s universal across every level of government.”

Hard Facts is a comprehensive energy primer that provides an essential foundation for a more informed discussion about American energy policy. IER staff stand ready to educate all elected officials about the importance of free-market energy policies. Americans, including elected officials at every level of government, must recognize that the U.S. has access to an abundance of energy resources that can continue to provide its citizens and allies around the world with reliable and affordable energy—provided the policy framework emphasizes the institutions of a free society: private property, competitive market exchange, and the rule of law.

A free download of Hard Facts: An Energy Primer is available at IER conducts research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. It maintains that freely functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, February 18, 2020. Available by subscription)

New Irrigation, Power-Generation Engines Deliver Reliability, Remote Control

(February 17, 2020) — Propane has long been the fuel of choice for a variety of agricultural applications including irrigation and power generation. For good reason. It is cleaner burning, does not harm water or soil because it’s nontoxic, and produces a carbon footprint that’s more of a tiptoe than a stomp.

Propane Irrigation Engines deliver reliability, efficiency, zero emmissions with Remote Controls reports BPN the propane industry leading source for news and info since 1939. Feb 17 202020Recently, propane-fueled engine technology took a major step forward with the introduction of Industrial-Irrigation Services’ Reliable Horsepower line of engines. Available with displacements of 5.7-, 6.2-, 8.0-, 9.1-, and 10.3-liters, these engines cover the displacement ranges previously available, but are designed to not only provide more efficient operation, but to deliver never-before-available reliability, monitoring, and control options.

The Reliable Horsepower line is a result of a partnership between Industrial-Irrigation Services, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and Woodward Inc., a manufacturer of (among other things) electronic engine control systems. In addition to improved reliability and engine control, the new engines are EPA certified, which eliminates concerns about exhaust emissions compliance.

Agricultural engines have been required to meet EPA certification requirements since 2008, so the issue isn’t initial compliance, it’s ongoing compliance. The new control systems address that consideration head-on with their enhanced monitoring and control capabilities.

PERC was deeply involved in the development of the new engine line. According to Michael Newland, PERC’s director of agriculture business development, “Our overall mission is to promote safety, to look for additional business opportunities, and to help develop new uses and applications for propane. To that end, we often partner with manufacturers to assist with new product development and exposure.”

While PERC obviously has a vested interest in expanding propane use, it also has serious concerns about safety and reliability. It’s well documented that existing modes of power for agricultural applications (diesel and electric) often suffer from reliability problems, can be expensive, and may not be readily available.

According to Newland, “We’re excited about these new engines not only because they help advance the propane industry, but their control systems can help improve productivity because they require less maintenance and deliver more reliable operation. That translates to less downtime, so for irrigation, they spend more time pumping and less time shut down for repairs or adjustment. They’re also better for the environment. Propane is cleaner burning than diesel fuel or gasoline, and since these new engines meet the latest EPA certification requirements, they are especially clean running.”

Multi-Fuel Capability
Another advantage is that these engines can be switched from propane to natural gas with the flip of a switch. That means operators don’t have to shut down operation or engage in a lengthy switch-over if they need to change fuel sources.

That is obviously not a consideration at installations where propane is the only fuel source used. However, according to Jay Canada, Industrial-Irrigation’s vice president of sales and engineering, “There are quite a few farming operations that are located near natural gas pipelines, and that provides operators with a fueling option. Propane is the preferred fuel because it has a higher Btu content and that enables an engine to produce higher horsepower. However, multi-fuel capability is an advantage because it provides an option if propane is temporarily unavailable.”

Another reason for multi-fuel capability is that these engines are intended for additional uses beyond irrigation. Oil and gas production and power generation are two other applications for which these engines are ideally suited. When used for oil and gas production, the ability to switch fuels is especially attractive. Typically, when engines are used for pumping, they are started and run for a few days or weeks on propane. They aren’t switched over to wellhead gas until flow out of the ground is steady and reliable.

The Reliable Horsepower engines are based on existing GM architecture and, like their predecessors, incorporate components specifically designed for heavy-duty industrial use.

Impressive Torque
Horsepower ratings, which are a function of engine speed, are unimpressive as the advertised rating is at either 2800 or 3000 rpm. Torque is an entirely different situation as all engines generate impressive numbers at or below 2000 rpm. As an example, the 5.7-liter (350 cid) engine generates 437 lb/ft at 2000 rpm while the 10.3-liter (632 cid) version generates 798 lb/ft at 1200 rpm.

For pumping operations (such as with water, oil, or gas) torque is the relevant consideration—just as it is with a tractor or any other piece of farm equipment. Torque is an engine’s ability to overcome rotational resistance, such as that required by a pump. Horsepower is an engine’s torque output multiplied by engine speed. Internal combustion engines produce maximum torque at much lower rpm levels than maximum horsepower. Above the peak rpm point, torque decreases, although horsepower continues to increase—to a point—because of the engine speed multiplication factor.

Consequently, industrial engines, which operate under relatively constant and heavy loads, are designed to produce maximum torque at lower engine speeds.

The torque figures quoted are for engines fueled by propane. Output when fueled by natural gas is somewhat lower. As an example, the 10.3-liter engine produces 798 lb/ft of torque at 1200 rpm on propane, but only 723 lb/ft at 1800 rpm on natural gas. Obviously, propane is the better fuel as natural gas requires that an engine operate at higher speed to produce less power.

In addition to the five displacements currently available, Industrial-Irrigation Services plans to add both larger and smaller versions. According to Industrial-Irrigation’s Jay Canada, providing engines for irrigation system use is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. “There are needs for a variety of engine sizes (power output levels), but, currently, there isn’t a wide variety of choices, so we will be expanding the Reliable Horsepower line. We’re looking at the needs of farms from sea level to 6000 to 8000 feet. The higher you go, the less power an engine will produce, so an engine that’s perfect for operation at sea level won’t produce sufficient power at high altitude. The distance you have to push water is another factor that affects power requirements, as is lift distance. Obviously, more power is required to pull water out of a 1000-foot well than to pump ground water. Once the variables involved are defined, we can specify an engine to meet a customer’s requirements.”

All Reliable Horsepower engines utilize the time-proven cast iron blocks and cylinder heads which are cast and machined in North America. Other components include aluminum intake manifolds, forged steel connecting rods, forged steel or nodular iron crankshafts, steel billet camshafts, and hydraulic roller valve lifters.

“Techies” might be surprised that all engines in the line incorporate cast iron blocks and heads and overhead valves, as opposed to aluminum castings and overhead cams. Reliability, cost, and application considerations are the major factors driving component selection. As noted, these engines are designed to operate at low speed, hence there is no advantage to an overhead cam configuration, which offers its advantages at high engine speeds. Additionally, overhead cam engines are much more expensive to repair or rebuild and failure of the cam drive system can result in significant engine damage.

Updated Fuel System
The actual hard parts that comprise a Reliable Horsepower engine have proven their reliability. What was needed was an updated fuel system that was equally reliable—and offered options made possible by recent technological developments. The new fuel system is therefore designed to conquer the most commonly encountered types of engine problems—failure to start, rough operation, and unexpected engine shut-down—that are typically a result of issues with the fuel delivery system.

It’s difficult to achieve reliable horsepower with an unreliable fuel system, and as the name implies, the new Reliable Horsepower engines are optimized to be reliable. For irrigation use, that means the engines run from the time they’re started until they’re turned off—with no stumbles.

To that end, Industrial-Irrigation Services partnered with Woodward Inc. to develop systems that offered both the required operational reliability and never-before-available control. These systems are also configurable to meet individual customer preferences, which include fuel type. All engines are bi-fuel capable, hence controls can be specified for propane-only, or multiple fuel types (propane, pipeline natural gas, wellhead gas).

The new fuel systems can be configured to allow the operator to flip a switch to change fuel type, or controls can be incorporated to enable the system to automatically switch fuel type if one runs out. Electronics also enable a number of other advantages.

All engines incorporate a throttle body-style of electronic fuel injection and include exhaust system oxygen sensors that monitor air/fuel ratio and pass it to the engine control module (ECM). In turn, the ECM makes whatever changes are necessary to maintain the desired air/fuel ratio. The ECM is programmable, thereby enabling operators to create custom calibrations to suit their particular operating environments.

That’s difficult to do with one-size-fits mechanical or non-programmable control systems. Conversely, the Reliable Horsepower systems not only continually optimize fuel and ignition settings to achieve maximum fuel economy and minimal exhaust emissions, the system can also be remotely monitored and controlled and even incorporates an emergency “kill switch.”

Remote Control, Monitoring
If you use your smartphone to lock or unlock your vehicle, monitor security cameras, or turn lights or appliances on or off, you’re already familiar with remote control and monitoring technology. Most commonly, that technology is implemented through use of the Internet of Things (IoT), which provides a means for “things” to communicate with each other. Remote monitoring and control provide a new level of safety and efficiency. All an operator has to do is pick up his or her cell phone to check engine speed, coolant temperature, oxygen sensor voltage, or a host of other sensors. The system can also store multiple calibrations so operation can be optimized for changes in operating environment (i.e high temperature/dry or cool temperature/wet). In spite of the sophistication of the control systems, they are designed to be user friendly.

Rather than having to stand right next to an engine, operators can use their cell phone from literally any part of the world with cell connectivity to monitor and control an engine. Remote control capability also opens new options for engine placement. The ability to remotely raise or lower engine speed, or to kill engine operation means that engine location can be optimized for operation rather than access.

In terms of in-the-field use, one of the greatest advantages of the Reliable Horsepower engine packages is summed up by a statement from Industrial-Irrigation Services: “All those trips to the north 40 to turn on or shut off the pumps can be a thing of the past with our fully electronic engine packages. We help you conserve both time and water with engine packages featuring remote start/stop and remote monitoring.”

The bottom line is that reliability leads to more productivity and increased profits, and that’s exactly what the Reliable Horsepower engine line is designed to deliver.

Dave Emanuel has written seven books and 2500 magazine articles covering a variety of topics ranging from automotive racing and performance modifications to political commentary. His automotive books and articles are informed by his hands-on background with engines and drivelines.

Keep The Party Outdoors With Propane and Innovation

(February 13, 2020) — As propane grills have become commonly used for outdoor cooking, other new products have been added in recent years to make outdoor living a much easier and more enjoyable experience on the deck or patio. “Just like indoor gas fireplaces, people like the convenience of gas grills, gas fire tables, and conversation pits on the deck and in the backyard,” says Eric Hawkinson, vice president of operations with The Outdoor GreatRoom Co., based in Minneapolis. “They haven’t always enjoyed just hanging out around the gas grill, so we’ve come up with products that are more like an open fire to sit around and enjoy.”
outdoor Propane appliances are a growing trend to Keep Party Outdoors longer reports BPN Feb 2010
Hawkinson believes the ease, convenience, and safety of these products are what make them so popular. The unique, upscale units are designed with appeal for outdoor living and include gas fire pit tables, gas fire burners, pergolas, outdoor kitchen islands, outdoor gas fireplaces, outdoor patio furniture, and other custom products for residential and commercial applications. He notes that 85% of the products sold are designed to run on propane.

The company believes that homeowners gain further benefits from being able to take advantage of their ability to have an outdoor entertaining area. “It’s fun to have an outdoor area that attracts friends and neighbors,” Hawkinson said. “We are trying to lengthen the season with the warmth of fire.”

In 2010, Hawkinson left his job at Hearth and Home, doing $600 million in annual sales, to join The Outdoor GreatRoom Co., which was doing $3 million in annual sales. Hearth and Home was, and continues to be, focused on direct vent indoor fireplaces and stoves marketed through retail store channels. “[But] I believed in the trend of outdoor living products and the unlimited market share that could be added,” Hawkinson said. In the past 10 years, the firm has enjoyed tremendous growth, expanding to serve a worldwide market.
Propane appliance trend growing to keep party and Outdoor living season last longer reports BPN feb 2020
Hawkinson describes the market served by The Outdoor GreatRoom Co. as middle-of-the-road to upper end. “Our products run largely on 20-lb cylinders, but many use propane or natural gas directly from a hard-plumbed pipe.” He noted that running the outdoor living products on 20-lb cylinders works best at his home because his wife likes to rearrange the outdoor furniture and appliances quite often. “It’s a lot easier to use portable 20-lb cylinders than to replumb the pipes every time.”

While company products have always been safe, new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards are further raising the bar on safety regulation. Hawkinson’s years as a leader in safety and standards makes him a highly sought speaker at industry events such as the March 2020 Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo in New Orleans where he will speak on new manufacturing standards. Hawkinson has served on several ANSI committees that design and review various product standards. “New ANSI standards are requiring new outdoor living products to pass more thorough tests,” Hawkinson said. “There is a new rain test and a new wind test. Original standards required products to be able to properly light and start up after sustaining rain as well as 30 mph winds. Now products must be able to either shut off on their own or continue running properly while sustaining rain in one test and 30 mph winds in another test.”

“While companies can no longer manufacture products that just meet the original standards, they can still sell inventory that they have,” Hawkinson said. “This is like airbags being introduced to the automotive industry. The cars without airbags were not taken off the road. The products meeting the original standards are still considered very safe. This new standard just takes it up another notch.”
Propane and propane appliances Make Outdoor Living Season last longer growing in popularity reports BPN Feb 2020
With many outdoor living products being new to the marketplace, they did not have their own official ANSI standards until 2014 with the introduction of Z21.97 standards. “Previously, outdoor living products were only affected by segments of various standards in other categories,” Hawkinson explained. “The newer standards involving more stringent rain and wind tests mark the first revision to standards Z21.97, which were introduced in 2017, but due to factors including time needed to conform, the production standards were not required to be in effect until January 2020.” Hawkinson noted that ANSI standards for products outside the outdoor living category have sometimes been changed and taken effect immediately due to very urgent safety concerns.

One of the key topics Hawkinson plans to discuss regarding changes to ANSI Z21.97 is selling “listed” versus “unlisted” outdoor living products. The “listed” products are those that have been tested by a third-party reviewer such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Being listed simply means the product has been tested by an authorized third-party reviewer and passed the test. “There is no A, B, C, D, F grading by UL. You either pass or fail,” he said. “To have our products listed, our company tests its products and then pays to have UL test them once we feel certain they will pass the tests.” Hawkinson explained that the concept of UL listing is designed to give regulators, resellers, and customers peace of mind.

“People will be more trusting of a product that they know has passed tests performed by a third party with the reputation of UL, which has been around for over 100 years,” he said. “Not only are customers gaining peace of mind, local regulatory officials will be much more comfortable with permitting listed products than unlisted products. ANSI itself is made up of committees with a wide variety of people from different safety backgrounds that work together to provide the best possible standards. They do not perform third-party testing of the products, though. Organizations like UL, which is accredited by ANSI, can provide the unbiased third-party testing.”
Propane Makes Outdoor living season and outdoor parties last longer LPG appliances growing popularity reports BPN Feb 2020
Retail propane companies that sell outdoor living products, or those considering doing so, are encouraged by Hawkinson to only sell listed products. “The dangers and liabilities with selling unlisted products are too great,” Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson believes there remains tremendous potential for growth in the outdoor living market, which he feels will also continue to benefit those in the retail propane world. “Homebuilders are just now starting to really put an emphasis on their abilities to add outdoor living features onto the homes they build,” he said. “They are starting to realize these features can set them apart from the many builders who do not promote such features.” He noted that requests for custom products are also on the rise. “We recently designed and built custom tables for the Detroit Red Wings for use at their stadium,” he said. “One is a 16-ft bar height table with fire pit built in and ready to go. The other two are round fire tables also at bar height. These are also designed to be portable and run on propane.”

“The marketplace for outdoor living continues to feel like there is still tremendous room for further growth,” Hawkinson said. “We continue to enjoy innovating to further meet customers’ needs.” He noted that many types of businesses are dealers and distributors for the company’s product offerings, and retail propane marketers are among them. “For those who are in retail propane, this does offer one more way to add long-term propane sales. A showroom of hearth appliances may also include outdoor living products.” —Pat Thornton

PERC Strengthens Business Development, Industry Relations Teams

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2020) — The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has added four staff members to its business development and industry relations units, according to President and CEO Tucker Perkins.
Propane Council announces Steve Whaley hired as new director of propane autogas business reports BPN feb 2020
“The newest additions to our team — Stephen Whaley, Joseph Calhoun, Erin Lee, and Rachel Hrabik — make us stronger in at least two key areas, business growth, and customer service,” Perkins says. “They bring experience, expertise, and drive to their work on behalf of the propane industry.”

Stephen Whaley, Director of Autogas Business Development will manage the over-the-road market portfolio for PERC. He is responsible for growing propane autogas market share in on-highway light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicle markets. His focus will be on new product research and development, product launches, maintenance and growth in existing market segments, and potential new market development opportunities.

Whaley ran his own consulting company for the last four years. Before that, as eastern U.S. regional sales manager for Agility Fuel Solutions in North Carolina, he helped develop class 7 and 8 vehicle fleet markets for natural gas. He also trained and supported heavy-duty truck dealers with their fleet customers’ adoption into CNG and LNG implementation. Whaley was formerly director of business development for Roush CleanTech and oversaw research and business development for Blossman Propane. He was director at the Graphic Arts Institute and Printing Industries of Northern California.

Whaley has a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, and a master’s degree in industrial education from Clemson University. He has lifetime post-secondary teaching credentials from the State of California.

Joseph Calhoun, Associate Director of Business Development, will lead PERC initiatives to grow propane demand by working directly with partners across multiple industries. He is responsible for business development, product development, and market development activities, which includes outreach, communications, education, research, product development, technical integrations, and product commercialization.

Before coming to PERC, Calhoun worked for RegO Products as business development manager for the propane and industrial gas markets. Before RegO, he was national business development manager for Robinson Pipe and Vessel in De Pere, Wisconsin. Calhoun has also served as the business development manager at TransTech Energy in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, regional sales manager for Ray Murray, director of corporate business development with Paraco Gas, and manager of customer service and logistics at American Welding and Tank.

Calhoun holds a bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshal College and an MBA from Eastern University. He has been CETP certified, is a former board vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Propane Gas Association, and has been a member of the Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association.
Erin Lee,  Industry Relations Coordinator, will provide customer support for the fulfillment center and provides primary support for grant administration by performing initial application review and final report analyses. She also performs general administration duties and assists with preparation and planning for industry programs and meetings.

Lee was senior quality assurance specialist with SoundExchange in Washington, D.C., for seven years. There she led Salesforce CRM training programs, developed business rules and processes, and provided customer service, among other duties.
Rachel Hrabik, Business Development Coordinator, will administer PERC incentive programs and support the business development team. Most recently she was sales associate for the Farm Bureau Financial Services in Syracuse, Nebraska, for four years. Prior to that, Hrabik was an account manager with Swanson Russell, where she worked on the PERC account. She has also been a family services specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Hrabik has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she majored in advertising and public relations with an emphasis on digital media and photography.

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