Propane To The Rescue Providing Heat, Hot Water To COVID-19 Responders

When temporary facilities began springing up to deliver services to communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, propane marketers were there to supply the fuel needed to provide warm air and hot water.

Propane fuels emergency Medical Tents for covid coronavirus hospitals reports BPN lpg inustry leading source for news since 1939Examples include temporary housing facilities, RVs, and tents:
  • The AmeriGas New Orleans office delivered propane to temporary facilities set up for quarantined residents. The propane-fueled appliances included shower stations, food trailers, washers, and dryers.

  • Suburban Propane’s location in Newark, N.J., responded to a request to provide heat and hot water for RV units used by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff in New York City. FEMA obtained special permission for Suburban’s bobtails to deliver propane to the NYC area.

  • Ferrellgas locations across the country set up temporary heat at pop-up testing and evaluation tents used by hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Those sorts of pop-up tents have been supplied with propane for temporary heating by AmeriGas, Suburban, and Ferrellgas alike and have become a symbol of propane’s contribution to the response to COVID-19.
Propane is essential fuel for COVID Medical Tents emergency power reports BPN industry leading source for news since 1939
The large, outdoor tents are used by local hospitals and healthcare facilities due to the widespread nature of the outbreak, explained Scott Brockelmeyer, vice president, marketing and communications, at Ferrellgas (Overland Park, Kan.). Individuals showing symptoms of the virus can walk into those tents and be tested.

For temporary heating applications like this, many different sizes of heaters are used. Ferrellgas supplies smaller heaters, under 300,000 Btu, and it has trade allies who supply larger heaters. Ferrellgas also provides safety training as needed to the people who are in charge of the site.

“This shows how versatile and how valuable a product propane is,” Brockelmeyer said. “We and others in the industry have provided temporary heating for tents for many years, so this is an exercise we have been through before. We will take good care of these folks; we hope it’s not a customer base we will have for long.”

“We have new requests coming in each day,” he added. “It’s a sobering reminder of how serious this pandemic is.”


UNDERSTANDING THEIR NEEDS
Suburban Propane, too, has been partnering with medical facilities and hospitals to provide temporary heat for medical and triage tents that are being used to test and treat patients with COVID-19.
Propane powers COVID 19 Medical tents and provides relief to coronavirus victims
At the tents supplied by Suburban, typical setups include portable heaters that could range from 75,000 Btu to 250,000 Btu. Nandini Sankara, spokesperson for Suburban Propane (Whippany, N.J.), said a location may have one tent or multiple tents, with each tent having one or two heaters.

“We work closely with the medical facilities to understand their needs in these critical and time-sensitive situations to help present a feasible solution that meets their needs in the shortest time possible,” Sankara explained. “The size of the heater is determined by the size of the tent. We have sized the tanks to keep a minimum of three days’ supply.

“As safety is our No. 1 priority, our tanks are installed by our highly trained technicians,” she added. “The heaters must be placed in low-traffic areas to limit contact. The tanks must be placed in a location that is close to the heater and each tank location must have a bulkhead and/or a barrier to keep anyone or anything from coming in contact with the tank.”

AmeriGas (King of Prussia, Pa.) has provided pop-up support for COVID-19 testing facilities throughout the country using propane cylinders or bulk temp heat to power outdoor heaters and pop-up facilities.

Propane LPG powers emergency Medical Tents other COVID pandemic energy needs reports BPN leading source of industry news since 1939“Although many of us are experiencing warmer weather as we have entered the spring, there are first responders working long hours in outdoor testing facilities that still have early morning temperatures in the 30s,” said Chris Cook, vice president of marketing and cylinder exchange at AmeriGas. “The fact that propane doesn’t require a grid to turn on is just one of many reasons why the versatility and availability of propane cannot be matched by any other fuel source.”

AmeriGas assisted in providing propane cylinders to power outdoor heaters at a pilot outdoor testing facility in Philadelphia that was set up by Rite Aid Corp. after receiving a directive from the White House COVID-19 Response Working Group.

At the Rite Aid facility, there were five primary tents and some smaller ones for check-in and a break area. These were equipped with 11 standard patio heaters having an hourly Btu requirement in the range of 42,000 Btus to 48,000 Btus.

To power those heaters, AmeriGas was able to arrange supply for the testing site within hours of the call, “and not only had cylinders delivered to the site early the next morning, but then had 54 more cylinders in cages the following day to ensure ongoing supply while minimizing delivery requirements,” Douglas McLaughlin, national account manager at AmeriGas, reported.

“On-hand capacity is a function of two primary factors: consumption requirements and distance from our plant to the location,” he explained.
Propane provides essential energy source transportable to COVID Medical Tents reports BPN lpg industry since 1939
CLEAN, LOW-COST, PORTABLE
Each of these representatives pointed to several characteristics of propane that make it the fuel to be used in applications like these.

“Propane is best because it burns relatively clean versus other fossil fuels, is low cost and portable,” McLaughlin said.

A recent FINCH podcast interview of Cook pointed to the value of working with propane retailers who have the resource capabilities and the infrastructure to answer a call for support at any time, any day. (You can hear the podcast, “AmeriGas Has Your Back,” at https:blog.finchbrands.com/amerigas-podcast.)

“In times like today where there’s a lot of uncertainty in the country and quite frankly in the world, this is where AmeriGas is positioned really well,” Cook said. “We have a flexible organization and haven’t skipped a beat on business continuity. We’ve been able to assist our customers who may be experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19 through payment programs and waiving late fees, and our online experience has enabled our customers to fully engage with us remotely whether it’s scheduling a delivery, view their complete account information, or pay their bill. It’s really allowed us to serve our customers in a pretty unique way.”

Sankara of Suburban pointed to propane’s clean-burning properties, energy efficiency, availability, and portability. “The ease of portability of propane makes it ideal to use in situations like this where a location may be remote and installation must be done on short notice,” she said. “The heating equipment and propane are all readily available locally, are mobile, and can be installed quickly to meet the medical units’ time-sensitive needs.”

Brockelmeyer of Ferrellgas pointed to the versatile, easily transportable nature of propane. “This allows propane to be used where and when the customer wants it to be used. That is a tremendous advantage. When customers want something done in a certain location, we can accommodate that. As additional tanks are needed, we can easily add tanks.”

He added, “I would also like to say something to the folks in our industry. We have long provided essential services to our residential and commercial consumers. When the pandemic hit, it’s an entirely different sphere. It’s heroic what the folks in our industry are doing. I am humbled and very proud.” — Steve Relyea

Ways To Engage With Your Propane Customers In 2020

It’s time to identify your goals for the year and how to focus your marketing efforts in order to achieve them. Whether you have your sights on improved customer retention, increased sales, building brand awareness, or a mixture of all three and then some, marketing experts agree that engagement is a pivotal tool for marketing success in 2020.
consistently engage customers about the benefits of propane and the essential energy and benefits LPG provides reports BPN the leading source for news since 1939. April 2020
So, what do we mean by engagement and why does it matter for marketing in the propane industry? Traditionally, propane marketing has been primarily a one-way conversation. But that doesn’t quite cut it anymore. More and more consumers want to interact with brands they are loyal to, and a percentage of that majority in the millennial demographic even expects interaction. Engagement is not only beneficial for the consumer, but it is extremely beneficial for propane marketers in order to strengthen existing customer loyalty and to attract new customers.

There are several ways that you can implement engagement tactics into your marketing strategy. We’ve gathered four examples of opportunities that will help you to engage your audience and get tangible results that support your marketing goals for the upcoming year.

1. Make Social Media Work for You
Social media is the place where consumers interact with each other and with brands. Social media engagement can be utilized in a variety of ways, but the most cost-effective and efficient opportunity is social media advertising. Social media advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram offers an affordable way to expand your audience reach. Once you create a social media advertising campaign, you can promote your ads on multiple social channels to a customized target audience, which will make your already-affordable ad budget really go the distance.

Social media advertising requires minimal investment compared to other promotional techniques, with the added bonus of audience engagement and trackable results. While you are using social ads to interact with your audience you can quantify campaign results down to the dollar.

2. Recognize That Online Reviews Really Matter
Another engagement opportunity that every propane marketer should be actively taking advantage of is online customer reviews. Reports show that 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Consumers are looking at previous customer experiences to inform their purchasing decisions, and they are paying attention to which companies respond to reviews. Online reviews don’t just contribute to customer engagement, but they also can positively affect your website’s search ranking on Google. So, if you already have reviews, start responding to them. And if you don’t, start actively asking for them.

3. Engage Even More on Google My Business
Did you know that 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day and the volume of Google searches grows by roughly 10% each year? It is critical that your propane company has a claimed Google My Business listing because it will be the first thing a consumer sees when they complete a Google search for propane services in your area. More and more consumers are using Google My Business to engage with companies instead of following through to their websites. Features like online reviews, messaging, and a customer Q&A forum are all great opportunities for customers to engage with you online.

4. Keep Your Audience Interested with Consistent Campaigns
Do something fun for your customers that will excite and entice engagement. Host frequent campaigns that encourage your audience to take action, such as filling out an online form, sharing a post on social media with their followers and tagging your business, or referring a friend to your propane services. Keep your campaigns consistent, such as a monthly raffle, but switch up the incentives (such as a tune-up discount or tickets to a community event) to keep them interested.

2020 is the year of the customer. Use engagement marketing tactics to set your propane company and service offerings apart, build customer loyalty, and attract new targets this year. As noted above, there are multiple ways to engage your audience in a strategic manner that best suits your propane company’s unique goals and marketing budget.

Jennifer LeClerc is the creative director of Consumer Focus Marketing, a marketing agency in Portsmouth, N.H., that specializes in total marketing strategy services for the energy industry nationwide. Their services include digital marketing, online review management, search engine optimization, and website development. LeClerc can be reached by visiting consumerfocusmarketing.com or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Competing For Acquisitions: David and Goliath

(April 29, 2020) — Large and small companies looking to acquire propane companies each have their advantages and disadvantages. Large companies typically have good financial resources, a dedicated acquisition team, and advancement opportunities for employees. Smaller companies typically offer more employee input in decisions, fewer operational changes, and more flexibility regarding company policies.

Competion to acquire propane businesses Abatte report by BPN propane industry leading source for news since 1939 042020LARGER MARKETERS DOMINATE
While both large and small have their advantages and disadvantages, larger marketers dominate the acquisition market. Small or mid-size marketers competing for acquisitions against large multi-state marketers, can face some challenges. Understanding and improving on acquisition capabilities is one area a smaller acquirer should focus on. Knowing your competition and what they can and can’t offer is another important aspect. Ultimately, the decision is in the seller’s hands, so the most important aspect is meeting the seller’s needs and wants for the transition of the business to new ownership.

Regardless of buyer size, for an acquisition program to be successful, the buyer will need to convince the seller that they are the best buyer. The first consideration is always the purchase price, but there are many other aspects to consider such as asset allocation for taxes, financial abilities of buyer, due diligence process, legal negotiations (indemnifications, reps and warranties, etc.), employee retention, and the overall reputation of the buyer, to name a few.

As a buyer, the first item to address is the financial ability to complete a transaction. Every seller and advisors to sellers will want the transaction to be an all cash at closing deal. The reason is that if the seller is not paid at closing, there is risk. Typically, the buyer’s bank will have first position on all the assets and any seller financing or earn-outs fall into second position, or lower.

As a buyer, finding a bank to support your acquisition program is extremely important. Borrowing cash to fund an acquisition increases the buyer’s return on equity. Seller financing is always an option and it may have some tax advantages for the seller. The chart on this page shows how buyers can increase their return on their equity investment by using leverage. This is a major reason why private equity companies invest in acquisitions.

QUALITY OF EARNINGS REVIEW
All lenders will want a buyer to have money invested and all will want to review financial information on the seller. Many sellers do not have the level of detail most lenders and larger companies require. As an example, smaller companies usually do not have audited financial statements and some only have compiled statements. Many larger companies and private equity-backed buyers require a Quality of Earnings Review, which can be very time consuming.

Taxes play a big role in most transactions, especially if the seller is a C-corp. We have found that many accountants who do not handle transactions are unaware that tax strategies such as personal goodwill can be used for more than just C-corp transactions. The increase in the cost of steel has made it important to negotiate the allocation of purchase price more carefully. We have seen larger buyers insist on replacement cost allocations for propane tanks and some insist on including the labor in the allocation. A $1-million swing in propane tank allocation can mean $120,000 to $150,000 higher tax burden for a seller. As a seller, it is important that you are educated on tax consequences; as a buyer, educating a seller and structuring your offer accordingly may give you an advantage.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
There are many other considerations in creating an acquisition program for your company. They include: 1) Finding a company to acquire; 2) Valuing a business in a way that that makes sense for buyer and seller; 3) Raising funds to complete cash at closing transactions and why that is important for a seller; 4) How to structure a transaction for maximum tax benefits; 5) Performing smart due diligence; 6) Understanding legal terms and negotiating items such as indemnifications; 7) Closing documents including purchase agreement, non-compete agreements, consulting agreements, and other transaction documents; 8) Post closing announcement to employees and customers; and 9) Successful employee and system integration.

Please let us know if we can help.

Steven Abbate is managing director of Cetane Associates LLC, a provider of hands-on merger and acquisition advisory services for privately held companies. He may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Resources Help Propane Marketers Fight Forced Electrification

BPN the propane industry leading source for news since 1939 April 2020 editorial Beyond The Gas MainsWhat are the real costs of a move to an all-electric world? To start discussions with local or state decision makers on the impact of forced, policy-driven electrification, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) recently released a collection of communications tools for the industry.

The new Fight Electrification Issue Kit tells the data-based story that electric isn’t always better. The electrical grid is extremely inefficient. At most power plants, only 1/3 of the energy used to generate electricity actually arrives to consumers in the form of useable electricity. That means almost 2/3 of the energy is being lost and wasted. That much waste creates an opportunity for propane. Propane is a direct use energy. Direct use means there is no loss of propane from the tank to the end-use. NPGA wants to help members tell that story.

It is hoped the communications tools will inform policymakers that widespread electrification is a complex and expensive undertaking. It will require enormous investments across our electricity delivery system. The power generation, transmission, and distribution sectors would have to deal with larger electric loads, especially in winter, and respond to new variabilities in demand. After all, if everybody wants to charge their electric vehicles once they get home from work, the grid must be ready.

The materials—which can be downloaded at https://www.npga.org/membership/my-npga/—can also be co-branded with the logo of a state association or propane company.

An open, transparent discussion about the environmental impacts, consumer costs, and economic ramifications of policy-driven electrification efforts is needed. It is hoped with the NPGA materials, those discussions can be started more readily.

Sarah McLallen is vice president, communications and member services, with the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA).

Expert Weighs In On Accident Prevention Through "Near Miss" Reporting

Propane ACCIDENT PREVENTION THROUGH NEAR MISS REPORTING proivided by BPN the LPG industry's leading source for news since 1939We’ve long understood that knowing about near misses in our business is a key to preventing future accidents, but employees typically don’t buy into the program for myriad reasons. The lack of responses to your request for employees to report near misses doesn’t mean that your company isn’t experiencing them, it just means that the employees don’t feel comfortable reporting them to you. Understanding the reasons why your program isn’t working is a key to ensuring that you address the concerns, circumvent the accidents, and prevent visits from OSHA, DOT, and any other agency that could wreak havoc on your company’s image and financial wellbeing.

The first roadblock to getting the appropriate information is making the process too difficult or stressful for the employee. Although having a “form” to fill out seems the quickest and most efficient way for management to gather the information, if the employee has to describe a scenario or write up a description of what happened, they may decide that the personal time required outweighs the associated risk. Less time-consuming and more favorably viewed options could be a tip line that the employee could call or an app that would appeal to more tech-savvy employees.

Ease of reporting is a positive first step, but it still requires the employee to recognize the risk or behavior and then voluntarily come forward with the information.

Employees being willing to come forward is the second roadblock to an effective near miss program. Employees fear being seen as a snitch and worry that their friends and coworkers could be punished or lose their jobs if they report a near miss. Additionally, employees might also fear reprisal from the coworker that they report. Anonymity is essential in any near miss program. The reporting process should never require a name, employee number, or any other identifying factor that could limit or prevent the outcomes you are trying to achieve.

No matter how well intentioned, designed, and important the reporting process is to your company, in the absence of a corporate culture that encourages the reporting, accepts the information as a chance to improve the organization, and does so without fear of reprisal or punishment against any employee, the intended results will never be met.

Proactive vs. Reactive
Although the entire thought process of reporting near misses is to be proactive in our approach to safety, with the intent of heading off the statistically predictable accidents that follow near misses, we can actually be even more proactive in our approach.

We’ve already determined that making the reporting process easy and anonymous is critical and that the overall culture of the organization must allow each employee to buy into the process as it seeks to make improvements rather than place blame. However, an even more proactive approach from management and a positive complement to that process is to ask employees directly.

Utilize one of your monthly safety meetings, or a part of one, to show or describe some common near miss accidents/incidents. Encourage discussion by asking the employees if they have seen anything similar while performing their daily job duties or in the past at another company. No matter how insignificant the example provided, it should be thoroughly explored in a serious and informative manner. This will signal to the employees that their concerns are of importance to you and that what they say has merit, which will make them and other employees consider wanting to further contribute to the conversation. The key objective is to generate lively discussion and to demonstrate that you truly do care about their well-being and the safe operations of the company and that you’re not on a “witch hunt.”

Having the Discussion
Because of the sensitive nature of these types of conversations, you must ensure that no comment is taken personally by you, the safety director, the supervisor, or the owner. If employees detect that you take exception to their comments, the discussion will cease, as will your goals of preventing future accidents.

It is critically important that you see if the employees can identify a hazard and a near miss. If they constantly step over tools on the shop floor, watch as bottles are filled without safety equipment, or review incomplete paperwork without sending it back for correction, employees may think that these practices are okay and that this is “just how it is at our company.” If employees have difficulty actually discerning what the hazard/risk is and how close they came to having an accident, you may need to discuss the types of information you are looking to receive from these discussions.

As you discuss and analyze your example near miss scenarios, ask employees the following questions:
  • What hazards or risks do you observe?
  • What is the near miss that could have caused a serious accident or injury?
  • What could have been done to prevent the incident?
  • What could the outcome have been if the near miss had not been reported?

In closing, it should be communicated that the safety and health of each employee and the success of the company is the responsibility of each employee, that you will take each report seriously, and that no employee will ever be reprimanded for reporting a near miss or being involved in a near miss because both allow you to make important and necessary improvements for the benefit of everyone.

Reward the Behavior
Instituting a reward system for employees, although not anonymous, can also be beneficial. The reward doesn’t have to be anything exorbitant. Even a $25 or $50 gift card can encourage employees to participate in the program and report what they see. Ensure that all employees receive their rewards in a very timely manner in order to show your support and acknowledgment of their time and effort. Consider a larger drawing or a luncheon at the end of the year for all the employees who participated.

Ultimately, your goal is to prevent what is preventable and to engage your greatest company asset in the endeavor. The benefits of the program are improved safety, improved morale, and improved profits. If you create a culture of cooperation and trust, you will surely accomplish your near miss goals and the employees will desire to be a part of the program because of that culture.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Tom Mullaney is a commercial insurance risk control expert, specializing in the transportation, propane, and petroleum industries. As vice president of risk engineering for Aegis General Insurance Co., he is responsible for creating the vision and providing the leadership for the organization’s risk control efforts.

4/2020