Eastern Propane & Oil's Denis Gagne Sworn In As NPGA Chairman

(Rochester, NH) On June 15, 2020 — Denis Gagne, Senior Vice President of Supply & Acquisitions at Eastern Propane & Oil, was sworn in as the new Chairman of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA). The NPGA is the national trade association representing the U.S. propane industry. Its membership includes small businesses and large corporations engaged in the distribution and servicing of propane gas and related equipment. Its mission is to promote and support the use of propane as a low carbon, reliable, resilient, and abundant source of energy to meet the needs of households and businesses in the United States.
Denis Gagne VP of Eastern Propane is Sworn in As New Chairman of National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) 2020 reports BPN the propane industry leading source for news since 1939.jpg
Denis has a lifetime of experience in the propane industry having worked in his family’s propane business, Gagne’s Bottled Gas. Denis joined Eastern in 1976 when Gagne’s Bottled Gas was acquired by Eastern.

“Thanks to my experience in a family business where I learned the fundamental importance of family and hard work, and the experience I gained working at Eastern, I believe that I can help advance our industry and the customers we serve,” Denis said.

Denis has been active in the propane industry associations since the 1990’s when he first became involved the Propane Gas Association of New England and later held numerous leadership positions. In the late 1990’s, Denis started attending NPGA board meetings. Thereafter, Denis joined the board and served on and led several NPGA committees. In 2012, he was elected to the Executive Committee and then as an officer of NPGA. Eastern congratulates and thanks Denis for continuing to make a positive impact on the propane industry.

Tom Manson, CEO of Eastern, shared, “Denis is a great example of how hard work and dedication pays off. He has helped Eastern grow over the years. We are excited to see Denis continuing to help our industry on a national level. Congratulations Denis, we are very proud of you for representing Eastern and our industry. There is no better person for the job!”

About Eastern Propane & Oil
Eastern Propane & Oil is a full-service energy provider committed to delivering our customers superior service, comfort, and safety. Family owned since 1932, we live in the same communities as our customers and we believe in serving our neighbors the way we would want to be served.

Delivery is available in NH, ME, MA, RI & VT and we offer the sale, installation and service of propane or oil appliances including central home heating systems, water heaters, fireplaces and space heating solutions. Free consultations, 24/7 service, online bill pay, installment plans, service plans, budget plans and pre-buy plans are all available through Eastern Propane & Oil.

Industry Veterans Band Together To Present Virtual Propane Expo

As the coronavirus shuttered all possibilities for industry members to physically attend the popular annual trade shows and expos this spring, industry members banded together with alternative ideas to address the situation.
Visual Propane Expo launched to provide educational opportunities in lieu of travel bans covid19

On what would have been the final day of the NPGA Expo in Nashville, a group of industry veterans announced plans for a day of virtual expo activities on April 29. Similar to the Energize 2020 Conference, a full day of seminars that was held earlier in the month, the Virtual Propane Expo (VPE) included the day of webinars with a virtual trade show added to the mix. A website at www.virtualpropaneexpo.com is now the hub of VPE. The group plans to host a similar event monthly near the end of the month.
Bill Stomp organizes Visual Propane Expo webinar for LPG marketers over 1000 attend due to Covid-19 reports BPN

Led by Bill Stomp of Tankspotter.com, a board was assembled to oversee VPE that includes Peter Gilman, currently interim executive director of Virtual Propane Expo, past senior vice president of LP Transportation, a board member of the New Jersey Propane Gas Association, and past vice president of Eastern Propane; Shane Sweet, a consultant with experience as an executive director of several energy associations including the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, the Northeast Fuel Institute, and the New York Propane Gas Association; Mike Digiorgio, president of Propane University, founder of Silverback Consulting, and president of the Propane Gas Defense Association; and safety consultant, Stuart Flatow, a former vice president of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

“Early in my career I was driving the newest aircraft carrier in Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War,” Stomp said. “After that I was worked for a propane co-op that was soon bought out by Suburban Propane, and this led to an opportunity to ultimately run operations at 53 locations for this multistate company. From my experience in Desert Storm with the latest technology the military had to offer, I always sought to have the latest technology available to get things done efficiently. Sometimes our biggest competitor is the clock, and if we can’t have everyone working efficiently, we are losing to the clock.”

Stomp took this approach to his next role creating software and technology that would organize safety, service, sales, and training information. “Things get lost too easily when on paper or filed improperly.” Recently, Stomp’s Tankspotter software was entered in a world tech competition at the World LPG Forum and won the top prize in its category.

“As a vendor, I am conscious of vendors’ concerns,” Stomp said. “Several of us have talked about creating an online expo experience complete with online learning opportunities and a chance to virtually visit many booths of vendors. In March, with COVID-19 starting to cancel several industry trade shows, we went ahead and pulled the trigger on launching the Virtual Propane Expo. With a number of vendors working on commission, it was critical that they have a forum to still attract customers despite almost all 2020 shows cancelling for the year and stay-at-home orders forcing an end to traveling to customer locations.”

BRINGING THE INDUSTRY TOGETHER Visual Propane Expo presenter Shane Sweet shares in educational webinar for LPG marketers reports BPN the industry's leading source of LPG info since 1939
Initial plans came to fruition with a day-long series of webinars on April 29, complete with an online trade show at no charge for exhibitors as well as free for retail propane marketers, to give them a chance to look through the booths and hear one-minute and five-minute sales pitches. “The sales pitches are in the booths,” Sweet explained. “We are not wanting sales pitches in the educational sessions.” 

The VPE board is still listening to the industry and deciding how this takes shape long-term, Sweet said. “The only thing certain is uncertainty in this environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.” So far, he notes that industry members he knows are enjoying the benefits. “I had a guy tell me he joined a webinar he wanted to see during the lunch hour and got a lot out of it. Others have been too busy during the actual event but are able to check out recorded programs later. Vendors are getting leads from the online trade show.”

Visual Propane Expo webinar provides educational opportunities for lpg industry during COVID19 pandemic reports BPN june 2020
Gilman recalls meeting with Stomp a year ago, and described how Stomp was so interested in launching a virtual expo and trade show that he had reserved several website addresses for the project. “Fast forward a year later and I get a call from Bill asking me to join the team to get the Virtual Propane Expo off the ground,” said Gilman. “My initial thought was, at a time when COVID-19 was pulling business and industries apart, a virtual site provided a solution to bring us together. That was two months ago and we hit the ground sprinting. The VPE is attracting top industry speakers who can reach and interact with the entire industry all at once. It is a state-of-the-art, high-tech site, but easy to navigate and use.”

A question many have asked is if VPE is going to become a for-profit endeavor. “Right now, I just want to get a few sponsors who will cover the cost of my employees’ time in setting up the educational programs and booth space information in the site,” Stomp explained. “While attending is free for all and the trade show is free for vendors associated with the propane industry, we are providing extra banner advertising to some key sponsors willing to` pay for a sponsorship.”  The next VPE event is scheduled June 24-25. — Pat Thornton

Future Of Renewable Propane Autogas Showcased In New Video

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2020) – In an effort to showcase the zero-emissions outlook of propane autogas, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) unveiled a new video highlighting renewable propane: the energy source for fleets now and into the future.
renewable propane offers clean sustainable vehicle autogas fuel that is nontoxic to soil water and air reports BPN the industry's leading source for news since 1939

“As the next generation of sustainability, renewable propane is an energy source that will play a critical role in caring for the environment,” said Steve Whaley, director of autogas business development at PERC. “Renewable propane has all the benefits of conventional propane autogas – it’s clean, affordable, and provides fleets with the same performance and reliability they’ve come to expect – but at the point of combustion, it’s carbon neutral.”

Renewable propane is a byproduct of the renewable diesel and jet fuel production process, which converts plant and vegetable oils, waste greases, and animal fat into fuel. Renewable propane has the same chemical structure and physical properties as conventional propane and can be used in any existing propane autogas engine.

Because it’s produced from renewable, raw materials, renewable propane has an even lower carbon intensity than conventional propane and is far cleaner than other energy sources. Renewable propane is already available, and many experts predict the entire worldwide demand can be met with renewable propane by 2040.

See how low-carbon renewable propane is part of the big picture to keep our planet cleaner for future generations at Propane.com/Environment.

For more information about propane autogas vehicles, visit Propane.com.

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.

NPGA Adds COVID-19 To Propane Industry Priorities

Natoinal Propane Gas Associaiton (NPGA) Leaders add COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic planning to 2020 priorities reports BPN leading industry trade publication 061520At the beginning of 2020, BPN spoke with the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Jeff Petrash, vice president and general counsel, and deputy counsel regulatory affairs, Sarah Reboli, about the coming decade. Midwest propane supply issues had consumed their time in late 2019. “Electrification will be a big issue for a number of years ahead for NPGA,” Petrash told BPN in January. Other issues discussed included a plan to go back to FERC in June to address how index pricing is set for liquids shipped on pipelines; natural gas expansion issues brewing in Utah and Iowa; and new requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). With the spread of COVID-19, addressing the pandemic and its many challenges while still focusing on all other pressing issues became NPGA’s new plan for 2020, with all NPGA staff members hands on deck, but from remote locations as all are teleworking due to Washington, D.C.’s stay-at-home order.

In mid-May Petrash and Reboli were joined by fellow NPGA staffers Sarah McLallen, vice president of communications and member services, and Lesley Garland, vice president of state affairs, in a discussion with BPN about new issues that arose since our discussion at the beginning of the year. “I returned from a trip in mid-March, went straight home, and have not been back to the office since,” Petrash said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has all staff members working from home since March 15. Between the virus and all our existing issues, we’ve been busy the past couple of months!”

“We’ve been engaging with NPGA’s Propane Supply and Logistics Committee,” Petrash said. “With lower oil and gas prices, rig counts were down before the COVID-19 virus further slowed demand. Use of diesel fuel is down 20%, motor gas is down 30%, and jet fuel is down 60%. While we can’t move the levers of the commercial marketplace, we can keep the industry informed about what is happening and what their options are.”

With the infrastructure for exporting propane more developed than ever, there is more export capacity from the Gulf Coast as well as Marcus Hook in the Northeast. “Looking back at supply data over the past six years, when propane demand peaks in the U.S., exports drop,” Reboli said.

Reboli noted that laws and appropriations related to COVID-19 have been passing in Congress faster than agencies can handle them. “All details related to small business, tax credits, and paycheck programs must be provided to the industry,” she said. For Garland, there has been a surge of information to monitor with specific state requirements and recovery proposals. Some key questions have included whether employers can take employee temperatures; how companies can obtain face masks; and sharing with staff how best to handle existing requirements and COVID-19 requirements. Both Garland and Reboli acknowledged industry members are in uncharted territory following sometimes rapidly changing requirements while still taking care of customers.

An NPGA survey of industry members has aided the staff in focusing on members’ needs and their various situations and concerns. Respondents, by sector, were intrastate marketers (38%), interstate marketers (25%), distributors (20%), service providers (9%), and manufacturers (6%). Some highlights of the survey include:
  • 77% of survey respondents indicated the level of business operations in April 2020 was the same (31%) or slightly reduced (46%) from April 2019 operations; 10% saw increased activity and 13% reported severely reduced activity.
  • 95% of respondents reported employment levels in April 2020 were similar or only slightly lower than a month earlier on March 1. None reported significantly lower employment levels.
  • 85% reported that projects, deliveries (gallons), and purchase orders had not been delayed at all (38%) or that less than 25% had been delayed (47%).
  • 61% of respondents reported that they had no cancellations of existing projects and gallons delivered, while 36% reported they had some (less than 25%) cancellations.
  • 43% of the respondents applied for federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Program.
COVID-19 will not always dominate our conversation. Garland and the state affairs team continue to watch state governments, some of which are holding committee meetings and votes virtually. “There are nearly 200 bills regarding decarbonization and electrification right now,” Garland explained. “There have been attempts to ban natural gas installations in local construction in some states, including Massachusetts, where some suburbs of Boston have passed city ordinances. In other states, such as Arizona and Tennessee, we have passed bills that prohibit local governments banning natural gas or propane.” 

Key Data Helps Propane Marketer Make Improvements, Achieve Goals

What key numbers should retail propane marketers be reviewing? What is the importance of tracking key numbers in running a retail propane business? As discussed in the January issue of BPN, for each marketer, the key numbers will be different depending on the goals and objectives of the business.Propane business owners Key Numbers to know reports BPN june 2020
Recently BPN followed up with Chris Caywood, president of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. (Albion, Coldwater, and Hudson, Mich.), who has updated his list of key numbers he tracks based on the continued refining of goals and objectives for his business. “If it is an important area of the business, we want to measure our progress. We measure and evaluate strategic and business data,” Caywood said. “All of it helps us identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement and make faster decisions to achieve our goals.”

Return on capital is a strategic measure for Caywood as well as most businesses. “I can invest in my own business, someone else’s business, or private or public markets,” he said. “In the long run, the stock market will provide a 10% return and it’s both highly liquid and diversified. My own business is neither highly liquid nor diversified, so we need to be compensated for that with a risk premium- which we measure as return on capital.” He calculates return on capital as return on invested capital (ROIC) minus weighted average of cost of capital (WACC).
Here are Key Numbers propane business owners should know when selling a propane business reports BPN magazine june 2020

Comparing ROIC to WACC reveals whether invested capital is yielding an appropriate risk premium. The rule of thumb is that a company creates value if its ROIC exceeds WACC by 2%. Caywood (along with everybody else in the industry) also looks at EBITDA, which stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Operating cash flow and the company owned-tank base are also key factors.

Business-level metrics include market share. “We calculate our residential share by county as a percentage of the total number of homes using propane as a heat source using Census Bureau data,” Caywood explained. “Degree-day adjusted growth takes into account gallons today versus gallons in a previous period without the noise that can be introduced by weather fluctuations.”

“New customer growth is simple. How many customers do we have now versus in a previous period,” Caywood said. “Retention is based on the percentage of customers that stay with us from period to period.”

In the area of operations, Caywood tracks key numbers that many retail propane marketers track. “Like most, we want to know the gallons we pump per hour, per mile driven, and per stop. We like to know our auto-fill run-outs. It also is very important from a customer service standpoint to take care of a delivery in less than 10 days.”

“Service data is very important to us because we want to improve customer retention,” Caywood added. “So on-time arrival rates for service calls and call-back rates are important metrics.” In the office, telephone call performance is measured using traditional call center metrics like average call volume, answer rates, speed to answer, hold rates, average hold time, abandoned calls, and first call resolution.

“In addition, we use discounts to encourage our customers to interact with us digitally so we can measure our progress using metrics like percentage of customers with email addresses, the percentage of customers who receive e-statements and e-invoices, the percentage of will-call customers who place online or smartphone orders, and percentage of auto-fill customers who use a digital auto-pay feature.”

“Safety also is a very important area that can often be neglected,” Caywood said. “We track any safety violations or reportable events. We document safety meetings and attendance, and we measure and reward employees with safety certificates and continuing training.” — Pat Thornton