Propane supply a concern in Wood County PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 14:00
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Phil Braucksieck, with TJ Propane, uses a 3,000 gallon truck to fill propane tanks. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
NORTH BALTIMORE - With intense cold gripping the region, those in Wood County who heat their homes with propane should brace for the possibility of supplies running out.
There is no lack of available propane in the United States, but companies are having difficulty keeping up with demand due to transportation problems, according to George Walton, chief operating officer of Prism Propane.
Those problems could continue through February or all winter.
"This is not going to be solved overnight," Walton said during a Wednesday news conference at Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative, Prism's parent company.
Prism is restricting propane purchases to 30 percent of capacity. Walton said many residential customers have 500-gallon tanks that can be filled up to 400 gallons, putting their cap for a purchase at 120 gallons. Based on typical usage, which he said is around 10 to 12 gallons per day, that's not much given sustained cold temperatures forecasted for Northwest Ohio.
Those who rely on propane should conserve by reducing thermostats to 64 degrees and prepare for a potentially-ongoing shortage by getting a backup source such as electric heaters, Walton said.
The shortage is the result of what Prism termed a "perfect storm." A heavy and late crop-drying season increased demand for propane. Around the same time, a new pipeline that supplies the gas to the Midwest and East Coast was reversed to carry other products for export, and another pipeline was shut down for repairs, according to information from the National Propane Gas Association.
"When you combine the demand we've seen, all coming at a time when inventories weren't up to speed to where they were in past years, it created this crisis," Walton said.
Companies across the eastern United States are now scrambling to find transportation solutions for gas that is available elsewhere but unable to reach suppliers here. To address the problem, Gov. John Kasich declared an emergency this week that removes the travel limitations of truck drivers before they must spend extended time off the road, and national restrictions were lifted as well.
Prism has seen its supply deliveries slow from 10 to 15 per week to as few as one or two. A shipment arrived Wednesday morning from Alabama, and Walton said another trucking company was contracted to begin bringing propane from South Carolina, though the trip will only net two loads per week, or about 19,000 gallons.
"We're going to get them on the road, probably in the morning," Walton said, conceding that it's unlikely such trips would be able to keep up with demand if cold temperatures persist.
"If we get some severe temperatures sustained over a long period of time, I have to be very clear: I don't know how long we can continue this and keep adequate gas supply out there to our customers to keep them with heat."
Walton said he's been in touch with other companies throughout the state to "step over competition lines and look for opportunities where we can keep each other's customers with some gas if this thing gets worse."
At least one other propane distributor in Wood County was also experiencing difficulty meeting demand.
TJ Propane of Weston, which has about 2,500 customers, had its supply cut by at least 50 percent and as much as two-thirds, as refineries in Toledo are only outputting about half as much as normal, said manager Michael Long.SClB"It seems like things are pretty tight out there. We have been fortunate to this point that we are still getting gas, even if it's not as much as we want."
The company is stocked enough to supply for about 10 days and has not imposed any fill-restrictions on customers, but Long said discussions have begun about doing so.
"If it came down to that, we would probably start rationing it out," Long said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:44
 

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