Testing propane lines

A relatively quiet week in the pork industry. Good harvest weather across the Midwest has everyone out in the combines working on bean harvest, even in the very flooded areas of southern Minnesota. We will have some yield loss due to the flooding and the hail that came at some locations with the heavy rains.

On Monday I went to an open house of a 2400 head wean-finish facility. While there aren’t a lot of new facilities, this open house and other projects that I am aware suggest that the industry is slowly healing from the 2008-9 losses. Even with corn on the Chicago Board of Trade going above $5, I’m aware of a few building projects already on the books for next year.

On Sunday morning, our low is forecast to be 35F, with scattered frost. Normal frost date for this area is October 7, so we’re ready for it. The question for producers is, are you ready for cold weather in your facilities.

In the producer meetings I’ve been doing this past month I’ve been asking for a show of hands on how many producers routinely have their propane lines high pressure tested. Surprisingly few hands went up at most meetings.

I got a first hand lesson in the importance of this in my last winter at the University of Nebraska. We bid our propane with local suppliers on a quarterly basis. In January, 2006 a new supplier received the bid. In their first service call, they replaced the regulators on the propane tanks at my swine research unit and then high pressure tested all of the propane lines, something that had never been done in my 25+ years at the unit.

As you might expect, we failed the test and in fact had to replace all of the propane lines from the tanks to the various facilities. Not a fun thing to do in January.

At the research barns that I oversee, our propane supplier tests the lines yearly. Even though the facilities are only 4 years old, we have found leaks. In conversations with producers who routinely test their lines, it appears that the most common point of leakage is where lines enter facilities.

To the best of my knowledge, most propane suppliers will do a high pressure test for free. With propane at $1.50/gal, we want to be sure it gets used for heat in the facility and not vented to the atmosphere by a small leak.

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