Begin thinking about next winter’s propane needs today

While it is the middle of July, now is the time to think about next winter’s propane needs. For those of us in the upper Midwest, thoughts of last winter’s spike in spot prices to over $5 per gallon along with one of the coldest winters on record are not good.

Based on the popular press articles I’ve seen in the past few weeks and some contacts with producers who have talked with propane suppliers, it appears this winter we could once again face spot price rises and/or shortages. The cause of the shortage (inadequate pipeline delivery capacity) has not been remedied. Rail lines in our region have not been able to meet their obligations for grain rail cars, much less add capacity to bring in rail cars of propane.

As you think about filling your current storage during these summer months, and maybe even adding storage capacity, now it the time to also have your supplier do a high pressure test on your propane delivery lines. In my experience most suppliers offer this service free of charge.

A common point of leakage is where your propane line enters a facility and faces sudden temperature variations. Corrosion and expansion/contraction is common at this point and more than one producer has told me stories of repair bills. I had this happen to me at my research unit at the University of Nebraska in January of 2006. In that case I was faced with a winter replacement of several propane lines, a less than low cost project I had no choice but to do.

In addition to the high pressure test, if you have any regulators inside facilities vented to the outside, be sure and verify that the vent remains open and able to function.

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