Yellowstone's Innovative New Propane Cylinder Recycling Program

The Yellowstone Park Foundation and Bernzomatic, a hand-held torch and fuel cylinder company, launched a disposable camping fuel cylinder recycling program for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The program aims to help park visitors properly recycle propane containers commonly used to fuel lanterns, camping stoves, and grills. The Foundation notes that the containers are usually either left at campsites or placed in improper recycling containers. This recently introduced sustainability initiative includes the rollout of a new recycling vehicle, which park officials showed off at a special event on June 4, 2016.
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The Foundation notes that the sustainability initiative and the recycling vehicle “set [a] new industry standard for protecting natural resources and reducing waste in U.S. parks.”

This program aims to solve an environmental challenge facing Yellowstone: many of the park’s millions of annual visitors use propane cylinders in camping stoves and grills during their stay but often don’t know how to properly dispose of the containers. Visitors tend to leave them near campsites or in the incorrect recycling containers, rather than properly disposing them in designated propane recycling bins.

“Proper recycling of all camping materials — including the fuel cylinders used each season — has always been a focus at Yellowstone; however, the park’s original infrastructure could not keep up with the number of cylinders used,” said Karen Kress, president of the Yellowstone Park Foundation. “We are grateful for Bernzomatic’s partnership in uncovering a long-term cylinder recycling solution that also makes the process simpler for park visitors.”
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As part of the program, Bernzomatic invested significant resources to overhaul Yellowstone’s existing cylinder reclamation vehicle. The company’s engineering, product development, safety, and regulatory teams collaborated to create this first-of-its-kind design with enhanced safety features. The new vehicle now removes residual propane from discarded fuel cylinders and processes them for recycling 20 times faster than the original vehicle.

“This partnership is a natural extension of our Bernzomatic CylinderSafe program, the first and only public education program on non-refillable fuel cylinder safety,” said Mike Verne, general manager of consumer products for Worthington Industries, parent company to Bernzomatic. “Through this initiative with Yellowstone, we want to make it as simple as possible for park visitors to access important cylinder safety and disposal information and reduce waste in the parks.”

To make the recycling process simpler, Yellowstone and Bernzomatic are also renovating the park’s propane recycling bin infrastructure by making the bins more easily identifiable, distinguishable, and uniform in color. The recycling bins will have updated signage that clearly communicates the type of cylinders that are acceptable to discard in the bins. The organizations are also working to educate park visitors about cylinder recycling by sharing program information on their websites and social channels and across park lodges, visitor centers, and local convenience stores.
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To find out more details about the program, BPN contacted Verne with some additional questions:

BPN: Can you provide more history on how and why the program came about?

Verne: In 2005, Yellowstone became the first national park to recycle small propane cylinders. Since then, the park collected, crushed, and redeemed an average of 16,300 cylinders per year from the greater Yellowstone area; however, Yellowstone was not able to keep up with demand or meet safety requirements with the original propane recycling machine [it] had in place. Yellowstone recently contacted Bernzomatic to rebuild the propane recycling machine to improve efficiency in time for the park’s peak visitor season in 2016 in order to maintain the park’s natural beauty and protect its employees and wildlife.

BPN: Can you provide more detail on how the process works and how the machine removes the residual propane from the cylinders and processes them 20 times faster than the original unit?

Verne: The previous vehicle required upwards of 30 minutes to remove residual propane from one cylinder; the new recycling vehicle can remove residual propane from one cylinder in approximately one minute. The new recycling vehicle only requires one individual to operate; whereas the previous vehicle required multiple individuals.

How the process works:
• The recycling process begins by removing residual propane from each cylinder so it can safely be crushed.
• Once residual propane has been removed, an operations staff member places the empty cylinder in the compactor to be crushed.
• Yellowstone will then be able to sell the scrap metal to recycling locations.
• Yellowstone will also be able to recycle and use the remaining propane for propane-powered equipment throughout the park.

BPN: Can you tell us about the capacity of the recycling vehicle? What fuel does the vehicle run on?

Verne: The vehicle in Yellowstone only recycles 14-oz and 1-lb non-refillable cylinders. We do not crush or recycle the larger cylinders that can be refilled. The silver 30-lb cylinders you see on top and sides of the vehicle are actually used to safely collect the residual propane from the cylinders that we recycle. Once the 30-lb cylinders are filled, Yellowstone then uses the recycled propane to power the vehicle and fuel equipment such as lawn mowers and forklifts throughout the park.

BPN: Talk about Worthington being a parent company of Bernzomatic and how that relationship came about.

Verne: Worthington Industries bought Bernzomatic from Irwin Industrial Tool Co., a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Inc., in 2011. The Bernzomatic brand is part of Worthington Industries’ consumer products business.

—Daryl Lubinsky

Landscape Company Upgrades All Equipment to Propane

Historically, Tarantino Landscapes (Bridgeport, Conn.) has used mowers and pickup trucks that ran on gasoline. Over the past couple years, the business, which is a sister company of propane company Hocon Gas (Shelton, Conn.), is going through the process of switching its entire fleet of trucks and equipment to run on propane. Tarantino is a full-service landscape company that works on commercial and residential properties, schools, and parks. It includes a separate division for baseball, football, and soccer field renovation and maintenance, mound and base installation for baseball fields, and field lining. For residential customers, the business provides services such as spring clean-up, tree or shrub plantings, or planting a completely new garden. Tarantino’s website states, “Tarantino Landscapes has made it a priority to use the latest in propane landscaping technology to maintain equipment efficiency, lower fuel costs, and bring awareness to green concerns.”

“We’re not completely propane yet, but that’s what we’re working on,” said Don Dickson, operations manager at Tarantino Landscapes. “As we replace [machines], we’ve been replacing them with propane units.”

Six to eight of the trucks in the fleet are propane-fueled. The Ford F-250s and F-350s, which pull trailers, use the Icom liquid-injection propane system converted by Don Cusson from Cusson Automotive in South Windsor, Conn. The landscaping company formerly used gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles. The first truck conversion took place three years ago, another was converted about a year later, and last year the company converted four trucks to propane.

The conversion of the mowers took place on a similar path. Tarantino converted two Exmark mowers about three years ago, and they worked well. Now the mowers come from Exmark already converted to propane.

Dickson has noticed no difference in power and speed compared to gasoline and diesel trucks. Tarantino workers who drive the trucks every day use propane almost exclusively. Running out of propane is rarely a problem because the Tarantino location is only about a couple hundred yards from a Hocon Gas site. “You really wouldn’t know they’re propane-powered,” he said. “They run clean, and we have had no issues with them.”

The same holds true for the propane mowers, most of which are Exmark Lazer 60-in. and Exmark Tracer 52-in., along with a couple 48-in. models. The mowers perform “exactly like gasoline mowers,” Dickson noted.

“When they first came out, they were a little lacking in power, but Exmark added more powerful Kohler engines with increased horsepower in its propane unit [from 16 to 18],” he explained. “Now it’s fine. We don’t use any additional fuel, so even going up to a bigger horsepower engine, the fuel consumption seems to be pretty much the same. Now it’s exactly where the gas was as far as power and climbing hills.”

Dickson added that the mowers have been well received by clients. The company performs much of its work around senior housing and schools, and he has heard compliments from clients about the mowers emitting no fumes, and they appreciate that the company is not polluting the air.
“We’ll continue doing four trucks a year, converting them and our older gasoline mowers to propane mowers, so eventually our entire fleet will be propane.”

Hocon Gas vice president of operations Bill Cummings noted that Hocon is active in the propane autogas business. Hocon services the Town of Shelton’s school buses and soon the City of Waterbury’s buses, along with a pump station for the town of Torrington school buses. About half of Hocon’s vehicles run on propane, including two Freightliner S2G bobtails. Hocon Gas has been in business more than 60 years. Tarantino and Sons Landscaping, founded by Generoso Tarantino in the 1950s, changed its name to Tarantino Landscapes in 1987. Generoso’s son Gino Tarantino, who is vice president and CFO of Hocon Gas, and Hocon president and owner David Gable became partners in the landscaping business about 10 years ago.

Regarding the mowers, Cummings noted that Tarantino Landscapes has purchased more than 15 propane-powered lawn mowers over the last few years. “We didn’t have an old fleet, so we’re not changing any out this year,” he stated. “But next year, we probably will, and we’ll go propane with those, too.”

He is excited to see the landscape business switch over to propane trucks and mowers. “The mowers are powerful, and of course the pickups are all running well. We’re having a good experience with this changeover. You’ve got to try it. People hesitate, but we’ve had absolutely no problems at all.”     —Daryl Lubinsky

40 Years of Dedication To Propane Equipment

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, LPG & NH3 Supply (Buffalo, Minn.) got its start when Gary Koch left his position at Gas Supply. It was early 1976, and Gary started his own company, LPG & NH3 Supply. Gary was later joined at LPG & NH3 Supply by his father, Herb Koch, after he also left his position at Gas Supply. In the beginning, LPG & NH3 Supply specialized in bulk plant construction. Over time, the company’s focus turned to wholesale equipment distribution, but plant construction remains part of the company’s business.
Now the third-generation company offers a complete line of propane and anhydrous ammonia equipment from manufacturers such as RegO Products, Blackmer, Corken, Algas-SDI, Modine, Alternative Energy Systems, and L.B. White. The business provides propane and anhydrous ammonia plant construction and service and also designs and installs propane/air standby systems.

Jeff Munzel joined the company in June of 1976, and today he serves as vice president and part owner. “What kept the boat afloat at that time was plant construction,” Munzel said, but the percentage of the company’s sales slowly evolved from almost 100% plant construction to more equipment sales.

Jeff Munzel’s father, Harold Munzel, who had a long career in the energy industry, joined the company in 1982. He had previously worked for Midland Cooperative, which is now CHS. “He had a lot of name recognition in the industry,” Jeff Munzel said of his father. “When he came on board, he helped us solidify distribution of some of the major manufacturing equipment in the industry.” Harold and Jeff Munzel, along with Herb and Gary Koch, oversaw the business as it began to grow and gain distributorship of various lines of equipment. The plant construction business grew as well.

Gary Koch’s son, Charlie Koch, joined the company in 1996 and is now co-owner of the company along with Jeff Munzel. They describe the business as a key propane equipment distributor in the Midwestern United States. Its outside salesman travel full-time, covering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The company primarily distributes propane equipment to those states, but it regularly ships equipment to all 50 states. “Our outside salesmen tend to visit every customer every six weeks in that area,” Charlie Koch said. Chad Pendill manages the staff of three outside salesmen and three inside, and the company employs 25 people overall.

Its expansive product line includes regulators, cylinder and service valves, multi-valve assemblies, pumps, compressors, valves, LP-gas meters, and many other products such as CSST tubing, copper tubing, and brass fittings, and cylinder storage cabinets.

Pendill noted that sales of propane autogas dispensers have been taking off as of late. The company builds its own dispenser, retrofitting the Gasboy refined fuel dispenser to propane. The unit features fuel management capabilities such as transaction reporting. Pendill, who has been with the company for 19 years, stated that the company overall has experienced “tremendous growth” over the years, noting the company’s recent expansion of its Buffalo, Minn. facility last year to 33,000 sq ft, and a 17,000-sq-ft outdoor tank yard was added.

“With our warehouse capacity and our knowledgeable people, we’re set up to experience great growth,” he stated.

The company recently began distributing a new product, the Ventur-Evac, from Jetmark LLC, invented by Mark Grave. It is a tank evacuation unit for pumping propane from residential and commercial tanks. Tests confirm 10- to 11-gpm consistent flow rates during evacuation. However, flow rates of up to 16 gpm have been seen in warmer weather/higher pressure conditions. LPG & NH3 Supply showed a prototype of the product at the National Propane Gas Association Southeastern Conference in April. Charlie Koch noted that the Ventur-Evac is a small, 6-lb unit that is easy to use and move around, as opposed to the current compressors that the industry uses for evacuation, which he said weigh about 80 lbs. Charlie Koch added that the product requires only two hoses to hook it up; the current compressor requires three. Because the Ventur-Evac and a pair of hoses fits easily in the toolbox on any propane bobtail, it can be carried in every truck, and only one driver is necessary on site for tank evacuations. The light weight of the Ventur-Evac ensures that it can be carried and used by only one person, reducing the chance of Worker’s Comp claims for back injuries. “The tank evacuation procedure is now a one-person operation rather than a two-person operation, freeing up your resources to handle other jobs,” Charlie Koch explained.

Darin Adolphsen, salesman for LPG & NH3 Supply, praised the company’s willingness to try out new ideas like the Ventur-Evac. “They gave me the go-ahead to go out and sell it. They gave me free rein to do it,” he said. “Other companies take a long time to get changes approved.”

Leaders at the business believe in supporting its state associations, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), and the state and national Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Five employees currently serve on state association boards and committees, and past employees have served as president of the Minnesota and Wisconsin associations and have served on the PERC council.

“We’re a service-oriented company,” noted Charlie Koch, adding that the business focuses on “order in, order out, the same day.”

“We ship 95% of our orders out the same day,” he noted. “We keep a large inventory on hand, so we hopefully have everything a customer would need. We can ship the order complete the same day. We’ve partnered with three different package shipping carriers as well as many different truck lines. If you called us at 2:30 p.m. our time, if you’re in our next-day area, which is basically all the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you would have your order complete tomorrow morning.”

The company held a two-day celebration for its 40th anniversary, including an open house at its warehouse, and 13 of its vendors set up tables to talk to customers. The event included a golf outing and a lunch served on a grill made out of a propane tank.   — Daryl Lubinsky


(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) July 15, 2016 – IC Bus announced it will fulfill an order by the Indianapolis Public Schools of 100 CE Series school buses, powered by the Power Solutions International (PSI) 8.8-liter LP propane engine. The buses will be delivered by the IC Bus dealer, Midwest Transit Equipment, in Whitestown, Indiana.
 icbus ce propane school bus

“IC Bus is proud to partner with Indianapolis Public Schools and we look forward to helping them with their transportation needs for this school year and beyond,” said Trish Reed, vice president and general manager, IC Bus. “Additionally, this order demonstrates our customers’ continued confidence in our products and acknowledges the significant benefits of our propane engine offering.”
Purpose-built for the school bus industry, the CE Series with PSI propane engine is designed to provide diesel-like performance with higher torque at lower engine speeds. The high torque-low speed design greatly benefits stop-and-start applications to allow immediate acceleration after stops and greater hill climbing capability. This not only improves startability and gradability, but also eliminates excessive noise, heat and vibration associated with constant engine revving. Minimal revving reduces engine wear, oil usage and maintenance, while increasing durability and efficiency.
The buses are being built at the IC Bus assembly plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Deliveries began in June 2016 and will be complete this summer in time for back-to-school transportation needs in the 2016-2017 school year.
“We are excited to refresh nearly half of our fleet with the propane powered CE Series buses and look forward to seeing the benefit of using an alternative, clean burning fuel to transport our students safely and on time,” said Monica Coburn, transportation director, Indianapolis Public Schools.

Industry Members Make Presence Known on Capitol Hill

As Congress was busy preparing to break for the Memorial Day recess, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) was gearing up for its 12th annual Propane Days fly-in May 24 to 25. After taking care of NPGA’s internal business the previous day, the Propane Days attendees were eager to kick off the program. The day began with a breakfast briefing from NPGA’s legislative team on the issue “asks” for this year’s Hill visits. These included asking members to support the 34-hour restart provision for truck drivers; back propane autogas initiatives; oppose excessive entry-level driver training rules; and conduct a review of the Department of Transportation’s small pipeline system regulations.
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Following this briefing, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was welcomed to the stage by New York Propane Gas Association (NYPGA) president Rick Cummings. Collins gave his take on what’s happening in Congress and explained why he was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. After the congressman finished his remarks, incoming Governmental Affairs Committee chair Tom Jaenicke introduced the keynote speaker, Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday.” Wallace began with jokes about all of the presidential candidates before settling in to more serious insight and closing with a Q&A with propane industry attendees.
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Once the morning program ended, NPGA’s members made their way to the Hill for office visits with their home state delegations. While the propane industry was obviously one of several groups doing a fly-in, it was clear that there was a great propane industry presence moving about the halls of the congressional office buildings. The annual Congressional BBQ Reception capped the day. The smell of barbecue emanating from the Rayburn Building Cafeteria seemed to entice a steady stream of staffers to the reception — nearly 850 people attended. This also included 28 members of Congress who stopped by to speak with their constituents who were in town for Propane Days.

Stuart Weidie, who was sworn in as NPGA chairman before the start of Propane Days, noted that although discussion took place among some industry members to consider holding Propane Days every other year, he believes the event should continue taking place annually. “I think it’s important for us to maintain a presence every year and maintain the relationships,” he explained. “You never know when big issues will come up, and you have to plan months and months ahead of time, so I think it’s a good idea to do that every year. Of course when there’s a hot issue, more people will attend, but it’s still good to have that presence every year. For the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of hot-button issues, I thought we had pretty good attendance.”

Regarding the state propane gas associations’ visits with legislators and their staff members, several members reported that their meetings with members of Congress and their staff were successful. Participating with the Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association, John Eddinger of Eddinger Propane (Bally, Pa.) met with Pennsylvania congressman Ryan Costello (R-6, Pa.) and noted that Costello was very receptive to a National Academy of Sciences study concerning jurisdictional distribution systems. “I believe he will support the report of the study in the Pipeline Safety Reauthorization Bill this summer along with supporting extending the Alternative Fuels and Refueling Infrastructure tax credit,” Eddinger said, adding that Propane Days 2016 was his third meeting with Costello since they met at Propane Days 2015. Due to Eddinger’s initial meeting with Costello, Costello toured the Eddinger Propane plant, and after meeting with Eddinger in September 2015, Costello agreed to join the Propane Caucus.
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 “Congressman Costello has a much better understanding of propane and our industry now than he had at this time last year. I am pleased to have established, and plan to continue, our great relationship that began during Propane Days 2015,” Eddinger said. “I have consistently attended Propane Days for many years and met with numerous offices; however, due to continuing efforts throughout the year to develop a rapport with my congressman, Propane Days 2016 was, without a doubt, the most confident and comfortable I have been during a meeting. I sense that if you have a good relationship established with your congressman, he/she will do their best to personally meet with you. I certainly hope Congressman Costello is re-elected this November so I can continue to foster our relationship.”

Also with the Pennsylvania group, David Pennypacker of Superior Plus Energy Services met with Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster and with a legislative assistant for Rep. Lou Barletta. “Both offices were receptive and favorable of the issues and concerns discussed,” Pennypacker noted. He added that this was his second time attending Propane Days, and because he met with Barletta’s legislative assistant at Propane Days 2015, he was more confident and at ease meeting with her again.
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“I believe the consistency of (many) Propane Days in Washington, D.C. has given the propane industry name recognition and the voice needed ‘on the hill,’” Pennypacker stated.

News from other states:

• John Jessup of the North Carolina Propane Gas Association reported effective meetings with both of the state’s senators and with representatives from almost all 13 congressional districts.

• Tom Osina of the West Virginia Propane Gas Association reported that this was the 13th year in a row the association has sent a group to meet with its congressional delegation.