Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training Receives National Excellence in Training Award

The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium a program of West Virginia University, spent much of 2016 traveling the United States training automotive technicians to repair and maintain propane autogas vehicles utilizing its Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training curriculum. Now this curriculum and training program has been recognized by the automotive training industry for its outstanding quality. The Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training is a three-day course which focuses on servicing and maintaining propane autogas vehicles safely.
The NAFTC recently earned its 5th National Excellence in Training Award from the Automotive Training Manager’s Council for the Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training. The NAFTC developed the Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training through funding from the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) to educate, train and prepare pre- and in-service automotive technicians on the rapidly expanding field of propane vehicle diagnostics and repair.

“Many fleets are turning to propane autogas vehicles to lower operating costs and improve local air quality. The NAFTC and PERC were able to develop a partnership and create a course that will benefit automotive technicians across the country who work on these vehicles. Having so many propane autogas industry personnel work with the NAFTC provided the technical support to make this happen,” said NAFTC Director Bill Davis.

PERC President and Chief Executive Officer Roy Willis commented, “PERC and the NAFTC developed a great partnership to create and present propane autogas training for technicians, and to continue to increase the use of propane autogas. Congratulations to both the NAFTC and PERC teams for their contributions to this important program. This award is a wonderful recognition of the importance and quality of this program,” Willis continued.

The NAFTC will receive its award in a formal presentation at the ATMC’s annual reception during the AAPEX and SEMA shows in Las Vegas on Nov. 2, 2016. The NAFTC’s four previous National Excellence in Training Awards were received in 2007, for its Overview of Biodiesel course; in 2012 for its Electric Drive Vehicle First Responder Safety Training suite of products; in 2013 for its Petroleum Reduction Technologies curriculum and supporting materials; and in 2014 for its Electric Drive Vehicle Automotive Technician Training.

The ATMC is an organization founded by automotive training professionals to promote the advancement of training and professional development within the automotive service industry. Davis added, “The receipt of the ATMC National Excellence in Training Award for so many of our products, shows that the NAFTC produces training materials of the highest quality. I am proud to work with a dedicated staff, who are committed to creating work that leads to cleaner air and energy independence, and who know that together we do make a difference.”
AutogasTechTraining PERC Cover

The ATMC National Excellence in Training award-winning Propane Autogas Vehicle Technician Training includes hands-on, real-world activities to familiarize participants with propane autogas components. The trainings have grown so much in popularity that sessions quickly fill up, including a 3-day training session that begins tomorrow, Oct. 18-20, 2016, at Lawson State Community College-Alabama Center for Automotive Excellence, Bessemer, Alabama.

The NAFTC was founded in 1992 and manages education and outreach programs and activities, develops curricula, and conducts training on subject matter related to alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. The NAFTC works with universities, community colleges and high schools around the country to develop training programs for dissemination at the local level. The organization consists of approximately 50 National and Associate Training Centers that utilize its curricula and training materials. Numerous other members from small business, government, and industry also support the NAFTC’s mission.

About  PERC
The Propane Education & Research Council is a check-off program established, operated, and funded by the propane industry. The only energy council of its kind, PERC educates consumers about propane’s many uses and benefits, leads safety and training efforts among propane retailers and consumers, and drives technology development to expand adoption of propane as a clean, affordable, American-made energy source. PERC programs benefit a variety of industries including fleet vehicle management, landscaping, residential and commercial building, agriculture, and material handling.

PERC Showcases Propane Mower Benefits at 2016 GIE+EXPO

WASHINGTON (October 17, 2016) – The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is teaching commercial landscape contractors and outdoor power equipment dealers how to hit it out of the park with commercial propane mowers and equipment at the GIE+EXPO this week in Louisville, Kentucky. The Green Industry Equipment Expo (GIE) is the largest trade show for outdoor power equipment, lawn and landscape equipment, light construction and other equipment displays in 750 exhibits throughout the Kentucky Exposition Center. Nineteen additional acres of outdoor demonstrations ajoin the Expo Center. Located at Booth No. 7094, PERC will showcase propane equipment from many highly regarded OEMs and demonstrate to contractors why a propane mower fleet is their major league choice to out perform any other offerings in the commercial turf industry. 

PERC CutMowingCosts

“In addition to being a clean fuel, propane can save contractors money because it costs less to operate long-term compared to traditional fuels,” said Jeremy Wishart, deputy director of business development at PERC. “With GIE being in Louisville, a city with long-running ties to the sport of baseball, we thought it would be fitting to ask contractors and dealers interested in propane equipment who stop by the booth to ‘round the bases’ and learn how easy it is to build a team that can make transitioning to propane equipment simple.”

Propane equipment on display in the booth will feature commercial propane mowers from Toro, John Deere, Exmark, Gravely, Scag and Bobcat; a Hurricane stand-on propane blower; and a bi-fuel Ford F-150 work truck. Several propane engine models — both propane dedicated and with after-market conversion kits — from Kohler, Briggs & Stratton and Kawasaki also will be on display.

PERC has reissued its propane mower incentive program to help landscape contractors convert to propane equipment. While funds remain, a $1,000 incentive is available for a qualified propane mower purchase, or $500 per qualified mower conversion. Unlike conventional fuels, the unique benefits of propane mowers can actually save contractors more over time. PERC has also made a Propane Mower Cost Calculator available that allows contractors to easily determine their savings from the use of propane-powered mowers.

During Dealer Day, Wed., Oct. 19, 2016, dealers who visit the PERC booth can start building their team of propane customers by signing up for PERC’s new Dealer Point online database — a free resource designed to connect contractors with a local dealer who offers propane equipment. Dealers can also enter their business card to win a free Yeti Tundra Cooler.

Contractors also have a chance to win a Yeti Cooler after they complete a brief in-booth survey about their experience with, and opinions about, propane equipment. Contractors can also learn the stats on why propane savings are in a league of their own, or grab a handful of Cracker Jack while watching the highlights from PERC’s Straight Talk video testimonials, which feature contractors already finding success with propane.

Throughout GIE, PERC officials and propane retailers will be available to answer questions a contractor might have about fuel delivery and storage, as well as provide examples from real life applications across the country.
For more information on propane and propane equipment offerings in the commercial turf industry, visit

About PERC:
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) 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.

Energy Distribution Partners Welcomes General Manager and Operations Manager at CMP Energy

(October 17, 2016) Chicago, Illinois-based Energy Distribution Partners (“EDP”) recently announced that Lori Murawski has joined the company as a General Manager for CMP Energy in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, and Robert (Bobby) Mitchell has joined EDP as Operations Manager at CMP Energy.
EDP Lori Murawski
CMP Energy which provides propane, home heating oil and HVAC service to residential customers across central Pennsylvania was recently acquired by EDP. Murawski, a CPA, has been with CMP Energy since 2012, most recently as Chief Financial Officer. After completing her accounting degree at Penn State University she worked in public accounting for several years before joining a division of the H.J. Heinz Company. She later helped take the AquaPenn Spring Water Company public on the NYSE. AquaPenn was then purchased by Group Danone – the owner of Evian – where she served as Plant Controller.
EDP BobbyMitchell
In her role at CMP Energy, Murawski leads an experienced team of industry professionals that includes Operations Manager Robert (Bobby) Mitchell, grandson of Robert Mitchell – who founded the company in 1954 as the Mitchell Oil Company – and son of Jeff Mitchell, who transitioned CMP Energy into the EDP family earlier this year.

About Energy Distribution Partners
Energy Distribution Partners is a growing company in America's fast-changing energy landscape – with experience in retail and commercial propane sales, operations and finance. The company provides safe, reliable propane service to residential and commercial customers in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. EDP is seeking partners for growth.  

Forward-Looking Statements
The information presented herein may contain certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the federal securities laws. The Partnership’s actual future performance will be affected by a number of factors, risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, weather conditions, regulatory changes, competitive factors, and the operations of vendors, suppliers and customers, many of which are beyond the Partnership’s control. Future events and results may vary substantially from what the Partnership currently foresees, and there can be no assurance that the Partnership’s actual results will not differ materially from its expectations. The Partnership undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revision to these forward- looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of such statements or to reflect the occurrence of anticipated or unanticipated events.

Exports Become Wildest of Wild Cards Affecting Propane Prices

By Pat Thornton …

When domestic propane production began to increase in 2008, the United States started to rapidly become a net exporter of propane. As the capacity to export propane rose, we began to see exports reach new highs. By April of 2014, exports were going at a rate of 414,000 barrels per day and were up to 636,000 barrels per day by April 2015. The U.S. exported 886,000 barrels per day in February 2016, a new high that is more than eight times the export volume five years earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). As 2016 has progressed, EIA has reported exports closer to 600,000 barrels per day through much of the spring and summer and more recently 424,000 barrels per day in September as the spread between U.S. prices and Middle East sources has increased. With the capacity to ship propane reaching new heights every year, it is uncertain if the world will continue to have an appetite for all the propane we can move.
PropaneResources Exports

Propane had fallen as low as 29.25 cents per gallon in Mont Belvieu in mid-January but rebounded by more than 80% to the 53-cent-per-gallon level by late May and remains just slightly under 53 cents per gallon in late September. The capacity to ship propane out of the U.S. continues to increase. Among other improvements to capacity, a major pipeline to be completed in 2017 will allow much larger volumes of Appalachian propane to ship from the East Coast.

Enterprise Products Partners has invested billions of dollars over the past 10 years to be well positioned to take advantage of the higher amounts foreign markets are willing to pay for propane and butane from the U.S. “Once we recognized that this country was going to produce more than it could consume, it became obvious to us that you need to be positioned to export,” said Jim Teague, chief executive of Enterprise Products Partners. A one-time two-truck shop founded by energy entrepreneur Dan Duncan, Enterprise has evolved into a global transporter of oil and gas.

With the shale boom that began in 2008, production of oil and gas were surging and two products that are pulled from the two raw fuels are propane and butane. Enterprise realized demand for propane and butane would likely not increase dramatically in the U.S. but saw that petrochemical plants in Asia were developing a strong appetite for propane and butane. Meanwhile, drillers in the U.S. were literally paying customers to take the fuel away. Enterprise decided it would link the U.S. excess propane and butane to the new demand in Asia—and elsewhere.
PropaneResources Exports table1

By 2013, Enterprise owned nearly 75% of U.S. loading capacity. In 2014 Enterprise and Oiltanking Holdings Americas signed a 50-year contract for Enterprise to be able to use more ship loading and dock space, but Enterprise wanted more than a partnership. By early 2015, Enterprise paid about $5.8 billion for 12 docks on the Houston Ship Channel and another 24 million barrels of storage for oil and refined products.

Others are expanding exporting capacity as well. With Occidental adding 75,000 barrels per day of capacity at its Corpus Christi, Texas, facility recently, and Phillips 66 scheduled to open a 145,000-barrel-per-day terminal at Freeport, Texas later in 2016, there will be even more capacity to ship well beyond the investment of Enterprise. All of this, combined with new ship construction and the expansion of the Panama Canal, makes it possible to further facilitate the flow of U.S. propane to international markets.
PropaneResources Exports table2

Enterprise is also a pioneer in the exporting of American ethane, a fuel that is a key ingredient in plastics manufacturing. Enterprise Products is ramping up usage of what is soon to be world’s largest ethane export facility at Morgan’s Point on the Houston Ship Channel, with two trains and two docks capable of loading about 200,000 barrels per day onto ships. This is significant to propane since there will be that much less ethane here to displace propane as a feedstock for making plastics, even as propane itself is also increasingly exported to foreign markets.

The vision of Enterprise that there would be Asian demand to be met has played out as expected. Asia is now the largest regional destination for U.S. propane with nearly 220,000 barrels per day shipped, slightly more than one-third of total U.S. propane exports in 2015. Transporting large quantities of propane over long distances requires specifically designed refrigerated ships. The largest, most economical class of these ships is the very large gas carrier (VLGC). Until recently only a limited number of VLGC’s with more upright hull designs were able to pass through the Panama Canal lock dimensions, but that all changed with the Panama Canal expansion inaugurated on June 26.
PropaneResources Exports table3

Panama celebrated the first vessel to transit through the 102-year-old Panama Canal on June 26 after a $5.25-billion expansion to allow the canal to accommodate large VLGC’s and other larger vessels. Panama hopes for a trade boost to allow it to be the “Center of the Americas.” With 35 to 40 ships expected to pass through every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Panama hopes to be viewed as the logistic center of the Americas. With 166 reservations already on June 26 as the first larger ship transited, 17 were for liquefied petroleum gas. Panama is excited that the U.S. has become a net exporter of oil and related products to the rest of the world. Previously, size limitations of vessels caused larger ships to either travel all the way around the southern tip of South America or load from smaller vessels after they passed through the canal. This created bottlenecks and challenges as growing demand for propane from the United States continued to increase. Now, with the expansion complete, a trip to Eastern Asia for a larger ship went from 41 days to 25 days! Further, the production of more and more VLGC’s is lowering freight rates due to more competition, and the newest ships are also 17% more fuel-efficient.

The ship-to-ship transfers, where propane is transferred from larger ships to smaller ships to transit the canal, are no longer necessary. The process of multiple product transfers, or one transfer and then propane moving on to Asia on a smaller ship, is over. Not only is propane exporting more cost-effective, the actual sources and destinations are becoming more transparent. With all of the ship transfers that have been taking place at the Panama Canal, EIA has had to decipher confusing information, indicating for example more product shipments to countries such as China and Japan from Panama, a country that does not produce propane. Clearly these shipments were the result of a product transfer from another source, often the U.S. With the end of all the product transfers, we now have much more accurate data from EIA about U.S. propane moving to Asia.

According to data from JBC Energy, propane exports to Asia this year were once close to a record 300,000 barrels per day. Meanwhile, let’s not forget propane exports to Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America doubled between 2010 and 2013, from 88,000 to 198,000 barrels per day. And exports to Europe have increased from 25,000 barrels per day in 2012 to more than 100,000 barrels per day currently. As mentioned earlier, the first quarter of 2016 showed propane moving to all export destinations at 886,000 barrels per day!

Asia is now the largest regional destination for U.S. propane with nearly 220,000 barrels per day, slightly more than one-third of total U.S. propane exports in 2015. Chinese propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants have contracted 61 million barrels from Enterprise and Targa Resources from third-party traders, in contracts ranging from one to six years. Japan’s largest LPG supplier, Astomos, has contracted 5.9 million barrels from Targa over three years from late 2017, and its purchases 2014 to 2021 are 42 million barrels, mostly from Enterprise.

The completion of the Panama Canal expansion came as Middle East sources were becoming much cheaper than in the past and represented a turning point where Asian companies will be deciding whether they want to try to shift to shorter contract periods. While economics are a key factor, some have pointed out that U.S. supply offers more security than Middle East and Asian sources. The opening of the Panama Canal to larger ships, which cuts journeys almost in half in many cases, combined with lower freight rates as a glut of new vessels come online, will make U.S. propane more attractive. At one time there was an assumption that U.S.-sourced propane would always be cheaper, but that has changed.

There is no doubt shipping capacity from the U.S. has expanded greatly in the past five years as exports were pegged at 884,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2016, nearly eight times the rate of exports in 2011. Asian buyers may very likely try to cut their contract periods to six months to a year as lower prices for naphtha (with crude prices lower) and propylene have caused some to be locked into propane when there are better opportunities. Again, the original thought was that U.S. propane would always be oversupplied and cheap.

Recently there have been a greater number of cancellations of shipments from the U.S. due to the lower prices in the Middle East. In many cases, cancellation fees have been paid, since it was still economical to do so and take product from other sources. For now, the economics don’t favor a lot of shipments to Asia in the next couple of months and exports are pegged at 424,000 barrels per day in late September. However, this can once again dramatically change. With the export capacity in place, we must keep in mind just how much can go offshore, very quickly, once again. By the high demand months this winter in the U.S., world demand could be again setting new highs for exports.

As we approach winter 2016-2017, U.S. retailers must understand how much prices in the U.S. can be dramatically affected by exports, or lack of exports. This isn’t 2008, when our capacity to export was limited to about 130,000 barrels per day. After a brutal January and February in 2014, many new rail terminals have been added in the U.S. to help meet domestic supply requirements, but we have not had cold enough weather since then to really test the infrastructure.

Unless we have a lot of rain in early fall, it is doubtful crop drying demand will be above average this season. La Niña conditions could bring about colder-than-normal temperatures, more likely in the second half of the winter season. This, along with exports ramping back up, could test our system and push prices up.

Many wild cards remain as we seek to figure out the direction of propane prices, and exports have become the wildest of the wild cards. Just like the question of whether world supply of crude oil will outstrip demand, there is the question of whether world supply of propane will outstrip demand. On the crude oil side, OPEC and other large producers hold the keys. As of late September, the organization has been more focused on expanding its own market shares and not agreed to cut production. If OPEC has accomplished anything, it has been undercutting crude oil production in countries such as the U.S. The collateral damage to propane has been the lower cost of naphtha and gasoline that it competes with. Most experts, including many world banks and EIA, expect world crude supply and demand to come back into balance in the coming year. Considering this and all the wild cards, we feel there is limited downside for winter 2016-2017. This is a good time to position propane not only for the coming season, but a portion for the next couple of winters as well.

Pat Thornton has been with Mission, Kan.-based Propane Resources since 1996, where he assists retail customers with hedging plans and provides risk-management and supply-planning services. He serves on the Missouri Propane Education and Research Council.

Propane’s Night at the Museum

On September 10, 2016, some 120 propane industry members gathered at the National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) in Bethlehem, Pa. to celebrate the newly-opened propane exhibit housed at the site that was formerly part of the Bethlehem Steel facility. The mill area, now in disrepair, has an 18,000-sq-ft structure that stands out from the rest—a completely renovated and repurposed modern building that features four galleries dedicated to the preservation of artifacts of the industries that have made America strong. Each gallery is devoted to either the propane, iron and steel, machinery, or silk industry, and more than 200 artifacts are on display that provide a wealth of information for current and future generations, who can observe the rich history of American industry.

Reinforcing that, Glenn Koehler, NMIH marketing and outreach coordinator, said, “The National Museum of Industrial History is honored to help preserve and showcase the LP-gas industry’s important contributions to the story of American energy. Walter O. Snelling’s ingenuity helped spawn a new business, and his story will help inspire new generations of inventors and entrepreneurs.”

It took a number of years for the museum to come to fruition. A dream of Eastern Propane’s Bob Nicholson, Northeastern Supply’s Fred Thomas, and other members of the Ancient Gassers, the project was spearheaded by Nicholson, who went to a Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) meeting some 15 years ago to request funding. He was very persuasive (so much so that PERC had to change its rules for public speakers), and soon after, Nicholson; PERC’s Roy Willis; and PERC public member Charles Snelling, Walter O. Snelling’s son, were touring the rundown building that, after many stops and starts, would be revitalized to become today’s museum showpiece.

In preparation of the potential museum, Brittany Penta of Phelps Sungas worked hundreds of hours with Charles Snelling, archiving and cataloguing his father’s innumerable propane artifacts, many of which are now on display. Her father, Roland Penta, also of Phelps Sungas, was also involved in the archiving process. Regarding the museum’s completion, he told BPN, “I am so pleased to have a permanent display where historically significant artifacts and documents can be displayed and saved. This gives our industry an opportunity to highlight what propane has done and can do for our economy and our standard of living.”

The center of the new propane exhibit showcases the industry from its beginning in 1912, with documents and equipment used by Walter O. Snelling, considered the “father of propane;” replicas of the refining process; and likely the most popular, a museum-sized replica of a hot air balloon. Upon entering its gondola, a visitor is transported on a virtual balloon ride with scenes of propane in its many uses as well as the plants and refineries of its origination. Roland Penta added, “The simulated balloon ride draws all ages where they can learn about propane. I think we need to work with the museum to keep the exhibit fresh, relevant, and interesting to young and old alike.”

Shelby Bell, head of the Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association (PAPGA), commented, “Not only is the mock hot air balloon the interactive favorite with museum visitors, it’s also my favorite, along with the ‘new propane slogan’ suggestion box. These activities meet the museum’s mission of highlighting the past while inspiring the future.”

Jim Renaldo, president of the International Association of Young Gassers, which helped in the development of the propane gallery, welcomed the crowd. He told attendees that the museum expects 50,000 visitors annually, giving the propane industry a great opportunity to tell its story.
Museum 1

Many of the museum’s longtime supporters were attendance, as were newer industry members, to celebrate propane—past, present, and future. Nicholson, Willis, Penta, and Renaldo were also joined by Harold Poland of NGL Energy Partners, among many others. Walter O. Snelling’s granddaughters, and the daughters of the late Charles D. Snelling, Marjorie Snelling and Elizabeth Snelling, attended as did Elizabeth Snelling’s son, Oliver Meeker.

Bell helped to shepherd this project to completion. She is proud and honored that Bethlehem, Pa. is home to the museum and propane exhibit. It is her hope going forward that as an industry, “we continue to promote and support the museum. Several PAPGA members who are in close proximity to Bethlehem have volunteered their time and expertise to assist the museum in developing and executing ‘Meet the Expert,’ which will afford visitors to periodically speak directly with propane industry professionals. I believe that sharing our past, we can inspire future entrepreneurs and this is a terrific start!”

National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) chairman Stuart Weidie of Blossman Gas commented, “A small group of dedicated people—Bob Nicholson, Jim Renaldo, Roland Penta, just to name a few—have made the exhibit illustrating the history of our industry a reality. Perhaps more important, there will be an opportunity to educate the tens of thousands of young children and adults who will visit the exhibit about the great uses of propane.”  — Natalie Peal