Pictured above are some of the propane tanks at Van Wert Propane Inc. A propane shortage throughout the Great Lakes region has propane companies urging their customers to cut back on propane usage for the next few weeks. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
VAN WERT - The propane shortage reported in parts of Canada, Indiana, and Michigan has now spread to Ohio, and many propane companies are now urging their customers to cut back on usage over the next couple weeks.
“We are fighting tooth and nail to get propane here,” said Van Wert Propane Inc. Manager Barry Crone. “It may become a critical situation with cold temperatures coming next week.”
Local propane companies are unsure as to what is going to happen or how long the shortage will remain an issue for this region of the United States. David Field of the Ohio Propane Association remarked that the main issue is that the fuel is in the wrong place.
During the extreme summer conditions of 2013, propane was shipped to the western regions of the United States. Some places now have no propane, and area drivers are being forced to drive extended miles to find the propane supply, often as far as Missouri and Kansas.
Van Wert Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy contacted the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) asking for a waiver to extend the hourly restrictions of propane truck drivers across the state which would allow exempt them from the 36-hour rest period over the weekend. This would allow drivers to travel further distance to pick up fuel shipments. An extension was already granted as a part of this shortage, but that extension expires Friday, Jan. 17. Indiana and Michigan also have this waiver in place for their drivers.
A main supplier of Van Wert Propane had an agreement for the exchange of 650,000 gallons of propane available through the end of February. This is 65 semi loads of propane, but Van Wert Propane has been told they will no longer be getting this propane and they are not really sure when they will get another shipment.
Crone, who has been working for Van Wert Propane for 42 years, noted that there was a shortage of propane 25-30 years ago but nothing like the one faced now. Customers’ propane deliveries will be cut back from 80 percent fillings to 60 percent. Heavy users have already been notified to turn their thermostat back and conserve as much propane as possible.
“Our supply is very limited, but we are not making cutbacks at this time,” said Mercer Landmark Propane Manager Hank Lochtseld. “Cutbacks are being considered, but currently customers are only facing longer waits to get their propane.”
Many propane companies are currently researching alternative means of receiving propane. The situation is expected to remain tough until the winter weather breaks and will be especially vital to local supply until Feb. 1 when new propane shipments are expected.
The United States is currently exporting more propane than it is importing. Prices have begun to skyrocket as companies extend drives to receive the some of the already limited propane supply.
“Turn your thermostat down,” asked Crone. “We hate partial fillings, but we want to get some to everyone.” McCoy noted that this situation will worsen into the middle of next week as temperatures are expected to fall back to the zero or below zero degree mark.
“It looks like a very cold upcoming week with another couple inches of snow expected on Saturday,” said McCoy. “Another arctic plunge of cold air is expected to enter the area on Tuesday with temperatures projected at negative two degrees Tuesday night, and a high of only ten degrees on Wednesday and one degree Wednesday night. Wind chills both days may reach at least 15 degrees below zero.”
McCoy noted that these type of temperatures will again spike heavy propane usage to heat homes, businesses, and other facilities. With a fuel shortage becoming an issue locally and gas companies requesting customers to cut back, people should consider purchasing space heaters to help heat homes without the excessive use of propane during these times of frigid temperatures.