With this part of the country bracing for the latest round of very cold conditions, those who provide propane for home heating and other uses are facing a shortage at the worst possible time.
Youngstown Propane owner Bob Jones delivers propane to thousands of residential customers around the area. He said on Tuesday afternoon that he’s doing something he seldom ever does, which is urging conservation for the time being.
Jones said he’s working to arrange a couple shipments of gas from North Carolina just in an effort to satisfy his demand. But that will only carry things so far, especially if the predictions this current cold snap will continue are true.
And he admitted that in recent weeks, as supplies across the country have tightened, he’s had to resort to what he calls short-filling his customers.
“You know they have a 500-gallon tank in their yard. They would normally take anywhere from 250 to 350 gallons for a full fill, OK? We’ve been giving them 100. That’s how tight the supply has been,” Jones said.
He said the problem comes down to what he calls allocation, where those producing the propane can alter contracts and cut into local dealers’ supplies.
“We’ve had issues getting product in here, enough product to meet demand, for a couple of months, but it’s really come to a head here this week. You know the governor declared an emergency because there are literally propane dealers that are sitting empty right now,” Jones said.
The state of emergency Jones referred to was aimed at removing restrictions on the number of hours delivery drivers can be on the road, allowing them to serve more customers in less time.
And with the cold weather expected to continue, Jones doesn’t think things will get any better anytime soon and worries demand could go even higher in February.
He said the problems are being made worse by producers opting to sell their gas overseas at better prices.
“It’s got to the point where they’ve got to keep some of this supply and they’ve got to improve the infrastructure for this type of demand period and keep it here domestically,” Jones said.