Stress on propane delivery chain led to regional shortage

Published on: Nov 7, 2013

The perfect storm of wetter than normal corn crop and onset of colder temperatures has led to higher than expected demand for propane in the Upper Midwest.

Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois are among the states reporting a propane shortage problem according to National Propane Gas Association communication director, Mollie O’Dell.

“The current crop drying issue is not related to inadequate supply, but rather to a stressed delivery system,” explained O’Dell. “The ‘shortage’ reported by farmers is the result of a regional supply and demand imbalance due to substantially higher crop drying requirements than what was expected, not necessarily from a lack of a supply.”

Furthermore O’Dell added, “The same shale revolution creating the abundance of propane is also responsible for the shift in how all of these resources are transported.  Many of the rail cars and trucking resources used to transport propane are now being used to haul other products.  Infrastructure is not yet in place to efficiently handle all of the shale production, which causes logistical challenges and strained resources in other areas.”

O’Dell confirmed that several grain handling facilities have shut down grain dryers as a result.

The propane industry is working with state and local government officials to deliver propane to the areas that are greatly affected.

“In America, the government cannot force pipelines to carry more propane or dictate what rail cars carry, and that’s why members of the propane industry are working together with state and local governments and other industry partners to get the fuel to the farmers that need it most,” said O’Dell “We’re anxious to meet the demands and keep fueling America’s farming infrastructure.” 

Several state governments have declared a state of emergency and extended the hours of service for truck drivers transporting the product.  While the executive orders have helped ease the situation the infrastructure is still under stress.