Years from now, when we look back to 2021 in the propane industry, what will we take away? What will stand out in this tight-knit family industry that seems to go unnoticed but still provides essential energy to millions of consumers?
Maybe it’s just that. While playing an outsider role – against better-funded energy competitors and gas opponents pushing electrification without considering a full fuel cycle reality – the propane industry is holding up. Yet it becomes more audible, its identity more visible, its leaders more influential and its technology more advanced.
Over the past 12 months, the industry has persevered and worked to secure its place in a clean energy future.
It happened during a historic event – an ongoing global pandemic, nothing less – that has stopped us in our tracks one way or another, at one point or another. But the propane industry has continued because there is no other choice when so many customers rely on this versatile, clean-burning fuel.
In-person events returned
COVID-19 could not prevent the industry from coming together in person in 2021.
The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo returned after a two and a half year absence, as did the Western Propane Trade Show & Convention, North Central Convention & Trade Show, Texas’ Crossroads Propane Expo & Conference and the LPG Growth Summit, among other industry events and meetings.
Attendees at these events began to learn about new environmental messages being rolled out this year through a unified industry campaign. The pillars of messaging encourage the use of propane to ensure energy equity and accelerate decarbonization, and the new brand identity of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) promotes propane as “energy for all”.
Meanwhile, the NPGA continued to do its part in protecting the use of propane and fighting attempts to ban the gas, primarily at the state level. These efforts, many of which are successful, come at no cost, however, as the NPGA this year announced plans to increase membership dues for 2022, thus arming the industry for a continued fight against electrification. .
Highs and lows
Of course, there were bumps along the way.
Supply chains in all sectors have collapsed in the discontinuous business climate created by the pandemic. Steel shortages have complicated the manufacturing processes of the products most sought after by propane traders, namely tanks. And an adequate workforce – or the lack of it – has forced companies to consider new ways of doing business.
The fundamentals of propane have become worrisome. Exports soared as the United States continued to supply a hungry global market; stocks have fallen; and prices have gone up.
There were also victories. The NPGA team took advantage of $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation enacted in November. It gives the propane industry up to $ 7 billion in access to help establish fueling stations along highways across the country and put more propane buses on the roads, among other opportunities.
An unofficial victory was achieved with the pipeline infrastructure, as Enbridge’s Line 5 continued to operate despite relentless attempts by the State of Michigan to shut it down.
The industry has also made strides in the field of renewable energies. Suburban Propane and U-Haul have renewed their renewable propane partnership, offering the fuel in California. A city in Virginia cut the ribbon to celebrate the conversion of its fleet of vehicles to renewable propane.
Dimethyl ether (DME), a molecule so similar to propane that it offers mixing possibilities, continued to gain attention in 2021. San Diego-based Oberon Fuels began commercial production of renewable DME ( rDME), and the company hired Cinch Munson away from PERC. lead its business development efforts. SHV Energy and UGI International have launched a joint venture for the production and use of rDME.
This year was also important to LPG. The magazine celebrated its 80th birthday and Carly Bemer (McFadden), our associate editor, got married.