- Associated Press - Sunday, September 7, 2014

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) - Propane marketers in western Kentucky are preparing for winter, even though the calendar still shows more than a month to go before fall officially begins.

President of Paducah-based United Propane Gas, Eric Small, told The Paducah Sun (https://bit.ly/1lHG7vP ) a shortage of gas in the winter of 2013 nearly crippled the business.

“We can’t go through another winter like last year’s,” Small said. “I think everyone, especially us, has taken extreme caution this year to ensure supply by kind of rearranging where, when, how and from whom they get their gas.”

Last year several crises hit the propane industry at once, resulting in a nationwide propane shortage. In the Purchase area where propane is a widespread heating source, the blow was especially brutal. Residents and businesses struggled to keep their tanks full in the face of increased propane costs, and in some cases cutoffs.

At the propane shortage’s peak, UPG had to restrict its residential customers to 250 gallons per delivery and eventually suspended commercial deliveries altogether to ensure households had heat.

Small said UPG has learned a great deal as a company and has taken every precaution to prevent a repeat performance of last winter.

“We’re well prepared,” he said. “We’ve diversified and got more suppliers, about twice if not three times as many last year.”

Ohio Valley Gas, a local office of AmeriGas Propane, has also taken extra precautions in preparation for winter. Danny Underwood, an account manager for the company, said the company has increased its fleet by half a dozen trucks, boosted manpower with several new employees, and increased efficiency with company-wide operating system updates.

“Last year we maintained our supply,” Underwood said. “We never ran out. We never ran low. We were blessed, definitely. But there was room for improvement - for everyone including us - across the board.”

Kentucky Propane Gas Association Executive Director Tod Griffin said people should secure their winter supply of propane now to ensure it is there if needed.

“Gone are the days when you call when you’re low on gas,” Griffin said. “We’ve told people, call early. Call now. If you wait until you’ve got 2 percent of propane in your tank when it’s cold outside and the roads are icy, it’s unreasonable to expect a truck at your tank within the hour.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent weekly supply estimates, the Midwest currently has 23,433,000 barrels of propane in stock, with 70,300,000 barrels for the entire nation. That’s up from 21,521,000 and 61,851,000 barrels respectively this week last year.

“We’ve got gas coming out our ears,” said Small. “We’ve got plenty of gas, and we’re tickled to death to take on new customers. It’s going to be a different year. A good year. But just in case it isn’t, we’re ready.”


Information from: The Paducah Sun, https://www.paducahsun.com

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