Propane Shortage Caused by Polar Vortex To Continue All Winter

Tuesday, 21 Jan 2014 01:37 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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December's arctic plunge, or polar vortex, created a propane shortage in several states that will make it difficult for producers to catch up in the coming winter months.

David Field, the executive vice president of the Ohio Propane Gas Association, told Fox's WJW-TV in Cleveland that the Department of Transportation has issued a regional order loosening rules for propane transportation in 10 Midwest states. He told the television station that similar orders have been put in effect for 14 eastern states.

"The month of December brought historically cold weather, ice and snow, which further inhibited the transportation of propane. Demand for residential, commercial and agricultural heat soared," Field told WJW-TV. "All these combined to prevent regional inventories from recovering and the existing pipeline and terminal infrastructure has been unable to recover."

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Fox News reported that the Propane Education & Research Council, out of Washington, D.C., stated that more than 14 million families use propane to fuel their furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, outdoor grills, fireplaces, clothes dryers and ranges around the country.

The Ohio shortage has caused Gov. John Kasich to declare an energy emergency, according to WJW-TV. The declaration frees all 88 counties in the state to disregard current law that restricts the number of hours and consecutive days in which they can deliver propane to try and catch up with the demand.

Some dealers told the Columbus Dispatch that they are conserving their inventory, including delaying deliveries and allocating much of the remaining fuel to consumers who are close to running completely out.

"It's possible it may become a critical situation with the cold temperatures that are predicted for our area," Roger Stewart, vice president of Consolidated Gas Cooperative in Mount Gilead, said on Facebook, per the Columbus Dispatch. "We are asking our customers to be patient … during this very difficult situation."

The co-op's supply is down to about half, spokeswoman Pam Hawk told the Dispatch, largely due to reduced deliveries from wholesale suppliers.

Customers in some Midwest states are being asked to cut down on propane usage just as arctic air returns to the Midwest.

"Propane customers in the Upper Peninsula should use their propane supplies wisely in the coming weeks by reducing usage and avoiding energy waste," Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John Quackenbush told WILX-TV.

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