Posted 2/04/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
North Dakota is one of 25 states declared to be in an energy emergency due to a propane shortage in the country.
Governor Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota waived hours of service for commercial truck drivers transporting needed fuels, including propane. Some drivers are travelling as far as Texas to bring propane back up north.
“This shortage is something we haven’t really seen before,” Jayson Lund, owner of Lund Oil in Watford City, said. “Within a 10 day period, we saw a $2.80 per gallon rise. We didn’t see this coming and we’ve never seen a price increase this much, this fast.”
It’s not just the price of propane going up for residents; businesses like Lund Oil are also paying increased prices – not to mention the extra costs for traveling the distance to bring it back to North Dakota.
Lund Oil has 75,000 gallons of propane in storage tanks.
“We are saving our inventory for home heating,” Lund said. “The industry will take more propane than home heating. We have looked into going to Texas to get propane, but it would be an eight-day turnaround.”
On a daily basis, Lund Oil makes 70 to 80 deliveries in McKenzie County. Nearly 14 million Americans rely on propane to keep their homes warm.
“A shortage of propane and recent price spikes are creating a serious hardship on North Dakota residents when they need reliable supplies the most,” Dalrymple said. “I approved a waiver of service hours to help get more propane into our local supply chain.”
As many people have probably noticed, gas stations in North Dakota have 10 percent Ethanol in their gas supply now. Propane is used to dry out corn, which is then used to make Ethanol. Because each pump now has Ethanol, the propane demand in the farming industry – particularly corn – has skyrocketed. When corn is harvested, it’s dried out by using propane heat.
“The dirty part that no one talks about is the corn grind,” Lund said. “It has caused the shortage. The drying of the corn is causing the propane price to go up. Grain drying is causing propane demand to rise. There was 30 percent more corn planted this year, which means more drying occurred than in past years.”
Many people want to know if the shortage end is near, but truth be told, the experts are unsure.
“I don’t know what can be done,” Executive Director of the North Dakota Propane Gas Association Mike Rud said. “I wish I had some good news on this issue.”
Lund offers a couple tips to help people through this shortage.
“Watch your gauges,” he said. “Use propane sparingly and wisely. It’s anybody’s guess if it’s going to be cheaper today than it will be tomorrow. Hopefully, we will be out of the heating season soon.”