When consumers have a reliable supply of propane on hand, they feel confident and comfortable. Having an on-property propane tank is even better, giving people the ability to maintain a plentiful supply available for use anytime.
Natural gas customers are not experiencing such security, as we’ve seen recently. January’s blast of Arctic air—a polar vortex—which swept over the Midwest, creating an immediate spike in the demand for all heating fuels. The situation was dire. In fact, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, saw its coldest temperature ever at -30° F.
A compressor station fire in Michigan made the problem even worse. (Compressor stations are facilities located along natural gas pipelines, where gas is compressed to a specified pressure, allowing the gas to travel along the pipeline to reach its destination.)
The fire was contained in a short time with no injuries, but gas flow from the station was shut off entirely and the utility needed to direct its supply of natural gas from reserves in order to keep up with demand. Trouble was coming.
As a result of the incident, the gas utility asked customers to lower their heat in order to dodge a natural gas shortage. At the same time, some high-natural-gas-usage manufacturing plants called off work shifts. When temperatures had dropped to nearly -30°, one Minnesota gas utility found itself making similar requests.
In Michigan, the governor and the gas utility authorized alerts to the public about the dire situation on TV, radio and Facebook.
Automated statewide emergency calls urged all residents—even those who didn’t use natural gas—to reduce their energy usage.
To make matters worse, a different, large Michigan utility asked its customers to cut back on their electricity usage due to the extreme cold. According to the utility, their plants were OK, but their system is connected to energy grids in Canada as well as other states, and all were experiencing challenges as a result of the cold.
Although the gas shortage ended at the same time as the ending of the extreme cold, these unfortunate events revealed the power of propane, especially from a supply standpoint.
Modes of transportation and methods of processing give propane a clear edge over natural gas. In its compressed liquid form, the liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is stored in large tanks until it’s delivered to businesses and homes.
Before leaving the tank, the liquid propane transforms to gas and released through a valve, slowly and safely. With the natural gas delivery system, a damaged underground natural gas pipeline—or other issues—can lead to a delay in the supply while repairs are underway.
A large number of homes around the country use natural gas, but many people are not aware that the benefits of propane are close to those of natural gas.
A propane-powered backup generator at your home allows for benefits including unlimited hot water, a reliable backup generator, a super-efficient furnace or temperature-precise cooking stoves.
Still, some more key advantages of propane make it stand out above natural gas:
If gas pipelines are not installed in your area, natural gas is not an option. However, propane customers are served by businesses in every one of the U.S. congressional districts—that’s 435!*
Most propane customers can store their contracted, allocated energy supply on-site, allowing for the highest level of security. And with programs including automatic delivery, prebuy and others, most suppliers offer a range of methods for you to be sure you’ll have plenty of clean propane on hand.
When propane is handled by trained professionals, it is easy to compress for safe, smooth transport. The equipment and techniques used are regulated at local, state and federal levels. In the event of a serious gas pipeline problem, the situation can take a tragic turn.
Propane lines can usually be fed into a home through a number of possible entry points with a nearby tank. While there are some requirements about a propane tank’s distance from the home are in place, they are not unreasonable. This may not be the case for natural gas lines.
Because of its low carbon content, propane in its original form is not a greenhouse gas. It’s considered “green” as a result of its low carbon content. In contrast, environmental issues have arisen from underground natural gas pipelines leaking methane.
Compared with natural gas, propane has a far shorter range between its minimum and maximum burn temperatures, and is safer as a fuel. Its narrower range of flammability helps keep it from igniting when it hits the air, unless the ignition source is 920°F or higher.
*Source: National Propane Gas Association.