PERC, marketers explore irrigation engine opportunity

April 14, 2015 By    

The Propane Education & Research Council‘s (PERC) Cinch Munson explored the opportunity for marketers to grow gallons with irrigation engines during an educational session at the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo, which was held April 11-13 in Atlanta.

“We have a two-year window to really grow this market,” said Munson, director of agriculture business development at PERC. “We can make some huge inroads and build on that.”

Seven manufacturers have brought about 35 new propane irrigation engine models to market over the last five years, Munson said. The new engines are more efficient, and they offer farmers advantages over competitive energies.

PERC's Cinch Munson

PERC’s Cinch Munson

“Before, propane engines were built to run on gas and were converted,” Munson said. “People had a bad perception of them. We just didn’t have the right engines to grow the market.”

Munson added that propane irrigation engines typically burn 1.57 gallons of propane to every 1 gallon of diesel.

“When you figure in the prices, it really calculates out extremely well [for propane],” said Munson, who pointed out that electricity is also a major competitor to propane in this market space.

Added Bill Moore, a propane marketer at Georgia-based Conger LP Gas who’s had success selling irrigation engines and propane to farmers: “Propane is $6 to $7 an hour cheaper than diesel and $1 to $2 more than electricity [for farmers’ irrigation engines].”

In a bad irrigation year, Moore said, he sells between 3,000 and 4,000 propane gallons per engine. Moore buys engines directly from manufacturers. He’ll then sell the engines to farmers and structure contracts with them so they purchase fuel from his company.

According to Munson, marketer and dealer involvement is the next step to get additional propane irrigation engines in the field. PERC developed an incentive within the last couple of months to urge dealers to push propane engines, Munson said. Marketers should seek opportunities to partner with dealers and installers, as well.

“Know your installer,” Munson said. “Get the dealer and the installer in early. Stay in contact with the buyer and the dealer through the process. Stay in contact with the installer to set the propane tank.”

Incentives are also available from PERC to encourage farmers to invest in propane irrigation engines.

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