5 questions that will shape the propane industry in 2023, beyond

January 12, 2023 By    

Happy new year, everyone.

A new year brings resolutions (of course) but also questions about the future. Here are five questions about the propane industry in 2023.

1. Will propane marketers fully embrace technology within their operations?

We learned in 2022 that propane marketers continue to run the gamut with technology – from those admitting that technology is not their strength (yet) to others detailing how they’ve implemented solutions to improve their operations.

At the 2022 LP Gas Growth Summit, marketers shared how they’ve installed technology such as tank monitors to create delivery efficiencies; implemented customer service tools and other modules to help automate service and sales processes; and put in place business analytics and data that help drive their decisions. Fleet cameras that help boost driver safety and protect drivers from on-road incidents also caught our attention.

2. Will the propane engine project with Cummins remain on track and draw buy-in from OEM truck partners?

Speaking of new technology, we’re one calendar year closer to Cummins’ B6.7 propane engine hitting the market for on- and off-road applications – assuming the high-dollar project remains on schedule for what now looks to be a late 2024, early 2025 launch.

It’s a good sign that Cummins’ general manager of global spark ignited business penned an article on the company’s website in November about the “economic and operational benefits of propane engines.” Benefits include diesel-like power and “some of the lowest GHG emissions in the medium-duty market,” Puneet Singh Jhawar writes.

Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), referenced the project often in 2022. He’s been bullish on the engine’s capabilities, but he tempered his excitement at times last year as the industry awaited an OEM truck partner that would adopt the engine. Perkins says he’s cautiously optimistic that multiple brands will commit in the next few months.

3. Will the industry receive buy-in from the producer community on renewable propane?

While some companies saw their first loads of renewable propane in 2022 and others celebrated renewable partnerships of some kind, the question remains: What does the future hold for the renewable component? Like so much in this industry, it comes down to the dynamics of supply and demand.

PERC has worked to connect the propane industry with the producer community, proving to the latter how recovering renewable propane from biorefineries and selling it as a fuel to propane marketers makes economic and environmental sense. It commissioned a 2022 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory that teased this out.

So, work is being done behind the scenes to build this market, especially on the supply side. How it all comes together remains to be seen.

4. Will new state association leadership have a timely impact on the industry?

For the propane industry to reach its full potential, leaders say PERC, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and the states must be in lockstep, uniting for a common purpose and coordinating their efforts in the process. That gets a lot tougher in 2023 with a host of longtime state executives having left the industry and with their successors taking over.

But such a transition also offers hope that the incoming state executives will provide fresh perspectives that address the industry’s most pressing issues.

5. Can the industry communicate effectively with the new members of Congress? (And will they listen?)

The 118th Congress is composed of 75 new members of the (now Republican) U.S. House of Representatives and seven new senators. That means a lot of meetings on Capitol Hill.

NPGA also plans to facilitate in-person meetings during its Propane Days lobbying event in June – something it hasn’t done since before COVID. It will look to grow its Congressional Propane Caucus and lean on its PropanePAC to reach influential leaders in the nation’s capital about the economic and emissions benefits of propane.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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