Five reasons 2020 was ‘worth it’ for the propane industry

December 17, 2020 By    

It’s common thinking today to wish away the past 12 months and erase 2020 from our minds. It’s been that kind of year, right?

When the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1 and confetti effects rain on smartphones and computer monitors, we’ll toast to the brighter days we’re already envisioning for 2021. We’ll look forward to health and happiness – for our friends, families and colleagues, for your businesses and customers, and for the industry.

But before we flip that calendar once and for all, let’s take a few minutes to recognize some of the propane industry’s notable takeaways from this year – ones that might help define our industry’s identity and role in the nation’s energy portfolio for years to come.

Here are five points of progress for the propane industry in 2020:

Steve Kaminski marked his first full year at the helm of the National Propane Gas Association. A Michigan native, Kaminski was hired as president and CEO in the fall of 2019 to help navigate the association and the industry through a new era of energy challenges and opportunities – even before a global pandemic and a new U.S. president surely to intensify the climate debate added to an already-full plate.

⦁ As part of that climate discussion, the industry continued to take important steps in the area of renewable energy. Noted LPG brands such as Suburban Propane, U-Haul and SHV Energy announced their respective roles in the production and distribution of renewable propane. Some refineries have been retooled to produce renewable LPG as a byproduct in the production of other renewable offerings. In addition, Oberon Fuels’ dimethyl ether (DME) product can blend with conventional propane to significantly lower LPG’s carbon intensity. Propane industry leaders, especially out west, have pushed for a renewable component that will help position propane as a low-carbon solution in front of policymakers.

⦁ Having a renewable component tied to conventional propane is just one part of the equation, however. Industry leaders also recognize the need to unify messaging at the national, state and marketer levels – and not just around renewable propane but also around the clean-burning benefits of conventional propane. They say there’s a need for state associations to educate marketers on how to talk about propane in their states. The extended work of an Environmental Task Force, under the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), is nearly complete. Look for details about an industrywide, unified messaging plan in early 2021.

⦁ The U.S. Department of Energy certainly saw the benefits of conventional propane this year when it awarded $9 million for vehicle technologies utilizing LPG. That amount nearly doubled the $5 million the industry received in appropriations funding for propane engine technology in 2016. Industry leaders pushing the research and development funding opportunity said the 2020 amount was evidence that propane was finally being placed on a level playing field with other energy sources in the top level of government.

⦁ The World LPG Association’s Innovation for Growth Summit in February in Washington, D.C., and its e-LPG Week in November showcased technology’s growing influence over propane industry processes. Speaking more specifically about the U.S. market, you can count Cummins engine technology among the projects to watch in the coming years. In fact, PERC looked to approve a staggering $12 million funding request that aims to commercialize a Cummins medium-duty propane engine in 2024. PERC has said the engine technology would create opportunities in the autogas market, as well as in off-road engine applications.

The council was awaiting industry and public comments prior to a recently scheduled December meeting to further discussions about the engine. The project, if approved, would begin in January 2021, perhaps helping to fuel momentum and optimism in the new year.

About the Author:

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

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