How propane persevered in 2021, worked to secure its future

December 30, 2021 By    

Years from now, when we look back on 2021 in the propane industry, what will we remember? What will stand out about this tight-knit, family-fueled industry that seemingly flies under the radar but still provides an essential energy for millions of consumers?

Maybe it’s just that. Despite playing an underdog role – against higher-funded energy competitors and opponents of gas who push electrification with no regard for a full-fuel-cycle reality – the propane industry is standing firm. Still, it’s becoming more audible, its identity more visible, its leaders more influential and its technology more advanced.

Over the past 12 months, the industry persevered and worked to secure its place in a clean-energy future.

This happened during a historic event – an ongoing global pandemic, no less – that has stopped us in our tracks in one way or another, at one time or another. But the propane industry carried on because there is no other choice when so many customers rely on this versatile, clean-burning fuel.

In-person events returned

COVID-19 couldn’t stop the industry from gathering in person in 2021. 

The National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo returned after a 2½-year absence, as did the Western Propane Trade Show & Convention, the North Central Convention & Trade Show, Texas’ Crossroads Propane Expo & Conference and the LP Gas Growth Summit, among other industry events and meetings.

Attendees at these events began to learn about new environmental messages rolled out this year through a unified industry campaign. Messaging pillars promote propane’s use in ensuring energy equity and accelerating decarbonization, and the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC) new brand identity promotes propane as “Energy for Everyone.”

Meanwhile, NPGA continued to do its part by protecting propane’s use and fighting gas-ban attempts, mainly at the state level. These efforts, many of them successful, don’t come without a cost, however, as NPGA announced plans this year to raise membership dues for 2022, arming the industry for a continued fight against electrification.

Ups and downs

Sure, there were bumps along the way.

Supply chains across industries broke down amid the stop-and-go business climate created by the pandemic. Steel shortages complicated manufacturing processes for the products most desired by propane marketers – namely tanks. And adequate labor – or lack thereof – forced businesses to consider new ways to operate.

Propane fundamentals became worrisome. Exports soared as the U.S. continued to feed a hungry global market; inventories fell; and prices rose.

There were victories, too. The team at NPGA basked in $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation signed into law in November. It gives the propane industry access of up to $7 billion to help establish refueling stations along the nation’s highways and put more propane-fueled buses on the roads, among other opportunities.

An unofficial victory was gained with pipeline infrastructure, as Enbridge’s Line 5 continued to operate despite the state of Michigan’s ongoing attempts to shut it down.

The industry also took steps forward in the realm of renewables. Suburban Propane and U-Haul renewed their renewable propane partnership, offering the fuel in California. A Virginia city held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the conversion of its fleet vehicles to run on renewable propane.

Dimethyl ether (DME), a molecule so similar to propane that it offers blending opportunities, continued to gain attention in 2021. San Diego-based Oberon Fuels began commercial production of renewable DME (rDME), and the company hired Cinch Munson away from PERC to lead its commercial development efforts. SHV Energy and UGI International launched a joint venture for the production and use of rDME.

This year was also big at LP Gas. The magazine celebrated its 80th anniversary, and Carly Bemer (McFadden), our associate editor, got married.

This article is tagged with and posted in Blue Flame Blog, Current Issue, From the Magazine

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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