Integrating propane into the renewable energy marketplace

November 19, 2020 By    

Renewable propane gas (RPG) is becoming increasingly available in several parts of the country, and efforts are underway to bring it much deeper into the renewable energy marketplace.

The Propane Education & Research Council is starting to pay attention to renewable propane for fleet vehicles but is understandably reluctant to push too hard because the U.S. is sitting on the largest supply of non-renewable propane in the world.

The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and many state associations are battling electrification efforts that are springing up across the country, and RPG is becoming an important part of that debate. In addition, NPGA is making significant inroads into research funding for projects involving the renewable fuel.

Now it is time for propane marketers to make RPG more readily available in the marketplace.

Ironically, at this point, the heating oil industry is leading the way in the development of renewable deliverable fuels. After years of slowly losing market share to propane and other forms of cleaner, alternative energy sources, the heating oil industry is embracing renewables in a big way.

The development of biodiesel in commercial quantities for the trucking industry gave the heating oil industry an opportunity to develop a blend of biodiesel and heating oil called Bioheat Fuel. Bioheat Fuel dealers began offering a blend of 5 percent renewable oil (B5) and set goals to offer a 20 percent blend (B20) of renewable by 2023, a 50 percent blend (B50) of renewable by 2030 and all renewable by 2050.

While not all heating oil dealers embrace Bioheat Fuel, the ones that do are having a positive effect on the energy marketplace. Learn more about Bioheat Fuel at

To market

The framework is in place for RPG production to accelerate. Refineries and other production facilities across the country have the capabilities to produce the renewable fuel from cellulosic sources (renewable biomass), used cooking oil, animal tallow and byproducts of biodiesel production.

There are currently no industry-recognized blend standards for RPG. Those marketers selling into the autogas market are most frequently using a 30 percent blend (RP30) of RPG. This blend rate gives RPG a decided environmental advantage over all other mass transportation fuels, including electricity.

The bioheat industry has already proven that RPG blend rates do not have to be that aggressive to sell into other markets such as residential and commercial. The propane industry can start at RP5, like the heating oil industry did, and establish realistic goals from there.

Market availability of RPG has been a challenge, but there are some ways to make RPG available in most parts of the country.

Direct shipments from manufacturing sources: Currently, shipments of 100 percent RPG (RP100) are crisscrossing the country to arrive at retailer locations to blend in dedicated storage prior to customer delivery. Some end users require shipper tracking proof from the RPG source to their locations.

RPG blending pools at wholesaler storage locations: Consider where your current wholesale propane supplier stores propane, and see if blending RPG can be arranged. An addition of 50,000 gallons of RPG to the propane you have stored with a wholesaler gives you 1 million gallons of RP5 renewable propane from which to draw.

Propane-to-RPG exchanges: While less desirable than other sources, propane-to-RPG exchanges can be arranged in some propane marketplaces. The actual gallons of RPG are exchanged for non-renewable propane as a paper transaction, without the RPG product actually being moved to the buyer’s location. While some frown on this type of transaction, that hasn’t stopped electric utilities from using exchanges with renewable electricity sources to market renewable electricity without moving that power onto their grid.

Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services for Warm Thoughts Communications. He can be reached at 810-252-7855.

About the Author:

Sarah Peecher was a digital media content producer at LP Gas.

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