LP Gas Growth Summit offers venue to talk supply strategies

July 8, 2024 By     0 Comments
Jeffrey Tufts. Photo by LP Gas staff

Tufts. Photo by LP Gas staff

The LP Gas Growth Summit gives us at LP Gas magazine a chance to visit with propane retailers to talk about their business and the industry.

Retailers spend most of their time visiting with vendor partners, moving from suite to suite at Reunion Resort’s Grande Tower in Orlando, Florida, for their respective 20-minute meetings. In these meetings, retailers learn about offerings that could improve their operations, or maybe these meetings prompt ideas on how they can grow gallons across markets. Whatever the opportunity, our goal with the Growth Summit is to build propane partnerships.

But when retailers stop by the LP Gas suite, we’re asking about key topics in the industry – safety, labor, market challenges and opportunities, and, of course, propane supply. Recently, we reviewed some of the supply-related comments made by retailers attending last year’s Growth Summit, as we prepare for our 2024 Growth Summit in September. We thought this was a good place to share them so that you can get a sense of what your propane industry peers are experiencing in their territories.

Our first perspective comes from Montana.

– DeWayne O’Brien, Energy Partners, Montana

O’Brien

“Montana is very unique,” explains DeWayne O’Brien, general manager of Energy Partners Propane in Missoula. “Typically, we get about 50 percent of our supply through rail. And then we have some Canadian partners we have supply through as well. This last year, we saw a need to get into our own transport division. And mostly that’s just to ensure that we’re able to supply our customers throughout the winter with uninterrupted propane supply. And then also to help us move our rail product.”

Many of the comments about propane supply were positive. It seems we’ve come a long way since the regional supply and pricing challenges of the 2013-14 winter.

Headshot: Butch Carper

Carper

“We all talk about what happened back in ’13 with supply issues,” says Butch Carper, general manager of Rutland Bottle Gas, which services customers in parts of Ohio and West Virginia. “It wasn’t that we didn’t have any gas; it was just that the perfect storm hit – transportation had issues, terminals had issues.”

Carper says propane supply in his area has been reliable – the work of his suppliers and the supply infrastructure that handle Rutland’s needs.

He adds, “We do a lot of things that other companies do – autofills, summer-fill discounts to get those tanks topped off in the summertime so we don’t have to worry so much when the first cold spell hits. We pre-buy gas to make sure we are guaranteed. We buy gas in the summer to earn allocation. We are trying to do all the correct steps to make sure we are supplying [customers]. That’d be a bad thing if you take on a customer and you can’t supply [them], so we’re pretty committed to do that.”

Propane supply success comes down to having good relationships with your suppliers, says Kabraul Tasha of Tasha Fuels & Propane in East Falmouth, Massachusetts. In fact, when Tasha spoke with us at the Growth Summit, he was working with a couple different suppliers.

Kabraul Tasha

Tasha

“One thing that’s very good is where we live on Cape Cod, we have a lot of summer gallons, so we get a little special treatment in the winter,” he says. “The 2-to-1 ratio [of winter to summer gallons] – we work on that, and we’re lucky because of where we live.”

Location is also important to Massachusetts-based Devaney Energy, which accesses propane through a combination of pipeline, marine and rail terminals, explains Jeffrey Tufts, the service manager. Having diversified sources of propane protects the company in a supply crunch, but there is something else.

“We have large storage tanks; we would probably be considered, on most of our customers, to have oversized a little bit,” Tufts says. “That bodes well for the amount of deliveries that have to be made, and using that extra storage at the customer’s house, that’s one of the best things.”

This year’s LP Gas Growth Summit is scheduled for Sept. 17-19, only weeks from the start of the heating season, and you can be sure we’ll be asking retailers again about their supply strategies.

Applications remain open for propane retailer decision-makers who are interested in attending this year’s Growth Summit. Visit lpgasgrowthsummit.com to learn more about our annual event and apply to attend.


Logo: LP Gas Growth Summit

Find out how to apply to the LP Gas Growth Summit.

Sept. 17-19, 2024

Apply Now

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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