LPG Spotlight: Ebbetts Pass Gas Service

February 22, 2019 By    
The snowcat bobtail from Ebbetts Pass Gas Service. Photo courtesy of Ebbetts Pass Gas Service

The snowcat bobtail from Ebbetts Pass Gas Service. Photo courtesy of Ebbetts Pass Gas Service

A winter storm passes and drops a few feet of snow on the mountains north of Yosemite National Park in California.

This is great news for the visitors to the area’s ski resorts and those who enjoy the fresh snowfall. For the propane retailers who are tasked with navigating the tough terrain to provide the fuel necessary to heat and power appliances at these locations, the snowfall presents a difficult challenge.

Luckily for Ebbetts Pass Gas Service, a propane retailer in Arnold, California, a creative rendition of a bobtail provides the best solution to that challenge.

“When you get up here in these mountains, these homes and ski resorts can get 3 feet of snow,” says Don Tetreault, regional vice president – west for Energy Distribution Partners (EDP). “When the snow comes down, people can’t get up [the mountain], but a snow machine can.”

Ebbetts Pass Gas Service, an EDP company, understood the need to deliver propane to customers living in the mountains despite the weather challenges. To overcome this hurdle, Ebbetts Pass Gas Service founders Harold and Yolanda Mosbaugh designed and built a snowcat bobtail during the mid-1960s.

Armed with a 600-gallon bobtail barrel, the snowcat’s tracked chassis allows for it to safely and efficiently climb the mountains covered in snow to deliver propane to those remote customers.

“It has its own pump on it, just like a regular bobtail,” Tetreault explains. “It has a hose on it, too, just like a regular bobtail, except that it runs on tracks.”

According to Tetreault, the snowcat bobtail operates regularly in the winter, though the company will schedule these special deliveries on the same day. The reasoning, Tetreault explains, is deploying this bobtail involves a few more steps than a traditional delivery route.

A tractor-trailer will haul the snowcat bobtail to the base of the mountain while a traditional bobtail follows. Tetreault explains the snowcat bobtail will only carry 500 gallons at a time to avoid being too heavy while traveling through the snow. Once the snowcat bobtail empties its barrel, it makes its way back down the mountain so the traditional bobtail standing by can refuel it for more deliveries.

“It’s pretty self-sufficient,” Tetreault says of the snowcat bobtail, which runs on propane autogas. “When it gets out into those woods, as long as it has fuel in its tank, it will make sure people have propane for heat, appliances and generators.”

The same snowcat bobtail built in the mid-1960s is still in operation today.

Tetreault estimates about 400-500 engine hours are put on the machine every season to deliver 10,000-20,000 gallons of propane. The snowcat bobtail’s efficiency and longevity, Tetreault says, can largely be credited to propane autogas.

“It’s a tribute to propane as an auto fuel,” he says. “How clean and efficient [propane] is and how good it is for the motor. This thing has been going for all these years and has been hammering those kind of hours.”

Ebbetts Pass Gas Service

Founded // 1940
Headquarters // Arnold, California
Owners /// Energy Distribution Partners
Founders // / Harold and Yolanda Mosbaugh
Employees // 20
Bobtails // 6
Annual gallons // 3 million

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About the Author:

Joe McCarthy was an associate editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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