Propane and the ‘new world’ of COVID-19

March 26, 2020 By    

From a fist bump at our very first booth visit, to bottles of hand sanitizer visible on tabletops, to being “left hanging” during another personal introduction and attempted handshake, you knew something was amiss in early March at The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

COVID-19. Photo: fpm/E+/Getty Images

Photo: fpm/E+/Getty Images

This was before the COVID-19 coronavirus situation escalated into a global pandemic later in the month, and our world, our way of living, turned completely upside down.

Never before have we experienced this new way of social interaction, of “social distancing,” a phrase that has become common around the world but one that still doesn’t sit right, not in societies already challenged today by issues of social isolation.

The unfathomable events of today have impacted our tomorrow, both in our personal and professional lives.

When President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) pulled the plug on its flagship event, April’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo.

Anticipation had been building since last April when the industry’s largest event had ended, workers at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta had begun tearing up the trade show floor and exhibitors had begun tearing down. We were headed back to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2020.

Not only did the industry enjoy everything Music City had to offer from an entertainment standpoint in its first two years as the Propane Expo host in 2016-17, but Nashville also attracted record-setting crowds of more than 4,000 total attendees to the trade show floor.

But no sooner did new NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski announce a “cautious go” on the show March 12, he and NPGA leadership made the decision to cancel. Attempts to reschedule the show for later in the year also fell through.

Attention that NPGA had been giving to decisions surrounding the show quickly turned to propane delivery mechanisms and ensuring marketers could continue to do their jobs safely and effectively – for the sake of employees and customers.

“Our focus is on the ability for the propane delivery folks to be on the road,” Kaminski said in late March as his staff worked hours to open pathways for businesses. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure nothing prevents propane from being delivered.”

To that end, NPGA worked to include propane – marketers and suppliers – in federal guidance on essential critical infrastructure workers. Kaminski says this is the sole federal guidance for defining those who are “essential” as states and localities issue shelter-in-place edicts. If the local rules mimic the federal guidance, propane is covered.

Of course, Kaminski didn’t envision he’d be in this type of situation when NPGA hired him last fall. Who could have? Issues like association membership and finances seemed more the norm for the coming year.

“It’s boots-on-the-ground training, in the trenches, and learning the industry from the ground up from a crisis model as opposed to a peacetime model,” Kaminski says. “It’s just a different way of going about it.”

Propane has always been the go-to fuel in emergencies, in situations that require a clean, portable and versatile energy source. We’re already hearing and seeing examples of the industry coming together, not only as it continues to serve the needs of its regular customers, but now as hospitals erect temporary coronavirus-testing tents and communities require propane for other unforeseen uses.

If you are providing propane or other help to your community for reasons specific to the coronavirus crisis, please let me know. We want to share your story and the good work you’re doing for the propane industry.

There is hope, and it’s reflected in the work the propane industry does every day on the front lines.

“It’s a new world out there for everyone,” Kaminski says, “and we’re stepping up to the plate.”

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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