Propane projects keep manager’s mind working in his spare time

January 11, 2011 By    

Kevin Shrum has a mechanic’s mind.

Raised below the poverty level in middle Tennessee, he stayed busy by making repairs and modifications to hand-me-down products – part of a creative streak he attributes to his family. That creative streak only grew stronger.

“I try to absorb as much as I can,” the 34-year-old Shrum says. “I get fascinated over certain things.”

Shrum “fell in love” with the propane industry in 2003 and today manages Sequachee Valley Propane in Tracy City, the town where he grew up. The growing company – Shrum says it could have used a third bobtail during a December cold spell – is part of the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative.

When he and his five employees aren’t hustling to meet the winter heating demands of the company’s nine-county service area, Shrum continues to sharpen his mechanic’s mind in his spare time.

A recent project happened to be fueled by propane – literally.

“I was a mechanic before I started in the propane industry,” Shrum says. “I had an amazement with transportation as a child. I have a knack for that stuff, so I always wanted to make a propane motorcycle.”

Last July, Shrum traded for a 1984 1200 Honda Goldwing Aspencade that had been wrecked. He spent a couple of hours each evening working on the motorcycle, following his shift at Sequachee Valley Propane. He installed a 33.5-pound propane forklift cylinder on the motorcycle, which runs on a traditional vapor carburetion system. Shrum completed the transformation by the end of August, estimating a total build time of 60 hours.

“I didn’t do any hand drawings or preplanning. I plan a lot of stuff in my head,” Shrum says. “I have quite a few tools and the knowledge to weld and cut. It worked out just right. I’m tickled to death the way it came out.”

Shrum says he has ridden the motorcycle about 3,000 miles since its completion and estimates he can ride at least 300 miles on one tank of propane.

“Everybody is just amazed,” he says of the reaction.

Still, Shrum isn’t blind to safety matters of the motorcycle. While he believes that the bike is safe and legal to ride – he says five Tennessee Highway Patrolmen have approved the bike – he remains open to feedback from the industry. Meanwhile, he will put his mind to use on the next project.

“I always have something I’m tinkering with in the shop,” Shrum says. “Who knows what I will do next?”

TEAM: Pictured above, from left, Jarrett Schaerer, Kevin Shrum, Erica Miller, David Griswold, Carol Underhill and Jason Griffin
LOCATION: Tracy City, Tenn.
FOUNDED: 1999
EMPLOYEES: 5 full time, 1 part time
CUSTOMERS: 2,300
PROPANE SOLD: About 875,000 gallons per year
ONLINE: www.svalleyec.com

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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