Southeast show offers reprieve from winter, a look at where we stand

May 12, 2014 By    

Events and discussions that take place every year at the industry’s largest trade show help us explore our past, present and future.

Signs of our most recent past and the supply problems that existed throughout much of the country last winter were prevalent at the NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Atlanta.

“Shock and Aftershock: Winter of 2013-14” was a late addition to the educational session schedule, drawing a crowd that was eager to learn more about the causes of last winter’s supply disruptions and the potential solutions.

The team at Twin Feathers led another session on U.S. propane supply changes, and Mike Sloan of ICF International presented the results of a Cochin Pipeline reversal study during the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC) meeting.

Coverage of these events can be found in our new supply section.

All-season gallons

To capitalize on the growth in domestic propane production, PERC continues to focus on offseason gallons and work to build year-round demand.

“Can the U.S. domestic retail market compete in a global environment?” PERC President and CEO Roy Willis asked during the council meeting, in reference to the corresponding growth in U.S. exports. “Call me an optimist, but I believe we can.”

Propane autogas fleets, propane mowers and irrigation engines are getting most of PERC’s attention, to the point Tucker Perkins, chief business development officer, said propane should dominate the school bus, commercial mowing and irrigation engine markets.

More than 2,700 Blue Bird school buses running on propane were sold last year, and Perkins said the industry shouldn’t be satisfied with less than 50 percent market share from Type C buses. This medium-duty market makes up a quarter of the overall autogas market, now composed mostly of light-duty vehicles.

About 14,000 total autogas vehicles were sold last year, and here’s an interesting PERC statistic: Just 10 percent autogas market share in U.S. commercial fleets is equal to 3-4 billion gallons of propane use per year. Propane is at less than 2 percent market share.

Also worth noting from the PERC meeting: Forklifts remain an industry focal point this year, as propane (with market share falling from 60 percent to less than 50 percent in 2011) has been battling electric units for that space. One possible path to recapturing that market is a move upward in forklift size to displace diesel units used in ports, lumberyards and supply facilities.

Also in 2014, there’s a new emphasis on opportunities with the step van chassis as well as expansion plans into the golf and turf markets.

In the residential space, the goal is “to stop the bleeding and grow the market,” Perkins said. “If we can get marketers to talk to builders, we could do a lot better.”

On the commercial side, the industry is flooding the rental store with propane-fueled products, including a new mobile generator and light tower.

Finally, PERC has been digging deeper into consumer and targeted audience perceptions of propane, and it is looking to unveil a plan later this year that highlights the overall reliability and safety of retail propane.

Hall of fame nominations

When a final slide of this year’s five inductees into the LP Gas Hall of Fame was shown during the third annual induction ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, more than 100 attendees rose to their feet and applauded.

It was a moving moment that capped another memorable evening for this event. A collection of photos can be found here.

With Casey Jarvis, William B. McHenry, Daniel N. Myers, Charles Sawyer and Dwain Willingham now enshrined in the hall, we’re excited to begin the search for the next class to follow their lead.

Nominations for the Class of 2015 are now open; go here for a nomination form.

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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