What’s worth watching in the propane industry in 2024

January 12, 2024 By    
Photo: Ole_CNX/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: Ole_CNX/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

We’re off and running in the new year.

While I’m sure many of you (hopefully) are staying busy with winter heating season deliveries, we’re shifting the focus to a big-picture view of the industry.

Here’s our list of what’s worth watching in 2024.

⦁ Technology: Much of this issue, including our cover story on smart meters, is devoted to technology advancements in the propane industry. Propane marketers are considering the many uses for technology within their operations, and that adoption will only increase as companies welcome the next generations of leaders. It’s an exciting time to be in propane, where delivery processes and customer touch points can improve through technology.

⦁ Heat Pump Helper: It’s rare for the propane industry to commercialize a product with the potential to grow residential gallons, but that’s exactly what it’s looking to do with the Heat Pump Helper and other solutions. You’re probably wondering how the heat pump factors into gallon growth. We explain the hydronic heating solution in our January issue and share how propane marketers and their employees can test the system in their own homes.

Artificial intelligence (AI): Like it or not, AI is here, and businesses big and small are advised to get an early start on learning how it functions and how it can make a difference in their operations. Note that human involvement is still necessary to avoid potential problems. Retailer technology columnist Chris Caywood, who touched on this topic last year, shares his company’s technology goals for 2024. It’s interesting to read how the company is already planning to adopt AI in some of its processes.

⦁ Renewable propane and dimethyl ether (DME): If you read our State of the Industry report in December, you know about the progress being made with renewables. Some propane marketers and suppliers are already seeing opportunities with these even-lower-carbon options. Another year means more developments in this area.

⦁ UGI and LPG: Last summer, UGI Corp.’s board of directors initiated a process to evaluate potential strategic alternatives focused on the LPG business with the intent to maximize shareholder value. In consultation with their advisers, the UGI board and management are considering a range of operational and financial alternatives with the goal of reducing UGI’s earnings volatility, strengthening its balance sheet, optimizing the company’s cost structure and realigning its capital allocation priorities. No timelines were given. This is a lot of prepared information from the corporate level, but you can’t help but wonder what this means for AmeriGas, a UGI subsidiary and the nation’s largest propane retailer.

⦁ Anti-gas threats: An industry game plan once built only on defending against aggressive government overreach now has an offensive flare as the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) continues to tackle proposed anti-gas policies. NPGA calls these threats its most significant issue in 2024 and will respond through the efforts of its legislative, regulatory, legal and codes teams. It’s even committed $1 million to a legal action fund.

⦁ Propane Expo’s new host city: On April 5-7, attendees of the propane industry’s largest trade show will descend on Charlotte, North Carolina, marking the newest location for the NPGA’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo. Don’t expect to see Atlanta on the calendar any time soon. Right now, it’s Charlotte (2024 and 2025) and Nashville, Tennessee (2026 and 2027). The Propane Expo is one of many industry events in 2024. Also worth noting is the Western show’s return to Reno, Nevada, in May and the Northeast show’s return to Worcester, Massachusetts, in August.

LP Gas Hall of Fame: The LP Gas Hall of Fame will welcome its first husband-wife inductee duo during an induction dinner on the eve of the Propane Expo. Joe and Rosie Buschur of McMahan’s Bottle Gas in Dayton, Ohio, join another stellar class of inductees. There’s a good bet you’ve also heard of the others: Randy Doyle (formerly of MAPCO/Thermogas), Bruce Swiecicki (NPGA) and Mike Walters (Superior Energy Systems). Visit lpgashalloffame.com.

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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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