Early winter cold puts strain on propane supplygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Friday, January 12, 2001
Early winter cold puts strain on propane supply By Barbara Brown News-Post Staff
Freezing temperatures outside have forced county residents to crank up the heat inside.
That may not be such a problem for residents who heat their homes with electricity, but propane customers are using the resource fiercely and driving up demand on delivery crews at the same time.
Crews for Thompson's Gas are finding themselves pulling extra hours to get to primary customers who need their tanks refilled, said Doug MacMaster, director of retail operations for the supplier.
He said delivery from Thompson's normally goes eight to 10 hours per day, but crews have been working 18 to 22 hours each day to make deliveries.
"We've even got the president of the company and the vice president out there making deliveries," he said.
Winter naturally places more demand on the delivery crews, but this winter's earlier-than-usual blustery cold temperatures have pushed usage up 35 percent among Thompson's customers, Mr. MacMaster said.
"Our business has been growing 10 to 20 percent, too," Mr. MacMaster said. "So it's a combination of that and colder temperatures."
That demand led Thompson's Gas to allow supplemental propane customers to forgo delivery until the weather warms and fuel prices stabilize, Mr. MacMaster said.
Mr. MacMaster said the owner of Thompson's Gas, Randy Thompson, drafted a letter that was sent to the company's more than 9,000 customers throughout Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia that announced the allowance.
The letter, mailed just after the new year, offered supplemental fuel customers the option of deferring delivery.
In the letter, Mr. Thompson informed customers that he had "never seen prices this high this early in the season," and that to help supplemental customers who pay $2.50 to $3 per gallon of fuel he would allow them to defer delivery.
Primary propane customers of Thompson's are being billed at about $1.80 per gallon, Mr. MacMaster said.
"This (offer) is for customers who don't need the propane for primary concerns like heat, cooking and hot water," Mr. MacMaster said. "Our concern is to get to the primary heating, cooking, hot water customers first."
"We've had three or four customers per hour calling who are taking us up on the offer," he said of the deferment option.
However, Mr. MacMaster said the company is not facing a supply shortage. He said natural gas businesses are in similar situations.
So what does the future hold for propane delivery? Mr. MacMaster said January and February are predicted to be just as cold as December, and that delivery crews expect to retain the long work schedule until winter ends.
It looks like this weekend will be snow-free for the Frederick area and the heaters may be able to take a slight break as slightly warmer temperatures come in to the area.
The National Weather Service predicted warmer temperatures through Monday.
Today will bring in some cloudy skies, but the high should be near 50. Friday will cool again to a high in the low 40s under mostly cloudy skies.
Saturday will become more clear and continue the temperature pattern with a high in the low 40s. Sunday and Monday will become mostly cloudy and both days hold a chance of showers.
The overnight temperatures through the weekend will teeter between the mid-20s and the low 30s.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 12, 2001