The Pryor Times

January 11, 2014

Locals weigh-in on propane emergency

Cydney Baron
Staff Reporter

PRYOR, OK — Jay Turner, owner of Turner’s LP Gas in Locust Grove, said it’s business as usual.

“We haven’t had any problems. I got a load of about 8,000 gallons last night,” said Turner, who said he is scheduled to receive two more shipments this week.

This just days after Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency regarding the depleted supply of propane in Oklahoma.

In the declaration, Fallin waives the requirements for eligible out-of-state propane transporters, making it easier to bring fuel into Oklahoma. The order also allows truck drivers to exceed the number of hours and consecutive days worked.

Turner said his propane comes from Chandler, but he has to pick it up in Joplin, Mo.

“I talked to my company this morning and was told there is no shortage in Chandler. I’m still getting my trucks as usual,” Turner said.

Turner has been in the propane business since 1951 and said this is just part of the job.

“It goes in cycles. If it’s a cold season we use more propane. Since we didn’t have much of a cold season last year, we need more this year,” Turner said, adding that the easing of driving restrictions will help.  

“There’s plenty of propane to go around right now,” Turner said.

Mayes County Propane was so busy, it took repeated efforts to contact owner Taylor McCuistion before he got a break from customers and was free to talk.

“The problem is there used to be a place we could buy our propane in Tulsa, but a few years ago that company switched to crude oil. So now we have to go further away to get it,” McCuistion said. “Plants can only make so much propane per day, but right now I’m getting all I need.”

He said he purchases propane from Conway, Kan., and has for years.

“We’ve had no problems getting any. In fact the last time I was this busy was back in the 90s, we had a cold season like this back then too,” McCuistion said.

He said the cold weather causes an increase in demand, which causes a little back log in the suppliers. The propane stored at his supplier in Conway is lower than recent years, McCuistion said, but this season is colder than recent years, so it was to be expected.

“It’s not that there’s not enough propane, it’s just there aren’t enough trucks or pipeline to get it delivered fast enough,” said McCuistion.

He said at the end of the heating season, supplies will fill back up again.

“There’s a cold weather all over the United States, but as far as I can tell there’s no shortage right now,” said McCuistion.

One store owner, who preferred to be left unnamed, said he believes the problem is logistics. He said he does not feel there is a shortage in the amount of propane being produced, it’s just a matter of where the product is being stored. He referred to the U.S. Energy Information Adminis-

tration’s website where inventory levels are listed weekly.

The government website lists this week’s propane inventory at 42.4 million barrels, down from last weeks 45.9 million barrels. These numbers are down 3.5 million barrels compared to last year. The numbers are broken down further according to location within the United States. The midwest, according to the EIA website, currently has an inventory of 13.1 million barrels compared to 21.6 million barrels last week.

Part of the problem, he believes, is the increase in propane being exported rather than stored in underground inventory.

The EIA website  shows this week’s export numbers at 370,000 barrels per day compared to 132,000 barrels per day a year ago and 67,000 barrels per day two years ago.

“Those numbers are in regard to inventory levels, back stock essentially. Propane is being used as fast as it’s being produced. I don’t believe we have a real shortage right now,” he said. “But if we had a month-long cold snap I could see there being a problem.”

Fallin’s executive order is effective through Feb. 4.