Southland Transportation Buses Go Propane

Southland Transportation recently added 101 Blue Bird Propane Vision buses to its propane autogas school bus fleet. The company is a subsidiary of the largest family-owned pupil transportation provider in Canada with operations in school, motor coach and public transportation. The new Propane Vision buses will transport students from the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Medicine Hat School District No. 76.

Southland Transportation first started operating Blue Bird Propane Vision buses in 2007 with good results. The company’s corporate commitment to the environment can be seen throughout all facets of the organization gI_65907_Southland Keysfrom anti-idling programs to recycling programs. Southland Transportation’s environmental policies also play a factor with onsite fuel options. With non-toxic properties and an uncomplicated set-up, propane autogas is the only fueling infrastructure that Southland Transportation permits on its properties.

“Our Propane Visions have been a proven performer. Due to the clean-operation and straightforward technology, I would estimate that each propane bus annually saves us about $500 in basic maintenance costs,” said Tom Jezersek, vice president at Southland Transportation. “As a former licensed mechanic, I am well-versed to the advantages of propane autogas. These buses are safe, reliable and immediately start in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, without the use of oil pan heaters or block heaters. Our drivers also enjoy the buses as they are quiet, powerful and come to temperature very quickly. Propane autogas is an excellent choice for districts.”

The Calgary Board of Education, located in Calgary, Alberta, transports over 3,400 students to 65 area schools utilizing Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses. Already operating 32 Propane Vision buses Southland Transportation recently added an additional 59 propane-powered school buses to the district’s fleet bringing the total Propane Vision fleet to 91.

Mobile County Public Schools Converts to Propane

The Mobile County Public Schools will be moving their students this fall with 30 propane autogas buses. The school district is supporting the community outreach campaign, “It Starts With Us” and their first step is the converted Blue Bird Propane Visions buses.

“The deployment of our propane autogas bus fleet is a perfect example of our school system’s initiative, It Starts With Us,” said Pat Mitchell, director of transportation for Mobile County Public Schools. “We are providing dependable and clean student transportation while saving taxpayers money so we can put it back in the classroom where it counts most.”

MCPSS Propane Autogas school busOfficials rolled out the new buses during the MCPSS Transportation Department on International Drive. “Propane is cheaper, cleaner and domestically produced,” said Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, who took a test ride on one of the new propane buses. “This is an environmental initiative I can get behind.”

“We are pleased to be the very first school system in Alabama to enhance transportation through the use of propane buses,” said Superintendent Martha Peek. “We have taken this step because we understand the advantages are increased fuel efficiency, economic and environmental.”

Each bus will displace about 40,000 gallons of diesel and emit 150,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide over their lifetime and the fuel costs nearly 50 percent less than per gallon than diesel according to Todd Mouw with ROUSH Cleantech.

Before choosing to fuel with propane autogas, the school district’s transportation department performed a comprehensive evaluation. This process included safety research, cost savings analysis, site visits to school systems that operate buses with propane autogas, and phone interviews with transportation directors.

“The schoolchildren and taxpayers of Mobile benefit from this important decision,” said Dale Wendell, Blue Bird’s chief commercial officer. “The adoption of Blue Bird Propane Vision buses further emphasizes Mobile County Public Schools’ forward-thinking leadership and commitment to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, support a domestically produced fuel, and provide cleaner air for the students and the community.”

PERC Updates Brand, Logo

Propane logoThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has updated its brand identity for propane: PROPANE Clean American Energy. In addition, they have revealed a new logo. According to PERC President and CEO Roy Willis, the logo highlights propane as an American-made alternative fuel at a time when U.S. propane production from natural gas liquids is at record levels. He also said the change puts a spotlight on recent investments by the propane industry in new technologies.

“We hope PROPANE Clean American Energy will increase consideration of propane as a clean, affordable, and American-made alternative to conventional fuels among fleets, commercial landscapers, contractors, producers, and homeowners,” said Willis. “Increasing domestic demand for propane in the U.S. will ultimately lead to cleaner air and increased use of our nation’s own energy resources, rather than relying on foreign oil.”

The new logo and tagline will be used in all PERC-produced materials and will be made available free of charge to propane providers and OEM partners. The new logo will also replace the previous mark used by thousands of propane retailers nationwide on signs, delivery vehicles, equipment, websites, and literature. In addition, the new logo will be featured in the organization’s new multimedia safety campaign to encourage agribusiness operators and residential propane heating customers to fill up in advance of the winter season.

Willis added, “America makes more than enough propane to meet U.S. demand. As PERC rolls out this important safety campaign and new branding identity, the propane industry is prepared to meet the needs of a changing energy economy.”

Feds: Propane Inventories Growing Strong

Propane uses, especially Midwestern farmers, are hoping to avoid a repeat of last winter’s high prices, low inventories and logistical and infrastructure challenges that caused some real problems last year. The latest information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that while inventories are below average, they’re above the numbers from a year ago and are trending upwards in the last few weeks.

While inventory levels in the Midwest remain below the five-year average, above-average builds over the past six weeks are an encouraging trend. Last year, propane inventories in the Midwest (PADD 2) for the week ending August 9 were 21.5 million barrels, 3.4 million barrels below the five-year average. This year, PADD 2 propane inventories for the week ending August 8 are 23.4 million barrels, 1.9 million barrels higher than last year, but still 1.6 million barrels below the five-year average. However, in each of the past six weeks, PADD 2 propane inventory builds have surpassed their five-year averages, leading to a steady improvement in stock levels relative to their historical norms…
propaneAug2014a
Last year, demand for propane used to dry crops in the Upper Midwest surged just before the start of winter and, as a result, propane inventories at distribution terminals were low before the start of winter heating season. In addition, distribution infrastructure challenges, pipeline maintenance, and rail delivery delays reduced supplies. This year, inventories are building earlier; however, there have been changes in infrastructure that could impact supply. The Cochin Pipeline, which delivered propane to the Upper Midwest from Canada, has been reversed and repurposed, removing a major source of propane supplies to the region.

Propane market participants have responded to the events of last winter and the Cochin reversal by diversifying supply sources. Instead of relying on propane delivered from Canada via Cochin, the region will now rely more on several existing pipelines to deliver propane north to the Upper Midwest from Conway. Additionally, propane rail capacity in the region has expanded via new propane rail terminals throughout the region. Finally, existing distribution terminals have added tanks, thus expanding storage capacity.

The report goes on to say that there will be continued infrastructure challenges for winter propane deliveries in the Midwest and the Northeast will have to rely on imports from Canada. In addition, an expected record corn harvest this year could put pressure on supplies again in the form of propane used for crop drying, but that will depend on fall weather patterns and harvest timing. How cold the winter is will as be the the most important and most difficult-to-predict factor influencing the propane supply-demand balance this winter.

Propane Expands Use on the Farm

propane-logo1Farmers across the country are turning more and more to propane for their operations. A new study sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) shows that farmers looking to cut fuel costs, increase efficiencies, and meet strict emissions standards are turning to the clean-burning fuel.


Propane is currently used by more than 40 percent of farms in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by PERC and Artemis Strategy Group, the most common uses for propane among farmers are building heating (47 percent) and grain drying (35 percent).

The survey also showed that the role of propane on farms is changing, as more farmers are choosing propane to fuel vehicles and irrigation systems over other alternative fuels such as natural gas. According to the survey, 14 percent are using propane to fuel a vehicle on the farm (compared with natural gas at one percent) and five percent are using propane for irrigation (compared with natural gas at two percent).

“The results show that farmers trust propane as a reliable, convenient, American-made fuel,” Cinch Munson, PERC director of agriculture business development, said. “Every year, new, fuel-efficient propane-powered irrigation engines, grain dryers, work trucks, and forklifts are hitting the market. As more options become available, more farmers will turn to propane for greater efficiency and fuel savings.”

The survey also shows that farmers like using propane, as favorability ratings hit about 84 percent for propane, compared with 61 percent for natural gas and 33 percent for heating oil. PERC also touted its partnerships with equipment manufacturers with research and development investments to commercialize new propane-powered products or advance the energy efficiency of existing applications.

PERC Consolidates Propane Info on One Website

PERCUsers of propane will now be able to find information on the clean fuel consolidated on one website. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) announced it is combining information that used to be available on several sites, including autogasusa.org, agpropane.com, poweredbypropane.com, and usepropane.com, into one place Propane.com, where customers can find information on propane’s many uses in transportation, commercial landscaping, agriculture, residential, and industrial markets.

PERC hopes the consolidated web presence will promote a “one-fuel solution” by encouraging business and residential customers currently using or considering propane in one application to explore new fuel-efficient equipment for other uses as well.

“Propane.com gives our industry a chance to showcase the versatility of propane, and the economic and environmental benefits of using this American-made fuel across top performing markets,” says Roy Willis, president and CEO of PERC. “The consolidation also gives propane customers the opportunity to realize all the technologies available for their home, fleet, or business.”

The previous sites managed by PERC still exist but redirect to Propane.com. Customers can also use the “Find a Propane Retailer” application on the site to locate their nearest retailer by zip code and services provided.

Wisconsin Students Go to School with Propane

Lamers Bus Lines and Badger Bus are increasing their use of propane autogas. Lamars Bus Lines has recently added 41 new Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses expanding its propane fleet to 59 buses. The buses will transport students in Milwaukee Public Schools and feature Blue Bird’s extended range 100-gallone fuel tank. Each bus will travel nearly 9,000 miles each year.

In the past year, Lamers Bus Lines said they have saved over $14,000 in fuel costs by Blue Bird Vision Propane Busswitching to Blue Bird Propane Vision buses. The company is currently installing an onsite 30,000-gallon fueling dispenser that will service the new Milwaukee propane autogas buses.

“Our propane buses have been completely trouble-free,” said Allen Lamers, president of Lamers Bus Lines. “We’ve had no issues what-so-ever on them and the deployment has been smooth. We received comprehensive training from our local dealer, Wisconsin Bus Sales, along with Roush CleanTech and our local propane provider. From all aspects, the buses are logical, simple and require minimal adaptation. Propane autogas is a great option for school buses and we couldn’t be more pleased with our fleet.”

Badger Bus, has been successfully operating propane autogas school buses for the past two years. The contractor is adding 16 new Blue Bird Propane Vision buses, expanding its total propane fleet to 20. The new propane buses will transport students in Madison Metropolitan School District.

The company has a 2,000 gallon propane autogas tank onsite and is currently paying $1.19 per gallon for fuel – a significant savings over its diesel price of $3.48 per gallon. Each buses travels between 12,000 to 14,000 miles each year, and Badger Bus said they are seeing an average annual fuel savings of over $3,500 per bus.

“Badger Bus has been known for its reliable transportation since our founding in 1920. Our experience with Blue Bird’s propane autogas buses has been a very positive, economical experience. Our drivers love the power and quiet operation, our technicians love the ease of service and simplistic engine, and the domestic, affordable fuel provides us with even greater benefits,” said John Meier, co-owner of Badger Bus. “Overall safety is of paramount importance with the students we transport and the safety and environmental benefits of these buses further strengthen our partnership with the community.”

Hess Doubles North Dakota Gas Plant Capacity

hessNatural gas and propane shortages of the past winter might become history with a major expansion of a North Dakota plant. Hess Corporation officials have commemorated the recently completed expansion of the Tioga Gas Plant, more than doubling the capacity of the facility.

The project is part of a more than $1.5 billion infrastructure investment made by Hess between 2012 and 2014 in North Dakota that has significantly increased production of propane, methane, butane and natural gasoline, and of ethane, a vital industrial product never before produced in the state. The expansion also brings a substantial improvement in efficiency and significantly reduces the amount of natural gas flared at Hess’s operations, from about 25 percent before the plant was shut down for the expansion project to 15 to 20 percent today.

“The Tioga Gas Plant was built in 1954, just three years after we drilled the very first oil well in the state of North Dakota,” said John Hess, Chief Executive Officer of Hess Corporation. “Today, as one of the largest oil and gas producers in the Bakken, we are committed to responsible long-term growth in North Dakota and proud to contribute to the state’s infrastructure.”

The plant is fully operational and is currently processing about 120 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (MMSCFD), with the expectation that through the combination of Hess and third-party gas it will soon process at least 250 MMSCFD with the potential to increase beyond 300 MMSCFD. Prior to expansion, the plant processed about 100 MMSCFD.

Hess officials were joined at the ceremony by a host of government officials, including North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Sen. John Hoeven.

Halco Energy Deploys Propane Trucks

Phelps, New York – based Halco Energy is deploying 25 vehicles powered by propane autogas in their service and installation fleet. The company provides residential and commercial renewable energy solutions including high-efficiency heating and cooling systems; home energy audits; and envelope improvements including insulation, air-sealing, and clean renewable energy systems. And now the company is “walking the walk” with its fleet conversion to propane autogas.

The company is now sporting 16 Ford E-350 cargo vans and 9 Ford F-250 pickup trucks equipped with ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel systems. The conversions were funded, in part, by a $200,000 grant from the Genesee Region Clean Communities. The domestically fueled vehicles will help the company drive down fuel and maintenance expenses by an estimated $600,000 and reduce their carbon footprint by more than 1.6 million pounds over thee lifetime of the vehicles.

Halco Energy Hal Smith“We’re in the renewable energy business so doing the right thing for the environment is very important to us,” said Hal Smith, co-owner of Halco Energy. “We were looking for a fuel that’s cleaner, better for environment and less costly. With propane autogas, we are optimistic that we’ve found a great solution to meet these needs.”

Halco Energy is working to install a 16,000-gallon on-site fueling station but in the meantime they will fuel the vehicles at a local public station. According to ROUSH CleanTech, the infrastructure for propane autogas is less expensive than any other alternative fuel, and with thousands of stations across the nation, propane autogas already has the largest public refueling infrastructure of all alternative transportation fuel options.

“Energy efficiency is our life, so for us, propane autogas, has been a no-brainer,” said Smith. “By deploying propane autogas vehicles in our fleet, we’re helping our pocketbook and the environment at the same time. I just wonder why more companies aren’t doing the same thing.”

A 2013 recipient of the national “Home Performance with Energy Star” award, Halco Energy aims to transition 75 percent of their total fleet to propane autogas over the next four years.

Allliance Autogas Adds Two New Members

Alliance AutoGas has added two new members to its propane autogas conversion national network: Green Country Alternative Fuels based in Claremore, Oklahoma and Tornabene Alliance Autogas LogoAuto Sales and Service based in Pownal, Vermont. With a network of more than 90 members, Alliance Autogas installs propane refueling infrastructure, coordinates propane autogas vehicle conversions and provides vehicle maintenance support and training.

“It is of the highest importance that Alliance AutoGas provides a quality support network and keep the vehicles running on the road,” said Stuart Weidie, president of Alliance AutoGas.

Ty Burnett, Owner Green Country Alternative Fuels, Inc. said of joining the Alliance, “We are excited about starting a partnership with Alliance AutoGas. The wide range of vehicle applications and attention to quality and detail is very important to us. We feel this alliance will be very beneficial to our company as well as to our customers.”

Jody Tornabene, president of the family-owned retail and repair business Joe Tornabene’s Auto Sales and Service added, “We see this as the wave of the future and it’s a natural fit for our business to enter the alternative fuel conversion market. Propane is a great source of alternative fuel, as is about 35 percent cheaper and 60 percent cleaner than diesel and gasoline. Our garage has two bays that will be set up to complete the propane conversions and we are looking forward to providing new jobs in our region that is in need of an economy boost.”

Farmers Save with Propane

According to a survey from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program, farmers who installed propane-powered irrigation engines cut their fuel costs by 56 percent per hour compared with similar diesel-powered engines. Participants in the 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program also reduced overall fuel consumption by 37 percent per hour, the survey data showed.

“The feedback from our participating farmers shows that, without a doubt, clean, American-made propane is a cost effective and efficient fuel source for irrigation,” said Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing at PERC. “New technologies, like propane-powered irrigation engines, help farmers cut their input costs and increase overall farm profits.”

20130702_PERC_173The results were based on self-reported performance and post-season survey data from 148 program participants in 16 states. Participating farmers installed and demonstrated 214 propane irrigation engines, displacing 180,000 gallons of diesel, and irrigating a total of 21,700 acres of 17 different crops nationwide. Farmers demonstrated 16 different engine models from six original equipment manufacturers.

Propane irrigation engines also garnered high performance and overall satisfaction ratings from program participants. Eighty-six percent of participants who bought a new propane irrigation engine to replace another engine reported that the new propane irrigation engine performed better. Participants rated the performance of their new propane engine 33 percent higher than the diesel engine they replaced. In addition, 93 percent of participants said they were likely or highly like to buy another propane irrigation engine. More than 70 percent of program participants had also considered purchasing a diesel engine, but when they studied the facts, determined propane was the better option.

Producers can still earn up to $5,000 to upgrade to cost-saving, fuel-efficient propane-powered farm equipment, including irrigation engines, grain dryers, building heaters, and other eligible equipment through the 2014 Propane Farm Incentive program.

Propane Users Urged to Get Equipment Ready

Propane-Council logoSpring is in the air, and planting is either started or getting ready to get started across the country. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is urging farmers who use their fuel to make sure spring preparation includes prepping that propane-fueled equipment.

Irrigation Engines
After a long winter, rodents, debris, and exposure to the elements are the most common source of engine issues, said Pete Stout, product manager for Origin Engines. Stout encourages farmers to refer to their product manuals for maintenance needs specific to their engine models, and offers these tips for preparing irrigation engines for spring planting:

* Disconnect the engine battery and check battery voltage.
* Clear away any dirt and debris that have collected on and around the engine. Pay special attention to clutch bellhousings, radiator shrouds, and wire harnesses.
* Inspect wire harnesses for cracked or exposed wires and make repairs if necessary.
* Check front drive belts for proper tension and wear.
“I also urge farmers to place engines inside of structures, such as a simple carport style shelter, for the summer growing season,” Stout said. “UV sunlight and general exposure to extreme weather can be tough on engine power units.”

PERC goes on to suggest that before that spring storm rolls through and knocks out power, propane generators are checked and cleaned. Pickup trucks running on the clean fuel also need to be properly maintained to get the most out of the efficiency propane autogas can bring. The same goes for forklifts and other propane-powered equipment.

In addition, you can check out PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program, which could make up to $5,000 available to farmers who switch to propane. More information is available here.

Broward County Schools Convert to Propane

Broward County Public Schools, the nation’s sixth largest school district, has purchased 98 propane autogas fueled school buses. The purchase supports the top 10 school district’s environmental stewardship program, “Learn Green. Live Green.” This is the nation’s largest single order of autogas fueled buses by a school district.

“We’ll be using these buses for our high mileage routes due to the substantial cost and maintenance savings with clean and safe autogas,” said Pat Snell, director of student transportation and fleet services for Broward County Public Schools. “Some of the savings will be funneled directly back into the classroom.”

schoolbusesSnell anticipates the county will see a six-month return on investment for the additional cost of the alternative fuel buses. According to Snell, the county will lock in an autogas fuel price at substantially less than their diesel cost. Historically, autogas costs about 50 percent less than diesel per gallon and reduces maintenance costs due to its clean-burning properties.

According to Snell, each bus will travel about 17,000 miles per year and each bus will displace about 40,000 gallons of diesel and emit 150,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide over their lifetime.

“School districts are eager for cleaner, lower emissions solutions that also work with their budgets. The Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision and Micro Bird meet these needs with lower fuel and maintenance costs, decreased noise and environmental benefits,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “We applaud Broward County Public Schools for their forward-thinking leadership in the state of Florida.”

The purchase qualifies Broward County Public Schools to apply for funding through a state rebate program. The Florida incentive waives state taxes for gaseous alternative fuels, which include propane autogas and natural gas.

The school district purchased the buses from Florida Transportation Systems, the authorized Blue Bird dealer in Florida. The Blue Bird Propane-Powered Visions, each equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system, include a 100-gallon extended range tank that provides a 93-usable gallon capacity. Delivery begins in May for operation for the 2014-2015 school year.

PERC Recognizes Top Clean Cities Coalitions

Five Clean Cities Coalitions were awarded with the first ever Outstanding Propane Supporter awards at the Energy Independence Summit in Washington, D.C. by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). The award recipients included Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition, Clean Fuels Ohio, Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities, and Virginia Clean Cities. They were given the award in recognition of Propane-Council logotheir promotion of the use of propane autogas and other alternative fuels through grants, training programs, and community outreach. Their support of clean, American-made propane autogas has led to major adoptions of propane autogas vehicles in their states and across the U.S.

“For 20 years, Clean Cities has built partnerships with local and statewide organizations to encourage the adoption of alternative fuels and new transportation technology,” PERC President and CEO Roy Willis said. “Our Outstanding Propane Supporter award winners are examples of how public and private partnerships in the transportation sector are creating a cleaner future for fleets and communities nationwide.”

About the award winners:

  • Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition works with a large number of propane stakeholders, including propane retailers AmeriGas, Blossman Gas, Ferrellgas, and Heritage Propane in addition to the Alabama Propane Gas Association and propane vehicle manufacturer Roush CleanTech. They also promote propane vehicles on their website by listing applicable vehicle purchase incentives.
  • Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition managed a Recovery Act grant that has put more than 1,300 propane vehicles on the road in Indiana to date. The coalition also helped facilitate the construction of 120 alternative fueling stations in partnership with eight other project partners, and has secured more than $22 million in federal and state grants since 2002 for coalition member projects.
  • Clean Fuels Ohio helps organize the state’s Energy Independence Day event and actively promotes the use of alternative fuel vehicles. They’re also working on a $16 million project that would provide funding for conversions and infrastructure.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities is a major participant in organizing the Texas Alt Car Expo and helps fleets identify and obtain Texas grant funding for conversions. The group also works with the Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas County Schools, the City of Fort Worth, and other fleet managers on new vehicle purchases and training.
  • Virginia Clean Cities manages a Recovery Act grant to convert more than 1,200 vehicles to propane autogas. The coalition created a propane subcommittee and hosts frequent webinars and events promoting propane autogas.

DISH Converts to Propane Fleet

DISH has deployed 47 customer service vans fueled by propane autogas in the Los Angeles (LA), California area. DISH unveiled 47 of its 200 propane autogas vehicle fleet during an event, “Driving Cleaner Solutions for Our Customers and Communities.” The ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-250 cargo vans will support residential and commercial customer service through the company’s Hawthorne and South El Monte locations.

logosmisc“DISH is proud to begin deploying a vehicle fleet in the LA area that emits fewer greenhouse gases and uses a domestically sourced fuel,” said Erik Carlson, executive vice president of service and installation at DISH. “This is just part of our larger propane autogas fleet rollout and we look forward to rolling out more across the country.”

According to DISH, there were four factors that helped them make their decisions to move to propane autogas: cost savings, national availability of a domestically sourced fuel, on-site fueling benefits and original equipment manufacturer choices that meet service requirements. As part of their move to propane, the company is also installing an onsite fueling station.

“Industry leaders such as DISH are recognizing the value that propane autogas brings to their operation,” added Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech. “The ability to reduce fuel costs in excess of 30 percent, significantly reduce harmful emissions and utilize an American-made energy source produces a positive ROI for all involved: shareholders, employees and the communities that DISH services.”

DISH serves 14 million customers. Currently, propane autogas is the only alternative fuel being implemented in DISH’s fleet.