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Propane gas shortages are easing

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 9:38 p.m. CST
(Rob Winner –
Propane specialist Walter Smith of Heritage FS, Inc. checks the gauge on a 500-gallon tank while making a propane delivery Feb. 12 to a farm in Wilmington.

MORRIS – Relief is coming for consumers affected by propane shortages this winter, but some officials expect the problems won’t cease until the season is over.

That means any drop in prices could be too late for rural households using propane for heat, but it could be good news when outdoor chefs turn on gas grills in the spring.

Mollie O’Dell, spokeswoman for the National Propane Gas Association, said the release of a half million barrels of propane has helped stabilize supply shortages in the Midwest, along with moderating the wholesale prices of propane. 

On Feb. 12, association officials announced more than 500,000 barrels of propane were released to the Midwest and Northwest as a result of an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

But it may not completely resolve the many challenges propane suppliers and homeowners face this winter. 

“Until this winter is over, we anticipate supply will remain tight in the Midwest,” O’Dell said. 

Since the winter season began, the Midwest region has been affected by propane supply shortages, distribution challenges and, for some consumers, higher prices for propane than normal.

Large wet crops in the fall that demanded high propane use led to homeowners finding themselves with a tight supply for themselves during a winter filled with record subzero temperatures and snowfall. Officials with the U.S. Department of Energy said the cold weather led to record-high natural gas storage and propane withdrawals. 

In an effort to provide relief, Gov. Pat Quinn declared a propane supply emergency statewide in January, which allowed for truck drivers to drive out of state to receive propane. 

Propane shortages have continued to be a problem for suppliers and consumers in Grundy County.

A main propane pipeline runs through Grundy County because of the Aux Sable Liquid Products natural gas facility near Minooka, which has mitigated the supply problem for local residents, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said.

“So far, it seems like we’ve been able to handle it,” he said. “As far as I know, nobody has run out. The prices are just really high.”

Tasha Bunting, manager of the Grundy County Farm Bureau, said the propane issues in Grundy County seem to be easing up because of the loosened restrictions with truck drivers traveling out of state for more propane. 

As with the National Propane Gas Association, Bunting said one of the biggest problems that led to the propane shortage was farmers using propane-fueled grain dryers to dry the high number of crops. 

The amount of propane needed for the current winter season wasn’t enough, she said. 

• Morris Daily Herald reporter Jessica Bourque contributed to this article.

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