Lakes Gas Blog

If you’ve recently decided to switch to propane gas, you may have some natural gas appliances laying around that aren’t yet equipped to handle propane gas.

And with the do-it-yourself fever that seems to sweep into our lives every spring, you might be thinking about converting those appliances yourself.

Though mostly possible, appliance conversion has become more difficult over the past few decades, as appliance manufacturers create models specifically designed for either propane or natural gas.

If an appliance can be converted, doing so involves replacing gas orifices, burners and/or appliance regulators to allow for the vast difference in pressure between natural gas and propane gas.

Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you’re thinking of converting an appliance from conventional to propane gas:

    1. Check the appliance. Most will list the specific gas it is designed for and whether it can be converted. This information can be found on the rating plate, located near the gas control valve. If your appliance can be converted, the packaging will most likely say so as well, and a conversion kit might even be included in the package.
    2. Find out if you need an expert. Some cities have ordinances that require conversion be done by a trained professional. You’ll want to review the laws in your area before you begin any project. If you’re unsure of the process, or have never done it before, it might be wise to leave it to an expert. Additionally, certain parts, such as appliance generators, should only ever be changed or serviced by a professional to avoid damage or safety hazards.
    3. Never attempt to convert an appliance if you are unsure whether it can be converted. You could start a fire or permanently damage the appliance.
    4. Check your supplies. It is imperative that the parts used are the correct size. Improperly sized burners, for instance, can combust or damage the appliance.
    5. Do not attempt to convert electric appliances. Conversions are only possible between natural gas and propane appliances.
    6. Consider the cost. Often, it is cheaper to buy a new appliance than to purchase the parts necessary to convert an old one.

Following this advice will help you decide whether conversion from conventional gas to propane is the right choice for you.

Did you see the February 2014 issue of LP Gas? The trade magazine devoted much of its “Southern Hospitality” issue to ranking the top 50 propane retailers in the country.

Lakes Gas was ranked number 12, just below many companies who served customers in every state. Lakes Gas operates in five states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota.

The propane companies were rated based on sales of propane gallons in the fiscal year 2013. During that time period, Lakes Gas sold 51,000,000 gallons to its 93,500 customers.

The list of propane service companies also included facts about each propane company, including details about their corporate headquarters, year founded, number of locations, and number of U.S. states served.

Read the full list and article here.

Thanks for your help in our continued growth!

Falling propane prices may signal an end to the propane shortage that began in fall 2013 and left suppliers scrambling to provide the fuel to their customers.

Lakes Gas Forest Lake, Wisconsin General Manager Steve Sargeant was recently interviewed for a news segment about the shortage for WLUK TV 11. 

During the interview he said prices, which had been $4.49 a gallon in late January, seem to be going down. He said they’ve dropped about 20 cents a week during the past month, and are now about $2.50 a gallon in the area near his store.

During the shortage, Lakes Gas halted sales to new customers and focused on serving existing customers. To prepare for situations like this in the future, Lakes Gas is increasing propane storage capacity underground and in the field.

“I guess you come out of it saying, ‘What can we do to minimize anything like that in the future,” Sargeant said.

Lakes Gas recommends that customers fill their tanks this summer to ensure they are prepared for the winter should another shortage occur.

“The customer with a full tank is in a far better position than the customer who is who is waiting until the winter to take a delivery,” he said.

 

Minnesota and Wisconsin residents are again struggling with propane shortages due to the unusually harsh winter weather. It’s the second shortage in six months, and it has forced suppliers like Lakes Gas to limit refill amounts to current customers and halt sales to new customers to keep up with demand.

The shortages, which began in the fall of 2013, caused Purdue University Extension to develop a website with conservation tips for struggling consumers in the Minnesota and Wisconsin regions. Propane suppliers and users alike were scrambling to adapt and many were understandably upset.

So, how did the shortage occur?

A combination of factors – many unforeseen- contributed to the shortages. Here’s a rundown as explained by a recent news article.

Wet weather

More than 660,000 farmers depend on propane in their farming operations.  An unusually wet harvest season in 2013 led to a surge in propane use by farmers who had to dry their crops to in order to prevent spoilage. The crops were also larger than normal and the harvest season earlier, which contributed to more propane use for drying.

Early winter

Temperatures were incredibly cold this year,-50 degrees in some areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Added to that, colder weather hit sooner than normal. That caused homeowners to use more propane to heat their homes than during normal winter seasons. Record snowfalls also slowed down ground transportation of propane gas.

Pipeline shutdown

A prominent propane pipeline running from Canada to Minnesota and supplying 40 percent of Minnesota’s propane was shut down for three weeks of maintenance in November and December 2013. The Cochin Pipeline shutdown exacerbated the propane shortage, slowing down shipment of the gas to areas that needed it.

The pipeline will shut down for propane use permanently in April, and propane suppliers throughout the Minnesota and Wisconsin region have been preparing for that change for the last year.  

Increased exporting

U.S. exports of propane gas increased significantly during the shortage, to 408,000 barrels per day in October, from 168,000 in January, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Propane suppliers and the National Propane Gas Association are working to address the issue and increase supplies. Keep checking back with Lakes Gas for more updates.

 

Have questions about how propane shipments will be effected when a major pipeline closes in April? Read this article from the Star tribune for more.

According to the article, the loss of the Cochin pipeline, which carries 40 percent of Minnesota’s propane, is leaving the propane industry scrambling to find a way to get the fuel to more than 230,000 homes, farms and businesses that depend on it as their main source of fuel.

Pipeline operator Kinder Morgan plans to stop propane shipments from Canada in April on the 1,900-mile pipeline. The pipeline passes through Minnesota and has delivered propane to terminals in Benson and the Mankato area for 35 years. Because Canada has produced less propane to ship down the pipeline in recent years, owners are reversing its direction and using it to ship petroleum condensate for use in Canada’s booming oil industry.

To combat the issue, propane suppliers are building or converting fuel terminals to accept deliveries by train instead of by pipeline, expanding propane storage, leasing more tankers and adapting other ways to manage a more-complicated supply chain. In November, 40 propane executives met with Minnesota Gov Mark Dayton to discuss how the private sector plans to respond to the problem.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, who attended the meeting, called the problem a “high-priority issue.”

With the pipeline change, many propane haulers are looking to trucks and trains to pick up more of the hauling duties. Trains, however, come with delays the pipeline did not.

“It won’t be a cakewalk to get through the winter, but I think the industry will be geared up and ready for it,” Roger Leider, executive director of the Minnesota Propane Association said.

 

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