|
|
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch
  • MCGA warns a propane shortage may be on the horizon

  • Even though harvest season is months away, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) is encouraging farmers to plan ahead for their propane needs.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Even though harvest season is months away, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) is encouraging farmers to plan ahead for their propane needs.
     
    Last winter, farmers and homeowners were hit hard by a propane shortage caused by several factors, including sub-zero temperatures, record propane exports and the closing of the Cochin pipeline. MCGA staff have been meeting with industry representatives and state agencies who are working on strategies to try and prevent a similar shortage this winter.
     
    Corn farmers use propane to operate grain dryers that dry the harvested kernels. If the corn crop comes in wet, it must be dried for storage to prevent rot. If a farmer doesn’t have access to propane to run the dryer, harvesting is slowed or stops altogether.
     
    Farmers needed more propane than usual for drying last year because the corn crop was wetter than normal, something that happens about once every five years. But reasons for the shortage extended well beyond a wet corn crop.
     
    The Cochin pipeline had supplied 36 percent of Minnesota’s propane, but was out of service for several weeks last winter and now carries oil from Canada’s tar sands instead of propane.
     
    Because of this, rail demand for propane delivery has also spiked dramatically. Some estimates have the number of rail cars necessary to meet Minnesota’s propane needs rising from 200 to 4,200 per year after the re-routing of the Cochin pipeline.
     
    Bad winter weather significantly slows down rail service.
    Additionally, more propane is being exported to other countries than ever before. According to the Energy Information Administration, propane exports rose to 410,000 barrels per day in November, the highest ever, and remained high throughout the winter months.
     
    MCGA also submitted a letter asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to temporarily vary its rules and allow several proposed large propane storage units to be built to help increase storage capacity and better meet demand from farmers, homeowners and businesses heading into the winter.
     
    Currently, the permit approval process for building a storage tank can take up to a year.
     

        calendar