JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (press release from the Missouri Propane Gas Association) -

The Missouri Propane Gas Association is working at all levels to seek relief from the current distribution and infrastructure problems facing Missourians and their fuel providers.

To allow for expedited delivery of propane, MPGA has sought relief from the federal Hours of Service restrictions which limit the transportation of fuel cargoes. "Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is aware of the need and has previously authorized relief under an executive emergency order," said Steve Ahrens, MPGA Executive Director.  "Today, the U.S. DOT Midwestern office has also issued a regional order which will allow transporters to move product more freely through a wider area." The regional order, unprecedented in recent Missouri experience, impacts 10 Midwest states, and a similar order is in effect for 14 Eastern states. A total of 30 states so far this winter have issued Hours of Service relief.

MPGA is working with its national affiliate to ensure expedited shipments of propane by all modes: pipeline, rail and transport. Efforts are underway with the U.S. Department of Energy to acknowledge that an emergency exists not only in Missouri, but throughout the nation, as consumers and businesses in dozens of states are faced with higher electricity and gas costs due to persistent cold weather.

Other fuel suppliers have experienced delivery problems as well. Some natural gas customers in Missouri have been put on curtailment as demand has over-stripped the ability of distribution lines to provide service. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that cold weather led to record-high natural gas storage withdrawals last week, the largest in the 20-year history of the survey and the second time this year the record has been broken.

To ensure that suppliers are able to provide service in a timely manner, propane customers are asked to arrange for deliveries when their tanks read 35%. "Allowing a tank to fall below that level increases the chances of running out," Ahrens said. "A state safety code requires safety inspections on all tanks that run out of gas during normal service, which can be an extra cost. Give your supplier plenty of time to make a delivery and you can avoid that cost and delay."

MPGA is also asking the state's Congressional delegation to support an emergency supplemental appropriation for the federal Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP provides financial assistance for families with incomes below 135 percent of the poverty level. Federal funding for the program in Missouri has fallen from $100 million in 2009 (an average of $199 per family) to $56 million in 2014.

The challenges in delivering propane for consumers during this prolonged period of cold weather started with a confluence of events beginning in October.

Abundant grain crops were being harvested throughout the Upper Midwest almost simultaneously this fall. Ordinarily, the harvest progresses in stages through the region but in late 2013, the harvests happened at the same time over a wide area. This was a large, wet crop which required massive amounts of propane in order to be dried prior to storage. That demand reduced propane inventories throughout the area.

At the same time, infrastructure realignments inhibited the transportation of propane. The Cochin pipeline, which provided 40% of the product used by Minnesota suppliers, was shut down for repairs as the line prepares to eliminate propane liftings by this spring. This pushed those suppliers further out to load their supply. Canadian imports to the Northeast were also impaired by rail re-routing and other infrastructure impediments. In the Midwest, a new pipeline began moving propane from the central part of the country to new export terminals on the Gulf Coast where propane cargoes started shipping U.S. propane supplies at an accelerating pace to Europe, South America and other destinations where the market is higher.

As the harvest season ended, a massive winter storm known as the "polar vortex" rolled across much of the country. Demand for residential, commercial and agricultural heat has soared. The forecast continues for cold weather for much of the state.