By CHRISTINE HARVEY
Propane shortages last winter that left many U.S. homes and
businesses without heat and sent prices to a record are
makers to consider how to
prevent future scarcity.
U.S. inventories of propane and propylene tumbled for 19
consecutive weeks from October to February and slid to 25.7
million barrels in March, the lowest level since 2010,
according to Energy Department data. In the Midwest, where
more homes use propane for heat than anywhere else in the
nation, stockpiles plunged to an 11-year low.
Widespread supply declines came as bitter cold boosted demand
and as U.S. exports of propane increased, raising costs for
those needing to keep spaces warm during the winter months.
The benchmark price in Kansas jumped 25% in the past year to
$1.06 a gallon yesterday and surged to a record $4.95 on Jan.
23. That was nearly five times the average of 98 cents for
the time of year.
makers, we need more than
just Econ 101 as we consider options for preventing such a
crisis from recurring, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said
on May 1 at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
hearing in Washington. We need to have a deeper
understanding of the factors that were at play.
New pipelines have allowed producers to ship natural gas
liquids, including propane and butane, from the central U.S.
to the Gulf Coast. From there, materials can be sent
The U.S. exported 110.2 million barrels of propane and
propylene in 2013, nearly double the volume of a year
earlier, according to the Energy Information
Admistration.Shipments abroad totaled 9.57 million barrels in
February. The Midwest sent 1.8 million to the Gulf during the
NGLs, which are pumped from wells along with natural gas and
separated at fractionation plants, are used as feedstock
plants, as diluent
for heavy crude in pipelines and in gasoline blending.