REGIONAL—N’West Iowa is feeling the effects of a propane shortage that has gripped the state since late October.
“I’ve been in the propane business 41 years. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Brian Dreessen, general manager of Cooperative Energy Company.
The Sibley-based company delivers propane to sites across N’West Iowa and has service centers in Sibley, Rock Rapids, Hartley and George.
Dreessen explained the shortage, which began impacting Cooperative Energy on Oct. 26, is largely the result of the delayed harvest season and increased demand for the product from corn producers looking to dry their crops.
In N’West Iowa specifically, Dreessen said another wrinkle to the problem is that the main pipeline terminal in Sanborn that supplies propane to Cooperative Energy has not been able to keep up with the high demand the company has seen.
He noted the system was installed in Sanborn during the 1950s when farming equipment tended to be smaller.
“It’s still functioning like it’s supposed to, it just doesn’t have the capabilities to push the capacity at the current demand or to meet the demands that we have today,” Dreessen said.
The propane shortage has led Cooperative Energy to prioritize delivering propane for the purposes of home heating and livestock needs rather than corn drying.
“It’s just going to extend the corn-drying season a little longer than we would all wish,” Dreessen said.
“We’re all frustrated. From the farmer to us, trying to take care of our customers to the best of our abilities. We’re doing everything in our powers to meet the demand needs.”
Instead of being able to transport 12 loads of propane out of Sanborn a day, Cooperative Energy has been doing six a day.
One partial remedy to the propane situation was an emergency proclamation Gov. Kim Reynolds signed on Oct. 31 that temporarily suspended regulatory provisions that restrict the hours of service that propane delivery crews can complete in a day.
“Normally, we’re allowed to drive 14 hours a day and we have to rest for 10 hours a day,” Dreessen said.
“What it’s doing is extending that, that we can pretty much drive 24 hours as long as you’re getting ample rest in between.”
The extended hours also apply to drivers from outside Iowa who make propane deliveries, as has been the case with Cooperative Energy. Dreessen said the company has had propane delivered to them from Conway, KS, and Hutchinson, KS, to supplement their supplies.
Even with the outside help, he said Cooperative Energy has been struggling to keep up with demand and predicted the shortage would push back the corn drying season by two or three weeks.
Dreessen recalled a similar situation with a propane shortage in 2013 but said that was not nearly as bad as this year.
“I’ve always in the past been able to meet my customer needs,” he said. “This year, it just seems like I haven’t been able to meet their needs in the short period of time to do it.”