U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 30 mins

Nevada propane shortage should ease with new order

Scott Sonner, Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Propane dealers and their customers are welcoming Gov. Brian Sandoval's move to speed up deliveries of liquefied petroleum, which is in high demand across Nevada and much of the West due to an unusually long stretch of cold weather.

Sandoval declared a state of emergency Tuesday, effective for 15 days. The governor also suspended federal regulations that limit, among other things, the number of hours driven by a commercial operator in a shift.

Liquefied petroleum is in particularly high demand in Nevada because of its heavy use in mining operations.

Sandoval said he was issuing the emergency declaration as a "precautionary measure" a day after a record low of minus 24 degrees was set along the Utah line in Ely. Las Vegas' high temperature Monday also set a record with the lowest high for that date — 38 degrees.

Angie Hasenohrl, president of the Nevada Propane Dealers Association, said the governor's move couldn't have come soon enough given the short supply.

"It's not quite a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but this is going to help. This is going to help get the drivers where they need to be," she said Wednesday. "We have had such abnormally low temperatures for so long it is definitely maxing out the system."

Hasenohrl, who works as Intermountain regional sales manager for the Salt Lake City-based Kiva Energy, said part of the problem with the U.S. regulations is that drivers have been on the clock but not really driving while they wait in line up to eight hours in some places to fill up their trucks.

Sandoval's order temporarily waives the rules that typically allow only 14 consecutive hours of driving and require drivers to have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before driving again. They also limit drivers to 60 hours driving over seven consecutive days and 70 hours over eight consecutive days.

In Nevada, the biggest demand is in the northeast and north central parts of the state, driven in large part by heavy use of propane to heat and power gold mines, Hasenohrl said.

"The mines are burning propane a ton right now. They very much are in need and demand," she said. "They may be going through 50 percent more than what they normally do."

The most recent data published by the American Petroleum Institute showed that in 2010, approximately 53,000 users in Nevada consumed about 49.3 million gallons of natural gas liquids and liquid refinery gases, mostly propane.

Lisa Menante, executive director of the Nevada Propane Dealers Association, said only 38 of Nevada's 201 cities and towns have natural gas service available. She said that means the other 80 percent — primarily in smaller rural communities — rely primarily on propane.

Demand is up especially in the Ely area and in Elko, which has made it above freezing only three days over the past three weeks and the mercury plummeted below zero on 16 nights since Christmas.

Western States Propane in Elko hasn't run out of propane but had to ship some in from as far away as Kansas earlier this week, said Julie Kraus, head of the company's board of directors.

"We've been OK, but it's a tight market," Kraus said Wednesday.

"It's been such an extremely cold trend that getting the supply is taking longer and then getting it to residential areas and industrial mines etc. takes that much longer because of the bad roads and icy driveways," she said. "It's a double whammy."

Hasenohrl said Las Vegas also is feeling the pinch because its fuel comes from California and Arizona, which have some of the longest lines for refueling. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared an emergency there Monday to allow transportation of propane free from normal restrictions.