The Midwest Propane Tangle

By Editors

The propane shortage in the Midwest has been aggravated by many factors. The map shows the distribution system and illustrates where several disruptions have occurred.

There are two major distribution points, in Conway, Kansas and Mont Belvieu, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. Conway is the home of 30 percent of the nation's storage capacity. The Upper Midwest, where shortages have occurred, is serviced by three major pipelines coming out of Conway plus the Cochin Pipeline bring gas down from Canada. There are also supplementary rail shipments, including some bringing gas up from Mont Belvieu.

A bumper corn harvest, responding to the federal corn ethanol mandate, put a large autumn demand on gas supplies for drying an exceptionally wet crop. Inventories fell by 2 million barrels in the week ending November 1, the largest November drawdown since 1993. Then the Cochin Pipeline closed down for maintenance from late November until December, shrinking supplies even further. When the cold weather hit, demand soared but rail transport was also hampered, shrinking supplies even further.

The result has been a propane shortage that has skyrocketed prices and left many rural areas in the Upper Midwest without heat.

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