PADUCAH, Ky. — The head of a Kentucky propane company that stopped sending the heating gas to business customers in several states said problems with supply and shipping forced the company to halt deliveries.
Paducah-based United Propane Gas notified its commercial customers in late January it would be forced to temporarily cease shipments.
"The inventory got extremely low and at the same time the transportation, which is basically pipelines, trucks, and things like that, that normally move the product from the storage areas which are usually in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and southern Mississippi," UPG president Eric Small told WPSD-TV (http://bit.ly/1fyJX22). "It has been a struggle to get gas moved because everyone is trying to get all the gas moved at one time."
National supplies of propane were depleted by a late harvest that increased demand from farmers who needed to dry an unusually large amount of grain before storage. As colder-than-normal temperatures spread across much of the country, supplies dropped to the lowest level ever during the second week of January. UPG said in a news release on Thursday that increased exports of propane also contributed to the domestic shortage.
Several states have taken action to ease shipping delays, including expanding allowable travel times for propane-hauling trucks.
When it halted shipments in January, UPG told customers they could obtain a release that would allow them to seek propane from other suppliers, but some customers complained to the Kentucky Attorney General's office that they couldn't get through to the office to get it. Attorney General Jack Conway took the matter to court, and a judge ruled that UPG customers temporarily would not need a waiver to buy propane elsewhere.
UPG said Thursday it is granting a contract release to all its customers through Feb. 28, and it plans to begin filling pre-paid orders again by Feb. 15.
The company has customers in Kentucky and nine other states: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Small said the company has done its best to make deliveries despite the challenges of the season.
"To have 50 percent of the gas that you had last January, which was a mild winter, and spread that among all your customers and keep everybody warm and take care of the homes especially, I think we've done really well," he said.