Bitter cold fuels rising propane prices - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Bitter cold fuels rising propane prices

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An employee for New Hampshire-based Rymes Propane and Oil makes a scheduled delivery in Lebanon. But with temperatures in the single digits during this winter's second blast of extremely cold weather, it's not exactly business as usual.

"I am not going to say this is business as usual, no," John Rymes said. "I just got off the phone two minutes ago with a company in Ohio that is going to send trucks out here to the Northeast to buy gas to truck back to Ohio. They have a real shortage."

Rymes pulls about 90 percent of its product from a rail yard in West Lebanon. The freight cars are continuing to roll through daily, but there have been delays.

"The pipeline is at about 20 percent capacity of what it would normally be in New York. As well as this cold doesn't help rail car movement at all," Rymes said. "It takes two weeks to get it here from Western Canada or Louisiana, places like that. So you have to be on the ball, as well as you have to have enough storage to make it in between when times are difficult like right now."

"There is no supply crisis. There is supply. It's just a little bit harder to get it where it needs to go because of the strained infrastructure. But there is plenty of propane out there," said Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

But customers who have not prepaid for their fuel-- especially propane-- are likely to see a large increase in their bills, an estimated $100-$200 more per fill-up than a month ago.

"There is plenty of supply out there. It's coming in by ship, by rail and by truck. However, there is a limited infrastructure to bring it into New England and because it is so cold out, it is causing our drivers to work extra hard. And, of course, it's having an upward pressure on prices, as well," Cota said.

But this company and others throughout the region that have dealt with cold winters in the past are thinking ahead, stockpiling supplies at a higher price.

"I think that this just reiterates that storage is king," Rymes said.

He says their company will end up eating the added cost. But it's also benefiting from additional planning.

"We are picking up customers left and right from our competitors right now that either aren't delivering or having a hard time delivering full volume to customer and they are partially delivering to tanks," Rymes explained.

And the fuel deliveries will continue.

"We are busy, but just as busy as we would normally be," Rymes said. "Like I said, it's not the first cold snap to happen in New Hampshire."

But fuel companies and customers are clearly not completely insulated from the cold that's gripping a good portion of the country.

The federal government has temporarily eased restrictions for truck drivers delivering fuel in an attempt to keep prices from skyrocketing.

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