NPGA: "We are fighting for consumer rights in the U.S."
POGP's interviewee was Stephen Kaminski, president and CEO of NPGA. The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) is the U.S. chamber of commerce for the LPG industry in the United States, with a membership of about 2,500 companies and affiliated with 36 state and regional associations representing entities from all 50 states. Members of the NPGA association include propane retailers who deliver the fuel to the end user, propane producers, transporters and wholesalers, as well as equipment manufacturers and distributors. Propane powers millions of installations of various types that enable millions of homes and commercial buildings to be heated.
The United States produces more than 110 millioncubic meters of propane per year. About two-thirds of production is exported, making the U.S. by far the largest exporter of LPG in the world.
Propane plays an important role in decarbonizing the US economy. NPGA and its members want to reduce environmentally harmful emissions from hydrocarbon combustion. That's why NPGA supports efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of industry by developing renewable liquefied petroleum gas and related technologies to dramatically reduce emissions, such as by replacing diesel with liquefied petroleum gas in school buses and as bunker fuel. Propane is an alternative fuel with no impact on the ozone layer. It has been recognized as a clean fuel by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. Its use allows many Americans to cook, enjoy outdoor activities, work in agriculture, industrial processing. Propane is also used as an alternative motor fuel for road vehicles and industrial forklifts.
Federal and local attempts to phase out LPG use - NPGA support for consumer choice
As of 2019, some federal agencies, state governments and many local governments are making efforts to phase out or severely restrict the use of LPG. These efforts are primarily aimed at declaring conventional fuels such as LPG environmentally unfriendly while favoring electricity as an energy carrier. As in Europe, the emissions associated with electricity production, and the losses associated with electricity transmission and distribution, are not taken into account. In fact, taking into account the full life cycle of energy resources, in the case of the United States, even fossil LPG has a lower carbon footprint than US-produced electricity.
The NPGA has made numerous efforts in recent years to maintain LPG as a widely available energy source for citizens. Among these efforts were:
Federal legislative action, such as gaining Congressional support for five consumer choice bills that would prevent federal authorities from imposing arbitrary bans on gas use.
Federal agency actions, such as active education on the environmental attributes of LPG in proceedings before the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
Actions at the state and local level, including proactive work to implement consumer choice legislation in state legislatures that will make it more difficult for local governments to try to arbitrarily ban gas appliances. In 2020-23, such solutions have already been enacted in 25 states;
Participation in litigation activities in cases involving the unlawful prohibition of the use of gas-powered appliances;
Participation in 30 national and international standard-setting bodies that establish technical codes to protect against the use of technical requirements as a tool of the anti-gas agenda;
Public relations and branding campaigns for the LPG industry, focusing on evidence-based analysis of environmental and public health impacts, reliability, sustainability and affordability;
Coalition building, including working with other industry organizations on integrated advocacy efforts;
Development of the renewable propane market.
Opportunities for the LPG industry
Combined heat and power (CHP) and autogas are examples of technologies in which we see opportunities for the low-carbon propane market in the future.
Propane and renewable propane-fueled microgrids and cogeneration systems can provide clean, reliable and affordable backup and primary power. Where LPG generators are used in place of diesel, greenhouse gas emissions can be dramatically reduced. Combining these technologies with renewable propane and other renewable energy sources can further reduce emissions.
In recent years, the market for LPG-fired power generation has grown significantly due to disruptions and concerns about the resilience of the power grid to the effects of natural disasters and failures. Hurricanes in the Southeast, a deep freeze in Texas in 2021 and other natural disasters such as wildfires have caused numerous unplanned power outages. The market has had to adapt to the new realities, including through the increased use of diesel gensets to meet energy demand during periods when the grid was down. Propane is a clean and reliable alternative for them.
NPGA and its members are proud of the role that propane and autogas can play in reducing emissions now and in the future. Unlike in Poland, autogas has not become widespread in the transportation sector in the United States. Recognizing the role propane plays in decarbonizing our energy future, federal government agencies have decided to launch grants over the development of autogas-powered engines and for the refueling infrastructure itself. The NPGA and its partners at the Propane Education and Research Council believe that the most promising segment for the widespread use of autogas in the United States is the mid-size fleet vehicle market - such as school buses, police fleets, handicapped transport vehicles and mail carrier fleets.
Renewable propane for the future
Renewable propane (bioLPG) is available today and is an important part of the industry's future. It combines the qualities of conventional propane - reliability, ease of transportation, high calorific value and a favorable environmental profile - with even lower carbon emissions compared to other energy sources. Renewable LPG can be produced from a variety of renewable feedstocks; the most popular source today is co-production with renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuels made mainly from vegetable oils, animal fats or used cooking oil. In the U.S., however, more and more biopropane is being made from castor oil, produced from a common oilseed plant with very low soil requirements. According to estimates by the World Liquid Gas Association, renewable propane could meet half of the world's liquid gas demand globally by 2050.
Stephen Kaminski is president and managing director of the National Propane Gas Association as of 2019. He graduated with honors in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and received his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.