Letter Re: Pros and Cons of Propane Storage

Having a lot of propane on hand has some serious issues. Homeland Security via “Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act” (EPCRA) requires anyone that has more than 10,000 pounds of virtually any hazardous material (except for explosives and radioactive materials that have their own unique requirements), to report that quantity to the State Homeland Security Office, the local Fire Marshal, and the Local Emergency Management Manager yearly. These reports are open to anybody that wants to see them. (Now you know how the bad guy knows where the stuff is, all they have to do is ask and the Emergency Manager has to give them the information by law). I am not making that up, either. I am a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (a county wide group with members appointed by the state) which is responsible for looking about, finding illegally stored material and requiring compliance. To comply with the act, I file what is known as a Tier II report to the three agencies listed above yearly listing propane, diesel, and gasoline quantities on hand and a set of plans of the operation showing where such is stored. So if being off the radar is important to you [then keep under 10,000 pound limit.] I always try to work within the system. Of course if the system fails, all bets are off anyway.

After several years of working on the project (more pointedly, working with the vendor), I have the capability to pump propane from a pair of 1,000 gallon tanks that are connected on the bottom for propane liquid connection. The skid based 12,000 pound full unit has a 240 volt power supply to the electric pump that does the work moving liquid propane from the storage to the smaller tank it is filling. If the grid is up, the pump will run on it, when the grid is down, I have an automatic generator that kicks in (that just happens to run on propane) that will power our main well and power the [electric] propane pump motor.

Of course with propane, there is always a security problem. You know, someone sitting up a high hill with an API bullet just waiting for the right time to set off the show. Big white tanks make an easy target. Hopefully, we will have our perimeter secure if there is that need. Take the advice though. Camouflage the tanks asap if Schumer gets spread by the fan. Otherwise, white or silver reflects heat very well and keeps your propane tanks happy.

I have also purchased a 250 gallon propane tank that I fabricated onto a skid using 2×6 rectangular steel incorporating a pair of forklift ports. I can pick this tank up with a diesel powered skid steer and since I had the small tank plumbed on the bottom for liquid with the proper connector, I can feed liquid propane by gravity 250 gallons at a time to any tank on the ranch. It is very difficult to talk your local distributor to participate in this kind of project because they are turning you into a potential competitor. But because I live 15 miles from the nearest asphalt road and over 60 miles to the nearest town. Power outages for a week are not uncommon. If the whole grid went down for a year, we would still have power periodically as we fill the stock tanks and keep the freezers cold. Overall, I believe we have a bit over 7,000 gallons of propane which would power our “headquarters” for many months and maybe years if used part time. It will keep indefinitely if kept comfortably cool with no additives needed.

Yes, I have a propane powered vehicle. However, if you put propane into a vehicle to use as fuel, you should be paying state tax on that propane (and federal no doubt soon). Therefore I would never suggest such an action unless you know your local state tax collector personally. I, of course fuel my propane powered vehicles at the local propane fill operation. Unlike Agricultural Diesel (Red) and Residential Fuel Oil (Green), Residential Propane has no marker to trace where it came from. The last time I filled my truck with propane, it was 2.70 a gallon with residential use propane being (summer rate) at $1.49. The trick of course is having the right nozzles. Being able to fill vehicles and small 25/35 pound tanks (BBQ tanks), is a really handy thing. Good luck getting those nozzles. They are worth more than silver by weight and they are made only of bronze. Again, the trick is to get your local distributor work with you. You can’t just find this stuff on the internet, I know because I tried.

Propane fired vehicles have several advantages. Because propane is such a clean burning fuel, combined with synthetic oil in your crankcase, you don’t have to change the oil very often. Perhaps several years between oil changes if you only use the vehicle sparingly. I have put over 10,000 miles on an oil change before and it really didn’t look dirty though it may have lost some of it’s lubricating qualities. Synthetic oil is more expensive but doesn’t break down and stays much cleaner than oil in engines fired with gasoline and especially diesel fuel tanks. Propane wins hands down.

Another advantage, when there is the next mass evacuation, lines will form at any gas station that is open. There won’t be any lines at your local propane distributor. Heck, if you get the right adaptor, you could hook a BBQ tank up to your vehicle. (That is illegal by the way but in a pinch……).

Most propane conversions enable dual fuel use. Either regular gasoline or propane may be used by my personal conversion. Just flick a switch, (hit the solenoid with a tech-tap once in a while) and your off running on the other fuel. My pickup has a 600 mile cruising range now. Two gas tanks, and an 80 gallon propane tank. Your power is reduced slightly but your mileage is similar to using gasoline.

Propane conversions are available for most gasoline engines including lawn mowers, boats, automobiles (there are even donut shaped tanks made to fit in the spare tire area), and trucks. Trucks enable a larger tank to be mounted forward in the bed. Mine fits nicely under a short tool box and it is impossible to see unless you look over the bed. It sort of just blends in.

Having said the preceding, it may not be easy to find someone who has the technical savvy to do an installation on your vehicle. Also, they tend to be fly by night guys who recycle many parts over and over again and do it as a sideline. (I’m not saying there aren’t professionals out there, just a heads up). I would call the conversion about a 6 out of 10 if you like automobile work. About two days of dedicated “spare time” will do most conversions. Just make sure you don’t route the propane hose next to an exhaust line or you might be driving a flare down the road and make the papers. So much for staying off the radar.

A good neighbor asked me if I was afraid when he saw that I was a “survivalist”. I said “no, I am prepared”. (My nearest neighbor is 4 miles away). Now he is also working on contingency planning with fall back plans to me if he fails. The guy shoots running coyotes at 300 yards, that skill might come in handy if coyotes become a problem. Signed, – Frank B. (15 miles from the nearest asphalt road)