What’s causing propane delivery delays on Sunshine Coast?

Around 6:00 p.m. on January 4, Halfmoon Bay resident Karen Jackson heard the pilot light on her gas fireplace go out — she was out of propane, her primary source of warmth and hot water.

Though Jackson, 67, says she signed up for automatic refills of Superior Propane when her tank reaches 30 percent, her last delivery was on Nov. 6, before a series of winter storms battered much of southern BC

“It’s cold in the house. I have a small electric heater that heats up when I sit next to it and put my hands over it. [I’m] I don’t want to get up in the morning because I know it’s going to be cold and at least I’m warm when I’m in bed under the covers,” she told Coast Reporter on Jan. 7. “My concern is that the electricity works regularly. It happens, I’m really in bad shape.”

Jackson said she was frustrated after speaking to several company representatives throughout the week and having kept her driveway clear in the meantime. After going without propane since January 4th, Superior Propane filled 60 percent of her propane tank on Saturday, January 8th.

“Why isn’t this treated as an emergency?” Jackson asked.

Jackson isn’t the only Sunshine Coast resident who has given up propane gas. On Jan. 6, Heather Paget of Pender Harbor shared in an email that she went five days without propane. For Paget, the snow raised a number of concerns about stranded seniors and access to emergency services and the supply of propane gas.

Bad weather and unsafe road conditions

On Jan. 11, Superior Propane’s vice president of operations, Brian Seppala, told Coast Reporter that the company had lost nine of 17 operating days since Dec. 24 to inclement weather and unsafe road conditions.

The Company’s Sunshine Coast facility is located on the waterfront in Port Mellon, where supplies are shipped and then trucked out.

During December’s record-breaking snowfall, and with more snow still to come, a Jan. 7 storm and an atmospheric rain event in January, Seppala said that Superior Propane “was blasted quite heavily.

“The local crews are usually pretty good at helping us, but with the excessive snowfall we’ve had, it obviously affected operations for a day and a half,” he said. Then the storm cut power to the Port Mellon facility for nearly 48 hours.

“We’ve been struggling with the weather since the 24th. And of course, in cold weather, there are more delivery demands from customers,” said Seppala.

In response, Superior Propane rushed in more equipment and personnel from Vancouver and called in local help to support the team.

One of the biggest problems the company faces, Seppala said, is accessing customer driveways and getting stuck on some of their vehicles. Superior Propane’s manager and assistant manager spent several days scouting out entrances for crews to deliver to. The company added makeshift propane cylinders to its technicians’ 4x4s to act as a short-term solution until the weather turns and larger trucks can make bulk propane deliveries. These can be used for customers, e.g. B. Seniors who cannot clear their driveways.

A service notice on Superior Propane’s website states that the company is “experiencing issues with internal systems that may affect access to services.” When asked how the internal service issues have affected the Sunshine Coast, Seppala said it has impacted the financial and phone systems somewhat, but the service disruptions were mostly related to the weather.

Prioritizing essential uses

Cold weather across western Canada also increased the volume of calls coming into the company, so Superior Propane hired 25 additional employees and reassigned existing staff to serve the phones. The company has an automated calling system, but found that it was more successful when a live person called customers to determine if they were using propane as their primary or auxiliary heat.

“We provide services to all major customers and that includes primary residential heating, of course schools, hospitals and all institutional scenarios like this. We are obviously rationing other customers or shifting supplies to other customers that are not primary or essential. So if you have a decorative fireplace, you probably aren’t on the high priority list today,” Seppala said.

The company also purchased snow removal equipment for the Port Mellon site, but continues to rely heavily on Capilano Highway Services to clear the highway and roads.

If the weather cooperates, Superior Propane should be able to attend to critical shipments this week and resume normal operations next week, Seppala said Jan. 11.

“This week is really pivotal for us and we are asking customers to do everything in their power to allow us access to their facilities and properties,” he said, adding that customers are also upgrading the capacity of and can expand their storage system.

The vice president of operations also said he’s heard from people in the community stepping in to help others clear snow.

“Every little helps, especially when we’re dealing with some of these extremely colder temperatures that we’ve had lately,” he said.

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