Propane use is expanding beyond traditional uses as US farmers seek to cut fuel costs, increase efficiencies and meet strict emissions standards, according to research by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).
Propane is currently used by more than 40 percent of farms in the US. According to a survey conducted by PERC and Artemis Strategy Group, the most common uses for propane among farmers are building heating (47 percent) and grain drying (35 percent).
The survey also showed that the role of propane on farms is changing, as more farmers are choosing propane to fuel vehicles and irrigation systems over other alternative fuels such as natural gas. According to the survey, 14 percent are using propane to fuel a vehicle on the farm (compared with natural gas at 1 percent) and 5 percent are using propane for irrigation (compared with natural gas at 2 percent).
Favorability of propane is high among farmers, the survey said. Approximately 84 percent of farmers viewed propane as favorable, compared with 61 percent for natural gas, and 33 percent for heating oil. Farmers cited their overall comfort with the fuel, its affordability, and positive experiences with propane as reasons for high favorability.
PERC assists original equipment manufacturers with research and development investments to commercialize new propane-powered products or advance the energy efficiency of existing applications.
PERC teamed up with Roush CleanTech, a Ford qualified vehicle modifier, to develop liquid propane injection systems to power a variety of Ford vehicles, including the Ford F-250. The trucks have the same horsepower, torque and towing ratings as their gasoline-powered equivalents but offer a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. They also cost less to operate, with cheaper per-gallon fuel prices than diesel or gas, PERC says.
PERC has also worked with grain drying manufacturers GSI Group and Mathews Co. to develop larger, more efficient grain dryers. The GSI X-Stream, the Mathews Co. Trilogy, and the Mathews Co. 10-foot tower dryers offer additional features that boost their efficiency, such as remote moisture monitoring and controls.
PERC offers purchase incentives of up to $5,000 through the 2014 Propane Farm Incentive Program to encourage farmers to use propane-powered technology.
Earlier this week, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon said it saved $25,000 in fuel costs plus $8,000 in federal tax credits, and eliminated 67,400 pounds of greenhouse gases, 18 months after converting its gasoline patrol vehicles to propane autogas.
Photo Credit: American country farm via Shutterstock