Lingle urges conservation during shortage of propane
Production problems at Chevron's local refinery have caused a shortage of propane, but Gov. Linda Lingle urged consumers yesterday not to hoard supplies.
"We want to encourage users of propane to conserve their supplies, avoid panic buying and curtail discretionary propane uses until this disruption passes," Lingle said, noting the state's experts are working with Chevron and the Gas Co. "to meet the needs of the Hawaii market."
The shortage will hit the 39,000 propane users statewide who are not served by synthetic natural gas lines, most of whom are on the neighbor islands, officials with the Gas Co. said. About 12,000 of those customers are on Oahu.
Chevron spokesman Albert Chee said a lightning strike at a Hawaiian Electric substation on Feb. 21 caused a power failure at the Chevron refinery at Campbell Industrial Park, resulting in an emergency shutdown. All the other plants, each producing different products, were restored except the plant that produces propane, Chee said.
"Simply put, we're not making propane right now because the unit that does that we have been unable to restart," Chee said. "We continue to work on it."
He said this unit and others have gone down before due to electrical outages from other storms, but the company was able to bring them back up. For some reason the unit remains down, and the company has no timetable as to when it might be repaired.
"We are working with others to see if there are alternative supplies that could be brought into the state," he said. "We are looking throughout the world, literally."
The Gas Co. is asking its customers to conserve propane by taking shorter showers and refrain from using it to light tiki torches, pool heaters, fireplaces and barbecues, and to use backup systems for water heating, if available.
The Gas Co. is expecting a shipment of propane to arrive on March 20. In the meantime it will try to stretch its resources.
"We are not filling up tanks all the way," said Steve Golden, Gas Co. spokesman.
How much the Tesoro refinery will produce is also a critical factor, Golden said.
Chevron produces about 65 percent of the propane the state uses, according to the Gas Co. Tesoro provides the remainder, with periodic supplies brought in by ship from outside the state.
The problem does not affect synthetic natural-gas customers, who are served by underground pipelines from Kapolei to Hawaii Kai on Oahu.
Users include residents and businesses who receive cylinders or tanks of propane to fuel gas water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.
Large business customers on Oahu include the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina and Turtle Bay Resort.