Propane shortage still keeping prices high, but relief is in sight

After a propane shortage sent prices skyrocketing last month and left homeowners with heating bills two and three times higher than normal, relief may be on the way.

Last month, propane prices reached nearly $6 a gallon, up from the usual $1.50 a gallon, according to Conserv FS Energy Manager Brock Bentson.

“It’s very unusual,” Bentson said. “We’ve never seen anything this bad.”

But prices have started to come down recently, Bentson said, with propane now going for around $3.50 a gallon.

On Jan. 27, Gov. Pat Quinn declared a propane supply emergency in Illinois, which allowed propane truck drivers to travel to other states to fill their tanks, temporarily waived inspections of trucks that carry propane in order to speed up delivery, and provided a $1,000 credit for households that took part in a program that helps low-income residents with energy bills.

Bentson said the combination of a wet fall season, which resulted in increased corn drying, a lack of propane inventory in the Midwest and the colder-than-normal winter were all factors in driving up the price of propane.

The price jump put a strain on households and businesses that use propane to heat their properties, Bentson said.

“It takes their heating costs and almost triples them,” he said.

Bentson, whose company Conserv FS supplies propane to roughly 800 McHenry County residents, said once the cold weather subsides, propane prices should further come down to the normal price of $1.50 a gallon. But the possibility for extreme weather in the fall and again next winter could drive prices right back up, he said.

“I think we have to plan for the potential for more severe weather,” he said. “We have to make sure the supply is going to be there.”