Switching To Propane

What are the benefits of using propane-fueled irrigation engines over other engine types?

By Amanda Huber Editor, The Peanut Grower

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen drying soybeans and corn, propane fuel is a popular, cost-efficient option for both on-farm and commercial facilities. Now, producers have the opportunity to gain energy efficiency in their irrigation systems with the use of propane-fueled irrigation engines.

Pumping efficiency

march14SScvr-smBill Moore, alternative fuel sales manager for Conger LP Gas, says in 2012, his company displayed the first propane irrigation pump and sponsored some informational seminars for producers to learn about the efficiency of this new pump.

“From that effort, we sold six irrigation pumps that are out in the field today,” he says. “In 2013, irrigation may not have been needed as much, but producers who did need to use their irrigation said they were happy with the efficiency.”

Moore says the propane engines run for about $12 per hour, compared to $22 per hour for diesel.

“Compared to electricity, the electricity may still be cheaper per hour, but the infrastructure needed to run electricity is often very costly,” Moore says. “A power company will only agree to run so many feet of line, and you have to pay the cost of running the rest. It can get expensive quickly.”

PERC assistance

The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) promotes the safe, efficient use of odorized propane. The PERC funds research and product development to improve safety, and they also conduct safety training for employees. When the University of Nebraska started developing a new propane irrigation engine, the PERC stepped in to help them get over the cost hurdle, and the result was a new propane irrigation system that is much more efficient.

Mark Leitman, PERC director of business development and marketing, says the PERC is now offering rebates, which producers may be unaware of, for the adoption of propanefueled irrigation engines.

“We offer an incentive program,” Leitman says. The PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program is a research program that documents the performance of today’s high-efficiency, propane-fueled irrigation engines, as well as other propane technologies used on the farm. Farmers who enroll in the program can earn a financial incentive up to $5,000 in exchange for simply reporting the real-world performance data of their equipment.

“Farmers can get a rebate if they agree to be a research farm for us,” he says. “We currently have about 300 farm partners.” Leitman says there is a propane irrigation pump on the Sunbelt Ag Expo grounds as well.

According to Leitman, there are many benefits to using propane. “Gas-to-propane is relatively easy to change out, but not diesel-to-propane because of the difference in the engine,” Leitman says. “Tanks are readily available and you can even use old tanks. Spills simply evaporate; it does not leak out and contaminate the soil like other fuels,” he says. “Propane doesn’t spoil either.”

The price of propane has not increased as much as diesel, Leitman says, and it tends to stay more level and is usually not as volatile as some other fuel types. He says the real key for using propane-fueled irrigation is setting the system up correctly. “Don’t overload the system or it won’t work right,” he says.

For more information, visit the PERC website at www.agpropane.com/incentive or talk with your local propane dealer.

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or ahuber@onegrower.com.

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