Because propane tanks are pressurized and must be carefully maintained, they're typically owned by the propane distributors, said Tom Osina, executive director of the West Virginia Propane Gas Association.
Propane prices vary from vendor to vendor and season to season, in part because of the variety of factors that determine the price, Osina
A byproduct of the oil and natural gas-refining processes, almost all propane is produced in Texas, Osina
It's piped to this region via one of two pipelines: northeast through Kentucky and Ohio and east to Pennsylvania, or more eastward toward a terminus in North Carolina.
It gets to West Virginia by rail car or sometimes by barge or truck.
Some propane also is produced locally at a Dominion Resources fractionation plant in Wetzel County.
Taken together, Osina
said, there are many ways propane can make its way to the West Virginia distributor.
Add to that the fact that some propane distributors deliver only locally, some are regional and some serve a national market, he
said, and it becomes clear that the cost to the distributor and the price delivered to the home can, in the end, vary quite a bit.
Asked whether increased oil and natural gas production in the U.S., as some advocate to promote energy independence, would improve the supply of propane and bring down the price, Osina
said it's not that simple.
"Trouble is, we haven't built new oil and natural gas refining capacity in 20 years," he
For at least the near future, it would not be easy to increase the domestic supply of any of those fuels.
looking to install propane for heating should shop around, Osina
Agreeing to have a bigger tank installed may bring a better per-gallon price on delivered propane, he
And while that also could result in bigger bills to pay at one time, many propane distributors are willing to work out year-round payment plans.
There is no established method for comparing distributors' historical prices.
But if a homeowner decides to change distributors, Osina
said, the new company often will contact the old company for the customer.
Expect a credit check.
"That is one of the reasons a lot of switches are made -- someone can't pay their bill," Osina