Episode 434: The pivotal role of Propane in sustainable warehousing
In the latest episode of The New Warehouse podcast, Kevin welcomes an influential figure in the energy sector—Tucker Perkins, CEO of the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC). Perkins leads an organization at the forefront of educating users and promoting the safe, innovative use of propane across various industries, including material handling and warehousing.
PERC distinguishes itself by focusing not on lobbying or codes but on the end-users of propane. Whether it’s for farmers, builders, homeowners, or forklift operators, PERC’s mission is to optimize the use of propane, ensuring that machines operate efficiently and sustainably. Safety and training are pillars of their work, as they strive to ensure that industry professionals and consumers alike are well-versed in handling propane with the utmost care.
But what exactly does PERC do beyond safety and training? How does propane hold up against other energy options in the industry’s shift toward sustainability? Tune in to the full episode as they unpack these questions, revealing insights that could reshape how the warehousing industry thinks about energy.
The Role of Propane in Modern Material Handling
Perkins notes, “We’re quickly becoming a two-fuel society regarding material handling.” Its benefits—economic and environmental—pose a compelling case for its increased adoption. In distribution centers, particularly those operating at ports or locations with limited access to electricity, propane is more than just a fuel—it’s a solution. Perkins states, “Five years ago, I think we identified that distribution centers probably just didn’t have adequate access to electricity for what some of their needs are going to be.” This foresight has led to an innovative approach where propane not only powers traditional equipment but also supports the infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs).
The introduction of renewable propane bolsters the sustainable narrative of propane. Perkins points to its potential to reach zero or even harmful carbon emissions, providing a “great story to tell about using conventional propane in a material handling application.” Furthermore, the application of propane goes beyond mobility. Perkins shares insights into power generation: “We’re involved around the country now in using what I think is at least far better than using diesel generators—using propane power generators.” Whether stationary or mobile, these generators are crucial in powering electric vehicle infrastructure without diesel.
Harnessing Propane for Sustainable Warehouse Operations
Perkins challenges the conventional narrative that fossil fuels are inherently detrimental to the environment, suggesting that the efficiency and cleanliness of propane, particularly in internal combustion engines like forklifts, often outperform electricity derived from coal-dependent grids. “In vast parts of the country, you would better serve the environment by directly using propane,” he asserts. This insight is crucial for warehouse operators assessing their carbon footprint and energy strategies.
In collaboration with industry giants such as Hyster-Yale, Toyota, and Mitsubishi-Cat, PERC is innovating for the future. Perkins shares, “We’re working on hybrid forklifts that combine the best of electric powertrains and internal combustion powertrains,” which signifies a leap towards optimizing efficiency and sustainability.
The transformative work of PERC focuses not only on current solutions but also on the future of renewable energy sources. Perkins envisions a shift toward renewable propane, especially in states with stringent environmental standards, offering “zero carbon” alternatives. This forward-thinking approach places propane as a versatile and potentially game-changing fuel in the material handling industry, securing its role not just for the present but for decades.
The Rise of Renewable Propane in Warehousing
Perkins is not just advocating for a greener option; he’s showcasing a shift in the industry towards a zero-emissions goal. He highlights the vast potential of renewable propane, made from diverse feedstocks, including used cooking oils, agricultural oils, and even recycled plastics. His narrative is not limited to hypotheticals; he describes how these processes have moved “from the lab into pilot scale and commercial scale.”
The increasing adoption of renewable propane in states like California, Washington, and Oregon is paving the way for its wider acceptance across the warehousing industry. Perkins’ vision is clear: to harness the potential of propane as an energy source that ticks all the boxes for warehouses striving to stay ahead in a competitive, cost-sensitive, and environmentally-conscious market. His parting insight speaks volumes about the future trajectory of energy use in material handling and distribution, making propane not just a specialty but a strategic asset for the warehousing sector.
Key Takeaways on Propane in Warehousing
- Propane is a versatile solution in material handling, with innovation pushing it from a traditional fuel to a key player in sustainable energy.
- Perkins challenges the environmental impact of fossil fuels, proposing propane, mainly renewable propane, as a cleaner alternative to coal-dependent electricity.
- Renewable propane is gaining traction as a strategic asset for zero-emission goals in warehousing, with industry collaborations fostering hybrid forklift technologies.
EP 434: The Pivotal Role of Propane in Sustainable Warehousing