Looking for a cleaner energy source? Propane is a solid option

A large propane tank is lowered from a lift truck

More contractors are considering propane to power equipment on the jobsite

By Rod Stromberg, General Manager, Climate, and Justin Warton, Director of Operations, Canada West – Cooper Equipment Rentals

Propane isn’t new, but its use in construction is on the rise. As the industry transitions to cleaner, lower-cost fuel sources, the liquified gas is proving itself as a great alternative. 

It has the benefits of gas and diesel and then some. Propane can heat your jobsite, fuel your equipment and power your generators –all while lowering emissions and saving money. 

These operational benefits make it a great energy source for a wide variety of construction projects – from small or temporary jobsites without electricity or limited gas fuel sources to sites that have indoor operational needs.

And when it comes to powering equipment, we’re seeing more rental customers look to propane to help operators reduce downtime, lower maintenance costs and improve safety, while matching the performance of other fuels. 

You may already be using propane on your site. Maybe you’re a bit unsure of how to integrate more of it into your fuel mix. 

Since it is a heavily regulated industry and each province has its own set of rules, safety codes and permits, finding a reputable fuel provider is a great first step to setting you up on the path to success. 

A range of applications 

In general, emissions regulations are getting stricter, particularly indoors and in residential areas. Propane is naturally odourless and non-toxic, and its product combustion is much lower than diesel or gas-powered engines, it’s safer for both workers and the environment. 

Propane-powered scissor lifts, forklifts and telescoping booms are as reliable as diesel and gas powered equipment, but come with the added benefit of lower fuel costs. The fuel savings goes far beyond the day-to-day fuel costs as propane-powered equipment is also typically less expensive to rent and has lower maintenance costs over its lifetime. 

Propane can be more efficient, too. According to the Canadian Propane Association, one tank can typically power a forklift for an eight-hour shift. 

When it’s time to refuel, the empty cylinder can be exchanged for a full one in only a few minutes by someone who’s been trained to handle propane. 

We are also seeing big investment into propane powered generators to heat trailers, power ground thaw equipment and to heat jobsites. 

Propane generators are quieter, cleaner and more cost-effective than diesel generators. 

As well, fuel savings can be substantial depending on how long your generator is in operation. Propane is also much easier and less expensive to compress, ship and store, and most reliable providers can schedule delivery according to your needs, which is particularly handy for projects located outside of major energy infrastructure. Many of our customers are starting to realize it is a logical economic choice for their power needs. 

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At Cooper, we rent a fleet of propane generators throughout Alberta and into British Columbia and we also provide fuel delivery services at select locations across the country. We’re seeing more customers asking for full-service solutions like these from their rental partner. Accessing both equipment and fuel from the same provider just makes sense. 

This not only saves time and costs, but brings peace of mind knowing your propane solutions are coming from a partner you trust. 

Safe storage

The construction industry is better at recognizing and reinforcing the practices and procedures needed to keep everyone safe, but there is always room for improvement. Don’t forget to extend your safety practices to the fuels you’re storing and using on site.

Regardless of the fuel source, ensure workers are trained and know when to engage their propane provider so they can safely handle the equipment. Propane is gas under pressure, so training and safe handling are crucial. Is everyone on your site familiar with propane safety procedures and how to identify a leak? 

Do they know to keep propane containers away from ignition sources, combustible materials, air intakes and building structures? They should. Propane suppliers have dedicated procedures in place to support customers and can ensure crews are trained to work with this energy source. 

Every supplier is governed by the Canadian gas code. Liquid propane is tied into a vapourizer and must be handled by a qualified gasfitter. Your provider should know all these requirements and be up to date on any changes in industry regulations. 

I’d like to say we’ve never encountered an unqualified customer who tried to hook propane up themselves, only to realize they’ve done it backwards … but I can’t. One of our biggest challenges is training and ensuring the people who are carrying, maintaining and installing the fuel are properly trained and qualified. 

Some companies are starting to supply gasfitters, provide safety training for workers and can apply for the necessary permits on your behalf.

In Ontario, anyone handling propane must have natural gas awareness training and a current record of training certificate. The Canadian Propane Association also provides industry training through its Propane Training Institute (PTI). PTI courses are recognized across Canada and have been designed to provide instruction on the safe handling of propane and associated equipment.

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to choosing the right fuel source: the size of your project, its location, the materials you’ll be using, the number of workers on site and how long the project will take. 

Propane can fit any project and it’s a proven and reliable option for construction equipment, heating and generators. If you’re still not sure if it is the right solution, you don’t have to make these decisions on your own. 

When you work with a rental provider who can not only provide you with the equipment and fuel you need, but help you understand the budget and scope of your job site – you’ll be on your way to a much more efficient and cost-effective operation.