Turn off the Propane Furnace, Edna, the Heating Season is Over

A crocus of spring. (image: soybo via flickr.com)

Yesterday was March 31, marking the (unofficial) last day of the heating season. And though it was a fickle winter — epic blizzards, a few propane supply hitches, and a string of new record highs in retail propane prices — we’re sorry to see her go. But before we close the book on the 2010-2011 heating season, here’s a quick month-by-month rundown of the winter. And take consolation in the fact that today is the (unofficial) opening of the propane-grilling season, which conveniently falls on a Friday.

OCTOBER 2010
Average U.S. temperature: +1.8 °F warmer
Average retail price trend: -25¢ (since March 2010)
A crucial propane pipeline for the Northeast springs a leak at the end of August, prompting early-season supply concerns. Estimates for repairs are mid-December.

NOVEMBER 2010
Average U.S. temperature: -1.7 °F cooler
Average retail price trend: +13¢
Crude oil climbs 19-percent from September to mid-November, raising prices across the board on petroleum-related heating fuels — heating oil, kerosene and propane.

DECEMBER 2010
Average U.S. temperature: -1.4 °F cooler
Average retail price trend: +13¢
An after-Christmas blizzard buries the East Coast, hinting at the nasty winter to come. Retail prices push higher, hinting at new records to come.

JANUARY 2011
Average U.S. temperature: -2.6 °F cooler
Average retail price trend: +13¢
Retail propane prices begin a string of record highs. Rising prices for propane and other NGLs get attention from energy companies, who increasingly seek liquids-rich plays on the country’s gas fields.

FEBRUARY 2011
Average U.S. temperature: -1.1°F cooler
Average retail price trend: +5¢
Final repairs on the propane pipeline in the Northeast are complete, though shortly thereafter fire tears through a storage facility at the major Texas propane hub, renewing supply concerns. And a spirit of revolution moves through the Mideast, goosing the oil market.

MARCH 2011
Average U.S. temperature: +0.3°F warmer
Average retail price trend: +4¢
Tension in the Mideast and lingering logistical problems at the propane hub in Texas buoy prices through the tail end of the heating season.

Note on sources: The temperature stats come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly averages, and compare the month with average monthly temperatures for the last decade (2001 to 2011). The retail prices come from the Energy Information Administration.