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When it came time for Parkland Fuel Corporation (Parkland, TSX: PKI) to add an alternative fuel to their multi-fuel product mix, propane became an obvious choice. As one of Canada’s best alternative fuel solutions that carries more energy density than natural gas, at a lower price and carbon cost than other conventional fuels, propane simply made sense, not just for Parkland, but also for Canadian industry—to serve businesses and consumers seeking a high performance energy source to fuel their homes and trades.
As the demand for a powerful and environmentally-friendly fuel continues to grow, Parkland responded with an uncompromising focus towards Canadian expansion through like-minded acquisitions and organically-grown evolution.
The starting point of Parkland’s propane journey began a decade ago in the West with the acquisition of Neufeld Petroleum and Propane Ltd. Neufeld’s strong reputation matched the cultural mindset of Parkland to seamlessly bridge relationships with customers while simultaneously adding scale to Parkland’s fuel distribution and trucking fleet. A leading commercial fuel and propane supplier in Western Canada, headquartered in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Neufeld operated in 12 locations across northern Alberta, and northeast British Columbia. Neufeld’s focus was primarily in the distribution of fuel, propane, agricultural inputs and industrial products to commercial customers in its service areas.
Being the provider of choice for customers and suppliers is not an accidental ambition. On the heels of closing Neufeld, Parkland attained Joy Propane to complement its service offering. Headquartered in Dawson Creek, Joy Propane was showing promise in the northern British Columbia and Alberta propane supply business.
Joy Propane serviced a total of six branches in areas of Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia and Fairview, Alberta, creating a complementary fill-in for logistics, local branch-based operations and administration for oil and gas, forestry, agricultural, residential and auto sectors.
Both companies were converted to the Bluewave Energy brand—Parkland’s traditional and national in scope, multi-fuel, and multi-sector service provider for heating oil, diesel, propane and lubricants. Bluewave Energy is one of Canada’s largest multi-fuel distributors.
With the propane business percolating in the West, and reaching further north into the Northwest Territories, a market differentiator was required to take Parkland’s propane flow to new geographies across Canada. Parkland acquired Elbow River Marketing in 2013 to level supply and demand imbalances as well as open new channels with refiners and fuel suppliers.
Elbow River is a North American transporter, supplier and marketer of petroleum products including liquefied petroleum gases, crude oil, heavy fuel oil, and a growing portfolio of refined fuel and bio-fuel products. Elbow River, with their advanced rail car logistics that included a fleet of 1,200 rail cars, enabled new dimensions in supply and throughput opportunities within the downstream fuel marketing sector for Parkland.
With eyes towards moving supply eastwards, Parkland soon set focus on Sparlings Propane in 2013. Canada’s oldest propane company ran six branch locations in Southern Ontario and became known for six decades of commitment to customer service. With the motto: ‘We don’t just sell propane, we sell warm houses and hot water,’ the largest dedicated propane team in Ontario brought expertise in servicing primarily residential customers with leading equipment sales and consumer safety protection programs, including the popular GASCheck program.
Providing exceptional customer service is a value model Parkland builds its standards on. With safety deeply ingrained in its culture, Sparlings became a good venue to continue to build a framework for results that are based on teamwork, safety and respecting the environment. Since then, Sparlings has opened two more branches and is expanding to a multi-fuel product and service delivery model.
Bluewave Energy became the banner for Parkland to grow propane operations organically further eastward in the spring of 2016. With its origins in Atlantic Canada, Bluewave Energy is distinguished as a highly personalized, full service value provider operating through local branches for reliable and dependable multi-fuel products, delivery, and equipment for commercial/industrial enterprise, small business and residential sectors. It launched its state-of-the-art bulk storage plant in Milford, Nova Scotia. This modern facility enabled service coverage from Annapolis Valley to Halifax to Pictou, and complemented propane service in Cape Breton from operations in Sydney servicing Glace Bay to Westmount, Nova Scotia.
Today, coverage area has grown to include Amherst, Nova Scotia, all-the-while continuing to add to its portfolio of services and products. Recently, state-of-the art popular consumer appliances such as stove tops and fireplaces have been added to the growing propane service and equipment model.
2016 became the banner year for Parkland’s propane progression. Around the same time propane operations kicked off in Nova Scotia, Parkland acquired Propane Nord-Ouest (PNO). PNO is a propane marketing business that serves the mining industry and other industrial customers in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Québec. PNO operations were especially noted for supporting ventilation heating systems in underground mines to offer turn-key power for parks in Québec and Ontario. Additionally, the company boasted an expansive propane equipment shop showcasing their breadth of expertise for not only the commercial sector, but to local area residents with top of the line appliances that increase home comfort while minimizing carbon emissions.
A first for Parkland in the Québec region, PNO included the Mirault rail facility in Val d’Or to enhance Parkland’s ‘all-season’ supply of propane while strengthening Parkland’s unique position to maximize its portfolio of supply relationships, storage infrastructure, and third party rail and highway carriers. This acquisition also provided an enhanced ability to rapidly respond to any supply disruptions in the interest of strengthened protections for consumers.
Around the same time, the Western Canada operations of Bluewave Energy were boosted when it was awarded a substantial portion of the propane business to one of the world’s largest independent producers of crude oil and natural gas. Servicing this client’s high volume requirements effectively doubled Bluewave Energy’s propane business and unlocked a new geographic area for multi-fuel distribution. Two new Bluewave Energy branches were opened in Bonnyville and Lloydminster, Alberta to support the growing demand. Moreover, Olds and Taber branches expanded their multi-fuel offering to include propane to better service this client’s needs. All commercial clients throughout Southern Alberta benefitted with having a one-stop shop for multi-fuel that now included propane service, delivery and supply.
In 2016, Girard Bulk Service Ltd., Stony Propane and The Propane Guys were all acquired in short, successive order. Each company was well established in their respective markets to serve commercial and residential customers. The purchase of Girard Bulk Service’s propane assets served southeastern Saskatchewan and Stony Propane ran operations in Edmonton west and surrounding area. The Propane Guys, known for their young and dynamic team, specialized in commercial and industrial propane, including a successful propane rental equipment business for the construction industry and temporary heating services in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
These companies’ propane offerings were exemplary in providing service integrity and fully committed to Parkland values of continuous improvement. With aligned perspectives in corporate culture, all were seamlessly rebranded to Bluewave Energy and bolstered propane operations and expertise nationwide.
In the fall of 2016, another product differentiator joined the Parkland propane family—PNE Corporation, a national provider of propane cylinder exchange services. This propane expansion marked Parkland’s first entry into a national cylinder exchange offering which included cylinder refilling and distribution from British Columbia through Québec. This new business line expanded Parkland’s commercial business across Canada.
By the end of 2016, Parkland became the 2nd largest propane provider in Canada. The company’s remarkable growth in propane can be attributed to more than just providing reliability of supply. The growth is a direct result of successful acquisition integration; that is drawing upon the intrinsic value of each like-minded company, and successfully blending efficiencies and cumulative expertise into its service delivery model.
Propane is as Canadian as is Parkland. It will continue to play a key role in North America’s energy mix as surely as Parkland will continue its path of dominance in the service, delivery and supply of propane.