Cenex (CHS)

CHS sells propane through its energy subsidiary, Cenex. Started in 1931 as a farmers’ cooperative, Cenex is still owned by its members. It operates in 30 states through 298 outlets and dozens of partnerships with local cooperatives and propane dealers. Cenex coverage is best in the Midwest region and the company does not have retail locations in the Easter or Southwest regions; its coverage of the South is limited.

Cenex Summary

 

Comment

Recommendation

Region

Mostly Midwest

Check that there is a Cenex location in your area.

Services

Propane, tanks and installation, appliances, depending on the local Cenex partner.

What services (tank, appliances, etc.) are you expecting from your propane company? Ensure the quote you request takes them into account.

Safety record

Very good information and training efforts. Emergency and safety contacts depend on local cooperative.

Establish what the company’s safety reputation in your area is.

Business reputation

Depends on the local cooperative retailer.

Call your local Cenex customer care number to find out how responsive they are.

Propane price

Depends on local cooperative but under state average for large orders.

Verify propane price trends in your state to check whether the price you are given matches market price as closely as possible.

Delivery options

Will call and automatic delivery/keep full.

Decide whether you want to control when propane is delivered or whether you prefer automatic delivery.

Propane pricing options

Fixed pricing, market pricing and budget planning depending on local cooperative.

Choose between paying for propane in one or several installments, planning deliveries according to market prices or having a fixed price per gallon throughout the year.

Other options

Electronic tank level monitoring.

Decide whether you want the company to know what your propane tank level is automatically to better schedule deliveries and check what the local Cenex partner offers.

Fees and charges

After hours delivery, leak test, minimum delivery.

Check what you may be billed for (e.g., out of hours delivery) and, if you own a tank, decide whether you want your propane company to maintain it for you (recommended unless you have already identified a propane technician).

Cenex safety record

Cenex places heavy emphasis on safety, which is their primary concern. The company has extensive safety-related information readily available for partner cooperatives involved in their retail operations and consumers. These details and guidelines go from what to do if you smell gas to ensuring your appliances function properly to avoid carbon monoxide intoxication.

The company is part of the National Propane Gas Association and the Propane Research and Education Council, both of which underline the importance safety precautions in dealing with propane, as much for employees (training) as for consumers (information). This is particularly true in terms of complying with federal, state and local regulations.

Cenex does not provide an emergency number. This is because should customers have doubts about a safety-related issue, they are supposed to call the Cenex retailer whose responsibility it is to advise and, if necessary, react or intervene.

Cenex business reputation

The Cenex business reputation is difficult to establish because it works through many different local cooperatives. Its reputation therefore depends in large part on how well these cooperatives treat their customers. This makes it all the more important to call the Cenex number closest to you.

Cenex propane prices

Cenex propane prices depend on the local cooperative it operates through. As with all propane companies, prices depend on the price of crude oil (of which propane is a byproduct), weather/climate conditions (the colder the weather, the higher the propane price) and usage (higher usages lead to lower propane prices).

However, propane cooperatives tend to be more upfront about propane prices than other propane companies. For example, the Nebraska Cenex Partner, Country Partners Cooperative, openly charges $1.25/gallon (cash) or $1.30/gallon (charged to your account) for propane as long as over 250 gallons are ordered. Under that amount, the company adds a $50 fee. The cooperative also offers a $0.02/gallon discount for route delivery (similar to will call with 24h or more notice).

Midwest propane price trends, 2010-2013

Midwest 2010-2013 propane price trends. (Source: US Energy Information Administration)

Cenex delivery options

Cenex offers potential customers the two traditional delivery options: will call and automatic delivery/keep full:

  • Will call is when you monitor your own propane tank level and order propane when the level drops below 30%. This is a good system if you regularly monitor your propane tank level. It is also advantageous if your propane tank size is large enough to be able to plan propane deliveries in advance when the propane price is lowest. However, will-call customers run the risk of running out of propane, which requires a leak test before propane can be re-pumped into the tank, aside from the lack of comfort no propane can induce if you use it as a primary source of energy.
  • Like other companies who offer this service, Cenex offers the option of having propane delivered to your home automatically. Automatic delivery/Keep full is convenient because it is impossible for you to run out of propane. The company will work out when your tank level falls under 30% based on a usage estimate and weather conditions and plan deliveries accordingly. However, users who find this option attractive should continue checking their tank level and enquiring about daily fuel prices with the company to ensure their delivery price follows local price trends.

Cenex payment options

With Cenex’s SecureComfort Plan, your yearly propane usage is calculated in advance (on the basis of historical consumption, home configuration and weather patterns) and you pay a fixed monthly price for propane. Users find this convenient as it allows them to avoid winter price increases. Cenex checks actual propane usage once a year and adjust your usage estimate and monthly bills accordingly.

In fact, your usage estimate enables Cenex to purchase the propane you are likely to use in one go, which is why they are able to offer a fixed monthly price. It is in your interest to check that the price offered is reasonable given regional price trends.

The SecureConfort can be combined with the Value Assurance price protection option that fixes a maximum price but allows your bill to be adjusted downwards. If this option interests you, it is recommended that you check that it is available through the local cooperative that partners with Cenex.

Cenex propane tanks

Cenex offers multiple tank sizes (aboveground and underground) to its customers. You can rent or purchase your tank if you select Cenex, though all locations are unlikely to have the same range and you should enquire about pricing.

Remember that propane tank size affects your propane price: the more propane is ordered, the cheaper the price offered is likely to be. Similarly, larger propane tanks allow for delivery planning that takes advantage of cheaper propane prices (e.g., in summer).

Renting a tank from Cenex will probably increase your propane price slightly but the yearly rental fee will be far less than the price of purchasing a tank. It is up to you to work out whether you are prepared to make an initial investment to reduce propane prices over the long term or wish to benefit from more reasonable regular bills.

Cenex fees and charges

Cenex partner cooperatives’ charges and fees vary so you should enquire with your local office to see what applies. For example, in Nebraska, the following charges apply for the Country Partners Cooperative and broadly reflect what you might be charged.

Item

Description

Price (US$)

Minimum delivery fee

Applies to deliveries under 250 gallons.

50

After hours charge

After hours propane delivery.

30

Leak test

Checking system after interruption of gas supply.

50

Cenex services

The Cenex Electronic Tank Monitoring Service automatically sends a signal to the company when your tank level falls below a certain level, which prompts a propane delivery. It also lets you check your propane tank level electronically rather than by looking at the tank gauge.

Cenex also offers list of propane appliances and detectors you can purchase from their retailers. This type of service is particularly useful if you are building with propane and want a single number to set up your propane system (appliances, connections, tank, gas, etc.).

Cenex community involvement – the Tank of Thanks

Cenex rewards and encourages individual community involvement by letting people nominate committed community participants and providing the winners with free fuel (100 nominees receive $50 of free fuel each month.)