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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Coco puffs maker will close tomorrow, awaiting propane

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Liliha Bakery has decided to temporarily close its doors until the state's propane shortage is over, but the wait for the bakery's popular coco puffs and other treats could be only until this weekend, because Chevron Hawai'i is preparing to resume propane production.

Chevron yesterday planned to start up its propane and gasoline refinery unit, a three-day process that has propane distributor Oahu Gas Service breathing a little easier.

"We're right up against the wall," said Ron Templeman, general manager for Oahu Gas. "If it went on another week, then you'd see a lot of run-outs. But I'm pretty confident that the refinery will be operating before then."

Templeman said customers have been conserving, including a condominium that turned off its hot water, and that has saved many businesses from running completely dry. On a few occasions, smaller users have used up their supplies, but the company is trying to replenish them, he said.

Liliha Bakery has one day's supply of propane in its tank and will be open from 6 a.m. today until 6 a.m. tomorrow, said Chris Murai, operations manager. Customers who have placed orders for this week are being contacted and advised to make other arrangements, Murai said.

"There's only one customer I couldn't get through to and hopefully she'll read this article," she said. Murai said she couldn't estimate how many customers had to be called about pre-ordered goods but said it was less than 100.

The closure is expected to be a couple of days, but Murai said she didn't know for sure when Chevron would be producing propane again. She said she was given a March 17 date.

The bakery will still have propane after tomorrow, but the company is following industry standards to keep a 10 percent reserve in the tank, she said, explaining that if the tank is emptied, the tank and lines must be pressure-tested before refilling and that would take extra time.

Chevron spokesman Albert Chee said a crew has been working around the clock to fix the problem, caused by a power surge during a February storm that shut down all refinery units. The propane and gasoline unit was the only one that didn't restart, Chee said.

While Chevron was able to buy gasoline from other sources, thus fulfilling its commitments, the company on March 2 warned customers that it wouldn't be able to supply propane until the unit was repaired. Parts and specialists from the Mainland were brought in and people were asked to conserve, he said.

If repairs are on schedule, "I would say by mid to latter part of this week this unit should be up and running, barring any other problem," Chee said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.