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Propane Tank Locks Deter Theft and Unauthorized Fills


Lock America offers two types of propane tank locks to help marketers discourage unauthorized fills and prevent tank theft.

Frank Minnella, CEO of LockAmerica, said the company first ventured into propane security with its POLock™ product, which is an outlet lock that seals and locks retail tanks to stop unauthorized usage and discourage tank thieves. The POLock helps retailers lock out delinquent customers and helps tank exchanges discourage theft.

“My intention is to help the retailer lock out a customer if they don’t pay,” Minnella explained. As he demonstrated the POLock to retailers, he learned of another need: a filler valve lock that would protect propane suppliers against unauthorized tank filling by competitors. “A customer can go to any gypsy operator, and they can go fill the tank that the legitimate dealer has spent time and money to install,” he said.

The company developed its Propane Filler Valve Lock line to answer the need. “This way, another retailer cannot break your lock and fill the tank,” he pointed out. The locks can also help marketers collect delinquent payments, because customers will have no option but to pay the legitimate marketer to have their tank refilled, Minnella said.

Locking out competitors also protects the legitimate dealer from liability that could result when another operator fills the tank and causes a leak. “If another dealer trips over the regulator and breaks a pipe and there is a leak and somebody lights up and the house blows up, the liability is on the propane tank owner,” Minnella said. “I’d think that every insurance company would demand that every tank have the filler valve locked so no other operator could fill the tank.”

The tank outlet locks are also useful for tank exchange sites, because the owner can lock every tank on the premises so that would-be thieves will be deterred. Retail propane tanks are a common theft target for illegal manufacturers of methamphetamine. “Those tanks are valuable full or empty to meth factories,” Minnella said. Meth cookers use the tanks to store anhydrous ammonia, which is used in the manufacture of the drug. If every tank in a cage at a tank exchange has an outlet lock, thieves will go elsewhere, he said. “The tank is useless full or empty because if you vandalize it, you will destroy the threading,” he said.

The POLock outlet valve lock is a two-piece unit that covers the tank outlet with a reverse thread plug, which is itself covered by a slip ring to prevent unscrewing. The cover is locked in place with a tubular key. Each operator has their own registered key with over 60,000 usable key combinations.

The Propane Filler Valve Lock comes in different models, including a heavy duty one for underground tanks. Lock America can produce a single keycode for all of a customer’s locks, both the POLock and Filler Valve lock, and most padlocks as well

Software and Technology
November 2013

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