What Is Propane?
Propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8) and is sometimes referred to as liquefied
petroleum gas, LP-gas or LPG. Propane is produced from both natural gas
processing and crude oil refining. It is nontoxic, colorless and virtually
odorless. As with natural gas, an identifying odor is added so the gas can be
Propane Is a Safe Fuel
The propane industry has developed numerous methods to make the transport and
use of propane safe:
- Propane equipment and appliances are manufactured to rigorous safety
- Propane has a narrow range of flammability when compared with other
petroleum products. In order to ignite, the propane/air mix must contain
from 2.2 to 9.6 percent propane vapor. If the mixture contains less than 2.2
percent gas, it is too lean to burn. If it contains more than 9.6 percent,
it is too rich to burn.
- Propane won’t ignite when combined with air unless the source of
ignition reaches at least 940 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, gasoline will
ignite when the source of ignition reaches only 430 to 500 degrees
- If liquid propane leaks, it doesn’t puddle but instead vaporizes and
dissipates into the air.
- Because it is released from a pressured container as a vapor, propane can’t
be ingested like gasoline or alcohol fuels.
- Because propane is virtually odorless and colorless in its natural state,
a commercial odorant is added so propane can be detected if it leaks from
Safety Starts with Education
The propane industry is also engaged in ongoing efforts to increase safety in
the handling, use and maintenance of propane and propane equipment:
- The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) offers an award-winning
preventive maintenance program called GAS Check® (Gas Appliance System
Check). Trained technicians inspect entire propane systems and appliances to
ensure they are running safely and efficiently, so consumers can save money
and enjoy a healthy environment. The program also educates homeowners on the
proper maintenance of propane appliances and how to safely handle propane.
- The Certified Employee Training Program (CETP) is a nationally recognized
training program for people involved in the handling of propane, equipment
and appliances. The CETP is being used extensively throughout the country
and is continually updated and expanded.
- The NPGA, with funding from the Propane Education & Research Council,
has developed a new comprehensive training program for America’s public
safety agencies and propane retailers. The educational package includes a
220-page textbook, Propane Emergencies, which has been sent free to every
fire department in the country. The objectives of the emergency response
program are to increase the level of responder safety, improve efficiency to
mitigate emergencies and to encourage propane marketers and local emergency
responders to develop working relationships before an accident occurs.
- Each year, thousands of industry employees and firefighters attend
service and safety schools sponsored by the industry. The sessions provide
important training in how to quickly control and safely handle a propane
- In 2002, the Propane Education & Research Council developed the
Compliance Program consolidating all federal OSHA, DOT, and EPA compliance
information in one, easy to understand program. The Compliance Program
consists of two key components: a guidebook and an accompanying curriculum
handbook. The guidebook takes the information set forth by OSHA, DOT, and
the EPA and puts it into simple, concrete explanations of what is required
of propane marketers for regulatory compliance. The training handbook, along
with an interactive CD, educates and trains propane marketers and their
employees on the handling and transporting of propane in accordance with
OSHA and DOT regulations.
Propane Is an Environmentally Friendly Fuel
Propane is an approved, clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act as
well as the National Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Propane is one of the lightest, simplest hydrocarbons in existence, and,
as a result, is one of the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels. New
propane-fueled vehicles can meet the very tough Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle
(ULEV) standards, and one model even meets the Super Ultra-Low Emission
Vehicle (SULEV) standards.
Burning coal to generate electricity releases carbon dioxide and
other pollutants into the atmosphere. Per pound of fuel burned, coal emits
more than twice the amount of carbon dioxide as does propane. By using
propane gas instead of electricity, consumers can cut emissions and help
preserve the environment.
Propane gas is nontoxic, so it’s not harmful to soil and water. Because
propane does not endanger the environment, the placement of propane tanks
either above or below ground is not regulated by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the EPA, much of the sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, which
produces acid rain, is attributable to coal-fired, electricity-generating
facilities. In contrast, neither the process by which propane is produced
nor the combustion of propane gas produces significant acid rain
Propane Is a Good Value
Overall, propane fuel for fleet vehicles typically costs less than
conventional or reformulated gasoline. Many states offer fuel tax
incentives to encourage the use of clean fuels, thus further reducing
Propane Is a Versatile Fuel
Propane is used by millions of people in many different environments—homes,
industry, farming and more.
- More than 14 million families use propane to fuel their furnaces, water
heaters, air conditioners, outdoor grills, fire places, dryers and range
- Millions choose this clean-burning fuel for bus, taxi, delivery and other
fleets to minimize air pollution in metropolitan areas.
- Propane is used on more than 660,000 farms for irrigation pumps,
grain dryers, standby generators and other farm equipment. It is an
essential fuel for crop drying, flame cultivation, fruit ripening, space and
water heating and food refrigeration.
- Propane is easy to transport and can be used in areas beyond the natural
gas mains. Because it is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas,
it is economical to store and transport as a liquid.
Source: National Propane Gas Association/Propane Education & Research