Harper Industries Propane Mast
Home Wholesale Services Service Area History About Propane
Contact Us

About Propane

What Is Propane?

Propane is an energy-rich gas, C3H8. It is one of the liquefied petroleum gasses (LPGs) that are found mixed with natural gas and oil. Propane and other liquefied gases, including ethane and butane, are separated from natural gas at natural gas processing plants, or from crude oil at refineries. The amount of propane produced from natural gas and from oil is roughly equal.
Propane naturally occurs as a gas. However, at higher pressure or lower temperatures, it becomes a liquid. Because propane is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, it is transported and stored in its liquid state. Propane becomes a gas again when a valve is opened to release it from its pressurized container. When returned to normal pressure, propane becomes a gas so that we can use it.

How Propane Is Used

Propane is the most common source of energy in rural areas that do not have natural gas service. It is used for heating homes, heating water, cooking and refrigerating food, drying clothes, and fueling gas fireplaces and barbecue grills. On farms, it is used to dry corn and power farm equipment and irrigation pumps. Businesses and industry use propane to run their forklifts and other equipment. About 45 percent of propane is used by the chemical industry as a raw material for making plastics, nylon, and other materials. While only a small fraction of propane is used for transportation, it is the largest alternative transportation fuel in use today. Instead of gasoline, propane is often used to fuel fleets of vehicles used by school districts, government agencies, and taxicab companies. In recreational pursuits, hot air balloons use propane to heat the air that makes them rise.

Getting Propane To Users

How does propane get to the people who use it? Propane usually goes by underground pipeline to terminals across the country. Railroads, barges, trucks, and supertankers also ship the propane to bulk distributors. Local propane dealers come to the distributor's bulk plant to fill up their small tank trucks. These tank trucks, called "bobtails", deliver propane to large storage tanks that are outside homes. The average residential propane tank holds between 500-1,000 gallons of liquid fuel, and is refilled several times a year. People who use just a little propane- for backyard barbecue, for example- bring their tanks to a dealer to be filed or to be exchanged.

Environmental Issues

Propane is a non-renewable fossil fuel, like natural gas and oil it is produced from. Like natural gas (methane), propane is colorless and odorless. Although propane is nontoxic and odorless, foul- smelling mercaptan is added to it to make gas leaks easy to detect. Propane is a clean burning fossil fuel, which is why it is often chosen to fuel indoor equipment such as forklifts. Its clean burning properties and its portability also make it popular as an alternative transportation fuel. Propane-fueled engines produce much fewer emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons compared to gasoline engines. Like all fossil fuels, propane emits water vapor and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Sources: Energy Information Administration, Propane Prices: What Consumers Should Know, January 2008, Energy Information Administration, Estimated Consumption of Alternative Transportation Fuels in the United States, February 2004


Click here for a Material Safety Data Sheet for Odorized Propane

home l wholesale services l service area l history l about propane I contact us
webdesign by Artworks Advertising & Design