Propane gas is a type of liquefied petroleum that is popularly used for home and grill heating, water heating, dryers, vehicles, appliances and many other residential and commercial purposes that require efficient or portable heat.
It is sometimes referred to as LP-gas, LPG or liquefied petroleum gas, and it is mostly produced as a by-product of natural gas processing. It is known for being one of the cleanest burning fuels available, and was used as a clean fuel many years before the recent interest in green technology.
Today, tens of millions of families throughout the United States use propane for some or all of their heating or appliance needs, along with over half a million farmers who rely on it to power many types of critical farming equipment.
A brief history of propane
Propane was first discovered in 1910 by Dr. Walter Snelling, a chemist at the U.S. Bureau of Mines. A car owner in Pittsburgh walked into his office and complained that a gallon of gasoline he had recently purchased had diminished to a half gallon by the time he had driven home. He then challenged Dr. Snelling to determine what the cause was.
Snelling found that the evaporating gas was a mix of butane, propane and other hydrocarbons and soon developed the first method to liquefy propane gas during the production of natural gas. Working with a group, he established the first commercial propane company, and starting in the 1920s propane was regularly produced and shipped throughout the United States.
How propane is produced
Propane is produced during two processes – petroleum refining and natural gas processing. The processing of natural gas requires the removal of propane, butane, and ethane from the raw gas in order to prevent these volatile gases from condensing in pipelines.
Some propane is also produced as a by-product of cracking process, which is used to convert petroleum into gasoline. Approximately 90% of the propane in the United States is produced domestically, while 10% of it is imported from countries such as Canada.
The properties of propane
Propane has several unique properties that make it a convenient and easily transportable source of fuel, including non-toxicity and a low boiling point of -44 degrees Fahrenheit which makes it vaporize as soon as it leaves its pressurized container.
This means that no vaporizing device is necessary in order to release the gas, and propane transportation devices are relatively inexpensive as a result of this quality. It is also burns cleaner than other types of fuel due to its lower carbon content.
How is propane fuel used?
Propane is widely used in residences throughout the United States to fuel gas grills, for home heating and fireplaces, for efficient tankless water heating, boiler water and zone heating systems, for clothes dryers, portable stoves, and as a fuel source for any type of mobile vehicle.
Propane is also being used more frequently for motor vehicles, as over 450,000 forklifts currently use it for fuel and approximately 200,000 on-the-road vehicles.
It is the third most popular vehicle fuel in the world behind diesel and gasoline, and it is also widely used in the farming industry to power grain dryers, standby generators, irrigation pumps, crop dryers, water and space heaters, refrigerators and for many other purposes.