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Propane 101: Education and Facts

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Propane applications can be found anywhere you look. This safe fuel serves approximately 60 million people in the United States in millions of homes, industry, farming and more. At home, you can find propane powered appliances from your range top and oven, dryer, fireplace or furnace, to your backyard pool and spa heater, patio heater or fire pit. You use it for your grill and have a propane powered back-up generator if need be. Most of those applications are obvious, but did you know the most hot air balloons fly because of propane’s help? Hot air balloon pilots can control their ascent and descent by heating more air with “burners” or slowly releasing air allowing the heated air to cool off or by using a variety of vents located in strategic points on the envelope vent out the hot air. Or how about the ice resurfacer in your local ice rink? Probably powered by propane! Landscapers are turning to propane powered mowers and commercial fleets (law enforcement,taxis, school buses) across the country are converting to propane autogas. There are propane applications all around us, and if we think hard enough, we may even remember the formula for propane from high school chemistry (C3H8, you’re welcome!) but if you’re curious to learn more about this green and versatile fuel, here you go!

Propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LP-gas), is one of the nation’s most versatile sources of energy. Propane is separated from crude oil during the refining process and also extracted from natural gas or oil wellhead gas at processing plants. Propane is normally transported and stored in a liquid state under moderate pressure or refrigeration for economy and ease of handling in shipping and distribution. When the pressure is released or the temperature is increased, it is usable as a flammable gas. Propane is colorless and odorless so an odorant (Ethyl Mercaptan) is added to allow for its detection. Propane is clean burning, producing negligible amounts of pollutants when properly consumed.

Some of the physical characteristics of propane helps explain some of the safety rules that we adhere to and that everyone should follow diligently. Propane changes from liquid to a gas (its boiling point) at -44 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one of the reasons why our technicians wear protective gear like gloves and face shields when installing new equipment. As a gas, propane is heavier than air. This is known as its specific gravity, which is 1.52; as a comparison, air has a specific gravity of 1.0.

AmeriGas has over 250 domestic and international sources of propane supply. The availability of propane supply is dependent upon, among other things, the severity of winter weather, the price and availability of competing fuels such as natural gas and crude oil, and the amount and availability of imported supply. We use a number of interstate pipelines, as well as railroad tank cars, delivery trucks and barges, to transport propane from suppliers to our storage facilities and terminals located in strategic areas across the U.S. and then onto our distribution sites.

We would be happy to help you and your home or business with it’s propane needs. Please contact us if you would like more information.