Important Terms from A to Z
Propane is a colorless, odorless, and highly flammable gas that is easily liquefied by compression. Propane is a hydrocarbon with the molecular formula C3H8, and belongs to the group of alkanes. Although propane is non-toxic, in high concentrations it has a narcotic to suffocative effect. At proportional volumes of between about 2% to 10% in air, it forms an explosive mixture. The ignition temperature of the gas is 470°C. Propane is stored in gas cylinders or tanks, as well as in underground caverns.
Production of propane
Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas. Like butane, it is a natural component of crude oil and natural gas, and is therefore a by-product of oil refining (cracking in refineries) and of natural gas.
Applications of propane
As LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), propane is used as a fuel for internal combustion engines in the transport sector. Here, LPG consists of propane and butane or a mixture of both gases - in a ratio of 95:5 to 30:70, generally as a 40:60 summer mixture and as a 60:40 winter mixture offered by service stations. Liquefied petroleum gas is relatively easy to store, as it remains in a liquid state at room temperature under relatively low pressure. In addition, propane burns to carbon dioxide and water vapor with very few pollutants.
Users of propane also include industries that require “portable” heat. For example, it is used as a heating gas, in gas cookers/boilers/grills and in hot-air balloons. Propane is also used as a refrigerant (R-290) in refrigerators and air-conditioning systems, and also as a possible component of the propellant in aerosol cans and air softeners (though butane is mostly used here due to its lower pressure). Usually propane is used in all its applications as a mixture e.g. with butane.
Another field of application is in the production of ethylene and propene.
Status: January 2020
All information subject to change. Errors and omissions excepted.