Propane Gas: A Versatile, Efficient and Environmentally Sound Farm Fuel


February 9, 1999

TULARE, CALIF., February 9, 1999 -- Energy choice can play an important role in the economical and efficient management of agricultural operations. While gasoline, diesel and electricity can satisfy some highly specific needs, farmers using propane as their primary energy source have found that the fuel meets a wide range of agri-business demands as a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and versatile energy source.

'Energy needs and issues vary greatly in the agricultural industry and can be dictated by a broad range of factors, from the specialty nature of some agri-businesses to the location and actual layout of the farm itself,' said Rita Pecilunas, the National Propane Gas Association's vice president for marketing and member services. 'Over the years, propane has become recognized as the fuel of choice in the agricultural industry because it provides farmers with a cost-effective option that offers tremendous versatility and control in where and when it is used.'

By using propane as a primary energy source, farmers have the freedom to select locations for storage-tank placement to ensure accessibility for each specific need, whether that be home heating or to power irrigation pumps. In addition, propane's portability gives farmers the flexibility to power equipment in the most remote areas of the farm, as can be required with weed and pest control applications.

The cost savings associated with propane usage are also a factor in its popularity as an agricultural fuel. While actual fuel costs vary based on regional market conditions, propane costs per Btu are generally a third of that of electricity, a common alternative for major heating uses.

Farmers concerned with crop, livestock and groundwater contamination problems (frequently caused by fuel leakage) have confidence in the numerous environmental advantages propane offers over other fuel supplies. Propane is clean-burning, nontoxic and insoluble in water, which means that it produces no hazardous emissions, and, if spilled, presents minimal risk to aquifers or ground water supplies.

Propane gas is quickly becoming the agricultural fuel of choice, with a wide range of uses:

Crop drying and ripening. Propane is the nation's number one energy source for drying and ripening a wide range of crops. It is also used for curing tobacco and preparing peanuts and cotton for market. A primary benefit of using propane is that it will not leak into or contaminate crops. Additionally, because approximately 90 percent of the fuel drawn from the propane tank is converted to energy, the crop-drying process is efficient and cost-effective.

Powering irrigation pumps. Peace of mind and good health are benefits that farmers realize when using propane because of its environmentally-friendly nature. Propane-powered engines produce the same amount of power as gasoline or diesel engines, with lower emissions and without the residue or danger associated with liquid fuels. Irrigation pumps and engines can easily be converted to run on propane.

Controlling weeds and pests. Propane flamers are an environmentally-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides and pesticides. They apply a direct, intense heat to the weeds, forcing their cell walls to rupture, and insects to die on contact. Flaming can be applied as often as necessary, either before or after the crop emerges.

Heating livestock shelters. Propane infrared poultry brooders are one of the most efficient methods of keeping chicks warm and healthy. Infrared brooders provide more even heat and a larger circle of warmth, which means it takes fewer infrared brooders to properly warm a poultry house, a significant cost savings to the farmer. Additionally, propane-powered space heaters, furnaces and poultry brooders are very reliable, even during electric power outages.

Propane produces significantly lower emission levels than kerosene and fuel oil, and is more efficient and less expensive than electricity.

Propane-powered vehicles. Propane gas can be used to fuel many farm vehicles, including tractors and trucks. Similar to gasoline in power and performance, its affordability, low emissions and longer engine-life offer distinct advantages over other alternative fuels. With an octane rating of 104, propane engines are clean-burning and do not leave the harmful deposits that necessitate the frequent engine tune-ups required by diesel and gasoline engines.

Most conventional farm vehicles can be converted to run on propane, while one U.S. manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, currently offers factory-built propane vehicles.

Propane in the home. Propane gas meets all household needs safely and comfortably. As a frequent choice for homes beyond the natural gas mains, propane fuels appliances and heating systems, offering greater comfort and economy than electricity in a number of areas, such as home and water heating. According to the Federal Energy Information Administration, more than 8.1 million homes in America use propane as an energy source.

Other agricultural applications. Versatile propane gas is used in many other agricultural applications, including the following:

  • Back-up power generators that keep equipment running in remote locations or during power outages.
  • Equipment that de-horns calves quickly, humanely and virtually infection-free
    Heaters that keep drinking water free of ice for livestock.
  • Refrigerators.
  • Heaters for greenhouses and orchards.
  • Seedling planters

'While propane is used in a vast number of applications to power everything from homes to fleets of city buses, it has always been recognized in the agricultural communityas a farming fuel,' said Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education & Research Council.

Working together to enhance safety, spread knowledge
The Propane Education & Research Council works on behalf of the propane industry to improve safety, workforce training, efficiency and consumer education. The Council was authorized by the Propane Education and Research Act of 1996 (PERA) and created through an industry referendum in 1997. Funds are collected through an assessment process by which the industry pays a percentage of money on every gallon of odorized propane. The current assessment rate is 1/10 of a cent on each gallon sold. The resulting funds are funneled back to the customer through Council programs.

NPGA is the national trade association for the U.S. propane gas industry. With a membership of more than 3,700 in all 50 states, 37 affiliated state or regional associations, and members in 30 foreign countries, NPGA represents every segment of the propane industry. Over 90 percent of the United States' propane supply is produced domestically, and 60 million Americans choose propane, 'The Energy for the New Millennium,' as their energy source.

The Propane Council and NPGA will be exhibiting at the California Farm Equipment Show and International Exposition, February 9-11, in Tulare, Calif., as part of an initiative to promote the benefits of propane gas. For further information on propane gas for agricultural uses, contact your local propane dealer or call the National Propane Gas Association at (630) 515-0600. If you have access to the Internet, visit the National Propane Gas Association's Web site at, or send your questions via e-mail to is the national trade association for the U.S. propane gas industry. With a membership of more than 3,800 companies in all 50 states, 38 affiliated state or regional associations, and members in 28 foreign countries, NPGA represents every segment of the propane industry. Over 90 percent of the United States' propane supply is produced domestically, and 60 million Americans choose propane as their energy source.