Propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8) and is sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas or LPG. Propane is produced from both natural gas processing and crude oil refining. It is nontoxic, colorless and virtually odorless. As with natural gas, an identifying odor is added so the gas can be readily detected.
Propane Is a Safe Fuel
The propane industry has developed numerous methods to ensure the safe transport and use of propane:
• Propane equipment and appliances are manufactured to rigorous safety standards.
• Propane has a narrow range of flammability when compared with other petroleum products. In order to ignite, the propane-air mix must contain from 2.2 to 9.6 percent propane vapor. If the mixture contains less than 2.2 percent gas, it is too lean to burn. If it contains more than 9.6 percent, it is too rich to burn.
• Propane won’t ignite when combined with air unless the source of ignition reaches at least 940 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, gasoline will ignite when the source of ignition reaches only 430 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
• If liquid propane leaks, it doesn’t puddle but instead vaporizes and dissipates into the air.
• Because it is released from a pressured container as a vapor, propane can’t be ingested like gasoline or alcohol fuels.
• Because propane is virtually odorless and colorless in its natural state, a commercial odorant is added so propane can be detected if it leaks from its container.
Safety Starts with Education
The propane industry is engaged in ongoing training, education, and awareness-building efforts to promote and advance the safe handling, use, and maintenance of propane and propane-fueled equipment:
• PERC offers an award-winning preventive maintenance program called GAS Check (Gas Appliance System Check). Trained technicians inspect entire propane systems and appliances to ensure they are running safely and efficiently, so consumers can save money and enjoy a healthy environment. The program also educates homeowners on the proper maintenance of propane appliances and how to safely handle propane.
• The Certified Employee Training Program (CETP) is a nationally recognized training program for people involved in the handling of propane equipment and appliances. Required in eight states, used by propane marketers nationwide, and being continually updated and expanded, CETP has become the industry’s flagship curriculum in workforce training and certification. More than 120,000 propane industry employees have received CETP certification since 1999.
• The Propane Education & Research Council has developed a new comprehensive training program for America’s public safety agencies and propane retailers. The educational package includes a 220-page textbook, Propane Emergencies, which has been sent to every fire department in the country. The objectives of the emergency response program are to increase the level of responder safety, improve efficiency to mitigate emergencies, and to encourage propane marketers and local emergency responders to develop working relationships before an accident occurs.
• Each year, thousands of industry employees and firefighters attend service and safety schools sponsored by the industry. The sessions provide important training in how to quickly control and safely handle a propane emergency.
• In 2002, the Propane Education & Research Council developed the Compliance Program, consolidating all federal compliance information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency in one easy-to-understand program. The Compliance Program consists of two key components: a guidebook and an accompanying curriculum handbook. The guidebook takes the information set forth by OSHA, DOT, and EPA and puts it into simple, concrete explanations of what is required of propane marketers for regulatory compliance. The training handbook, along with an interactive CD, teaches propane marketers and their employees about the handling and transporting of propane in accordance with OSHA and DOT regulations.
Propane Is an Environmentally Friendly Fuel
• Propane is an approved, clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act as well as the National Energy Policy Act of 1992.
• Propane is one of the lightest, simplest hydrocarbons in existence, and, as a result, is one of the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels.
• Burning coal to generate electricity releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Per pound of fuel burned, coal emits more than twice the amount of carbon dioxide as does propane. By using propane gas instead of electricity, consumers can cut emissions and help preserve the environment.
• Propane gas is nontoxic, so it’s not harmful to soil and water. Because propane does not endanger the environment, the placement of propane tanks either above or below ground is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
• According to the EPA, much of the sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, which produces acid rain, is attributable to coal-fired electricity-generating facilities. In contrast, neither the process by which propane is produced nor the combustion of propane gas produces significant acid rain contaminants.
Propane Is a Good Value
• Overall, propane fuel for fleet vehicles typically costs less than conventional or reformulated gasoline. Many states offer fuel tax incentives to encourage the use of clean fuels, thus further reducing operating costs.
Propane Is a Versatile Fuel
Propane is used by millions of people in many different settings — in the home, on the road, on the farm, and at work.
• About 10 million families use propane to fuel their furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, outdoor grills, fire places, dryers, and ranges.
• Millions choose this clean-burning fuel for bus, taxi, delivery, and other fleets to minimize air pollution in metropolitan areas.
• Propane is used on 865,000 U.S. farms for irrigation pumps, grain dryers, standby generators, and other farm equipment. It is an essential fuel for crop drying, flame cultivation, fruit ripening, space and water heating, and food refrigeration.
• Propane is easy to transport and can be used in areas beyond the natural gas mains. Because it is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, it is economical to store and transport as a liquid.