We get a lot of questions from customers about the fuel we deliver. Where does propane come from? What’s in it? How is propane different from natural gas? We are always more than happy to give you the facts about this efficient, affordable, American-made fuel.
Most propane is a co-product of natural gas extraction and crude oil refining, but some also comes from organic and recycled products. About 90 percent of the propane used in our country is U.S.-made. Indeed, we export more propane than we use.
Here’s a breakdown of what your propane is made of and where it comes from.
Over three-quarters of American propane comes from natural gas production. Natural gas wells extract other fuels, such as butane, ethane and pentane. The largest co-product is propane. To avert condensation in pipelines meant for natural gas, propane must be separated from liquid compounds during this process.
When crude oil is refined into various petroleum products, propane can be extracted. During the stabilization phase of the refining process, heavier hydrocarbons fall to the bottom, and lighter hydrocarbons, including propane, rise to the top. From there, propane can be extracted for separate use.
Though not in wide use today, renewable propane production is growing quite a bit with each passing year.
This product is chemically identical to conventional propane, meaning you don’t have to modify equipment to use it. But just as conventional propane is a co-product of oil and natural gas production, renewable propane can be considered a co-product of biofuel production. Renewable propane is made using some of the same organic and recycled feedstocks as biofuel. These include the following:
Many of the feedstocks are waste products that would otherwise end up in landfills. Renewable propane is carbon neutral at the point of combustion, adding no new carbon to the atmosphere.
Understandably, many customers confuse natural gas and propane. They’re part of the same production process and function similarly in gas-powered systems and appliances. They’re even scented with the same odor. But they are very different fuels.
Propane is denser than natural gas and can be compressed into a liquid form for storage in propane tanks and transportation in trucks, railcars and portable cylinders.
Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, which is lighter than air. (Propane is methane-free.) Consequently, natural gas must be delivered via utility pipes. Propane also produces more than double the heat energy per cubic foot of natural gas!