Propane is a derivative of two large energy industries:
natural gas processing and crude oil refining.
When natural gas is drawn out of the earth, it is a mixture of several hydrocarbon gases. Methane, which is sold by the gas utilities as "natural gas," constitutes about ninety percent of this mixture. Of the remaining ten percent, five percent is propane and five percent is other gases, such as butane and ethane.
Propane is separated from the natural gas mixture. Most of it is sent through a pipeline system to bulk storage facilities across the nation. What isn't shipped through the pipeline system is either transported by truck, rail car or barge. Fifty-nine percent of all propane is derived from this process.
Crude oil refining is the source for the other forty-one percent of propane supplies. After crude oil is drawn from the well, it is refined into various petroleum products. Propane is one of these products. It is then transported from the refining facilities to bulk storage plants the same way it is shipped from natural gas processing plants.
There are many new devices on today's propane gas appliances and equipment that make them safer than ever before. New safety features on furnaces, for example, include temperature sensitive shut-off systems. These controls turn off the furnace if a vent becomes blocked. Other types of space heating systems have oxygen depletion sensors that shut off the unit should the oxygen level in the room being heated drop to an unsafe level.
Appliances and equipment designs are certified by nationally recognized independent testing laboratories. Products certified by these organizations are referred to as "listed" products. This means it is not necessary for appliances and equipment to be checked by local and provincial or federal safety authorities.
A study conducted by the NFPA U.S. Home Heating Fire Patterns and Trends Through 1988 concluded that by a four-to-one margin, the safest way to provide heat is with gas. In fact, there are more fires started each year by faulty electrical wiring than from gas-related accidents. Data compiled by the Fire Underwriters Association shows that gas rates very low as the cause of accidents in insurance claims.
The key to the propane gas industry's outstanding safety record is the system for adopting standards and certifications. The propane gas industry operates under voluntary, self-imposed rules governing safety. Anytime safety needs to be addressed or reexamined, the industry responds quickly and effectively. As a result of these efforts, there are very few federal government standards regulating the use of propane gas.
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