Differences Between Propane and Natural Gas

Differences Between Propane & Natural Gas

Even though approximately half of American homes are heated with natural gas, there is still much confusion on the topic of what makes natural gas different from propane.

While both are considered clean fuel alternatives to fossil fuels such as diesel or gasoline, there are distinct differences between the two of them. If you are trying to determine which fuel is the best for your application, we recommend you reach out to your local propane supplier for more information.

How are propane and natural gas produced?

Propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing. It’s important to know that when natural gas is pulled up to the earth’s surface, it’s accompanied by other hydrocarbon gases. This hydrocarbon gas mixture is comprised of 90% methane (natural gas), 5% propane, and 5% other gases such as ethane and butane.

During natural gas processing, propane is isolated from the other gases and sent to propane storage companies across the United States via pipeline, barge, rail car, or truck. Propane can also come from crude oil refining.

How clean are propane and natural gas?

Among fossil fuels, propane is considered to be one of the cleanest. This means that it doesn’t produce as much air pollutants as other fossil fuels. Propane is not classified as a greenhouse gas and was listed as a government-approved clean fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act.

While natural gas is also a clean burning fossil fuel it still releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide and water vapor with traces of nitrogen oxides.

What are the risks of propane and natural gas?

While natural gas is relatively safe, there are some safety considerations. For example, if you don’t properly maintain your natural gas tanks, they will be at a higher risk for bursting. This is because the gas inside the tank is under extremely high pressure.

The propane gas industry has dedicated itself toward increasing propane safety for its customers. This means that there are less gas-related fires than those caused by faulty electrical wiring. It also means that American propane companies adopted their own standards and certifications to maintain an excellent safety record without intervention from the government.

How are propane and natural gas stored?

For transportation purposes, propane and natural gas are stored differently due to their physical properties. Both propane and natural gas can be turned into liquids for easier fuel transportation. This makes it more convenient for these gases to be transported across the United States to qualified natural gas and propane suppliers.

One advantage to propane is that it will remain a liquid when held under pressure, even when exposed to higher temperatures. This allows propane to be sold at most gas stations in portable steel tanks. For residential propane use, being able to buy fuel at the gas station is convenient. If you ever run out of propane before a big family barbeque, you can always stop at your local gas station or respected propane supply company. However, once you release the pressure in the tank, the propane immediately becomes gaseous.

Natural gas can be stored in a gaseous state through compression. Compressed natural gas makes it easier for transportation because it can be sent through pipelines. In its liquid form, natural gas takes up even less space than compressed natural gas.

If you are interested in our residential propane, commercial propane, or agricultural propane services, please feel free to call one of our Michigan propane suppliers at any of our four locations. Altogas is dedicated to helping customers fuel their lives with quality propane gas.

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