The Propane Gas Industry offers one of the greatest career
opportunities in the Alternative Fuels/Energy
Industry. Propane is the most widely used, clean burning alternative energy
fuels in the world.
More than 60 million Americans use (clean burning)
propane gas for everything from heating and cooling their homes and businesses
to firing their barbecue grills.
Propane is also the most widely used alternative
energy transportation fuels in the world. In the US, there are more than
400,000 vehicles on our roads today; Instead of gasoline, propane is often
used to fuel fleets of vehicles used by school buses, government agencies,
taxicab companies and police cars. In fact, with more than 5,000 fueling
stations nationwide, propane gas is cleaner burning than coal, heating
oil or gasoline. Propane combustion does not emit large amounts of carbon
dioxide and produces no sulfur dioxide or particulates.
Propane is also
the most common source of energy in rural areas that do not have natural
gas service. It is used for heating homes, heating water, cooking and refrigerating
food, drying clothes, and fueling gas fireplaces and barbecue grills.
farms, it is used to dry corn and power farm equipment and irrigation pumps.
Businesses and industry use propane to run their fork lifts and other equipment.
About 45 percent of propane is used by the chemical industry as a raw material
for making plastics, nylon, and other materials.
GETTING PROPANE TO USERS
How does propane get to the people who use it? Propane usually goes by
underground pipeline to terminals across the country. Railroads, barges,
trucks, and supertankers also ship the propane to bulk distributors.
Local propane dealers (distributor's) have a bulk plant to fill
up their tank trucks. These tank trucks, called "bobtails", deliver
propane to large storage tanks that are outside homes, commercial businesses
and industrial warehouses. The average propane tank holds between 250 - 1,000
gallons of liquid fuel, and is refilled several times a year. People who use
just a little propane - for a backyard barbecue, for example - bring their
tanks to convenience and hardware stores to be filled or to be exchanged for
Propane is a non-renewable fossil fuel, like the natural gas
and oil it is produced from. Like natural gas (methane), propane is colorless
and odorless. Although propane is nontoxic and odorless, foul-smelling mercaptan
is added to it to make gas leaks easy to detect. Propane is a clean burning
fossil fuel, which is why it is often chosen to fuel indoor equipment such
as fork lifts. Its clean burning properties and its portability also make
it popular as an alternative transportation fuel. Propane-fueled engines produce
much fewer emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons compared to gasoline
engines. Like all fossil fuels, propane emits water vapor and carbon dioxide,
MORE ABOUT LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GASES
LP-gases were discovered
in 1912 when an American scientist, Dr. Walter Snelling, discovered that
these gases could be changed into liquids and stored under moderate pressure.
The LP-gas industry got its start shortly before World War I when a problem
in the natural gas distribution process popped up. A section of the pipeline
in one natural gas field ran under a cold stream, and the coldness led
to a lot of liquids building up in the pipeline, sometimes to the point of
blocking the entire pipeline. Soon, engineers figured out a solution: facilities
were built to cool and compress natural gas, and to separate the gases that
could be turned into liquids (including propane and butane).
Last Revised: July 2008
Sources: Energy Information Administration,
Propane Prices: What Consumers Should Know, January 2008,
Administration, Estimated Consumption of Alternative Transportation Fuels
in the United States, February 2004.