Propane Energy Employment


HOW PROPANE IS USED

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.

On 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.

Propane Production & Distribution

BobtailsLocal 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 full ones.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

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, a greenhouse gas.

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,
Energy Information Administration, Estimated Consumption of Alternative Transportation Fuels in the United States, February 2004.


Contact Us