How Is Propane Made? What Are Its Uses And Importance?

Anamika Balouria
Jan 19, 2023 By Anamika Balouria
Originally Published on Oct 26, 2021
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
How Is Propane Made? What Are Its Uses And Importance?

Propane is a common household need in every house, and if ignored, can release harmful emissions into the air.

Propane is a basic need for people around the world for cooking and heating. The low carbon content makes it environmentally friendly.

Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) obtained through natural gas processing and crude oil refinery. Propane was first found in 1911 by Walter O. Snelling as a compound in gasoline which taught scientists that it can be produced with proper temperature and pressure.

Gasoline evaporation played an important role in increased usage of propane and other gases such as butane by the industry.

Propane is a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas that is produced with the help of pressure and used as a fuel. Propane is mostly stored in a steel cylinder and tank.

Propane uses range from heating and cooking to a variety of other applications. You can use propane for a barbecue grill or in recreational vehicles. Canada is known to be the seventh-largest cpuntry in the world when it comes to production of propane and where 100% of propane used is also made in the same country.

Propane, which accounts for the vast majority of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), was historically only made from fossil resources. Propane can not be made at home. However, a collaboration of Imperial College London scientists proved that by using a bioengineered variant of the microorganism E. coli, they can manufacture propane from glucose.

If you enjoy reading this article about propane, then do read some surprising and interesting fun facts about how is rose gold made and how is sea glass made.

Is propane man-made or natural?

Propane gas is a man-made liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that is made from natural gas processing.

Propane is a man-made gas that is made by refining natural gas. Propane gas is a colorless gas. Propane production has become popular among people for its unique uses.

Propane is stored and transported as liquid components. Propane gas typically has become an environmentally friendly fuel source along with natural gas. Propane is known to emit a lower number of carbon elements, which is considered good for the environment.

Mostly in rural areas, propane is used as fuel to heat homes and control crop pests. Many things in your home, from heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers, and ovens, run on the internal combustion of propane as a fuel.

Propane gas is made from natural gas and crude oil refining. From natural gas, propane is produced and extracted in a protective way so that it does not condensate in gas pressure tanks, pipelines, and cylinders.

The liquid density of hydrocarbons like propane is higher than gases they form. This liquefied gas is odorless and colorless.

In order to detect propane gas odor in the air, an odor is added to these liquefied gases because their distribution or emissions in the air could lead to a big disaster. Along with hydrocarbons, propane gas' other liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) are butane and isobutane.

Other hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane need to be separated from propane in order to produce the pure form.

How is propane created and transported?

Propane gas is created or collected from natural gas and crude oil refining. Propane is stored in tanks and cylinders and is transported through gas pipelines.

Propane is a gas but is stored as liquid components. The hydrocarbon, propane, is naturally found in combination with other hydrocarbons.

The fossil fuel, propane, is produced from natural gas processing and the crude oil refinery process. It goes through a long process of production and the liquid propane form is stored in a pressure tank for storage before any further distribution or use in industry.

Before the natural gas goes through the process of extraction, in its raw form it consists of hydrocarbons like methane, propane, and butane which need to be separated from each other. This is the same way the hydrocarbon, propane, also goes through a separation process. Before the natural gas processing stage, it consists of 90% methane and 5% propane.

During crude oil refining, many liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) are obtained and the liquefied gas propane is also produced. The propane is easily separated as it floats on the top layer of the oil, while the lighter liquid component settles down on the floor of the tank. Propane is stored and transported in a steel cylinder.

Most LPG such as propane, butane, and isobutane are transported through high-vapor pressure pipelines in batches to purify the product during the production processes of natural gas and crude oil refineries. 

What are the uses of propane?

Propane gas is used for various purposes, such as in electric appliances, in heaters, as domestic and industrial fuel, as motor fuel, as shipping fuel, and as refrigerants.

Although propane is much costlier than natural gas, natural gas burns substantially more quickly. This means that you might need double the amount of natural gas than propane to heat two consecutive areas.

In comparison to natural gas, most people prefer propane because it is an eco-friendly gas. Propane is a neutral hydrocarbon, but natural gas contains a variety of hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane, butane, and propane. At the same time, its misuse can cause huge damage in and around the house.

Properties of propane make it highly useful. From the very time of the invention of gasoline, propane has become used in everyday life, both indoors and outdoors.

You can use propane for cooking, heating, in gas fireplaces, in clothes dryers, in pool heaters, and as barbecue fuel. You can also use propane as vehicle fuel if you have an LPG car or scooter. It is highly portable and is known to provide instant warmth with its heat-inducing system.

Even while doing recreational activities, propane is used in hot air balloons, during camping, in boats, and in travel trailers. Propane is also used as fuel for many commercial and agricultural pest control programs for crops.

Apart from this, propane is also used for heating greenhouses, in irrigation pumps, and for heating animal enclosures. The production industry is known to use propane for many purposes, such as in steam boilers, ovens, and kilns. Propane is also known to be used with butane in transportation.

What is the formula for propane?

Propane is composed of three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms and is written as C3H8. The chemical propane formula is written as CnH2n+2.

Hydrocarbons consist of hydrogen and carbon elements. The carbon-hydrogen atoms attach to each other to form a chain. Propane has three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms.

The properties of propane in its energy content is 95.8 MJ/m3, while the boiling temperature is -43.8 F (-42.1 C). Propane, although being a gas at normal atmospheric pressure, has a boiling point of -43.8 F (-42.1 C), making it easily liquefiable at higher pressures. The relative density in air is 1.53.

Propane is an important raw oil material for the ethylene petrochemical industry like other hydrocarbons ethane and paraffin. Decomposition processes in hot tubes lead ethylene to produce another product called propylene. From propylene, acetone and propylene glycol are made.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how is propane made, then why not take a look at how is Quorn made, or how is root beer made?

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Written by Anamika Balouria

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

Anamika Balouria picture

Anamika BalouriaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated and enthusiastic learner, Anamika is committed to the growth and development of her team and organization. She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English from Daulat Ram University and Indira Gandhi Institute for Open Learning respectively, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Amity University, Noida. Anamika is a skilled writer and editor with a passion for continual learning and development.
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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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