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Does Propane (LPG) Produce Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide – CO – is a toxic gas.

Natural gas or propane (LPG) appliances can produce carbon monoxide when they burn with incomplete combustion.

Properly functioning gas appliances produce little, if any, carbon monoxide.

Complete and Incomplete Combustion

Propane – LPG – burns within its limits of flammability.

The lower and upper limits of flammability are the percentages of LPG that must be present in an LPG/air mixture.

This means that between 2.15% and 9.6% of the total LPG/air mixture must be LPG in order for it to be combustible.

Blue flame with complete comustion of LPGHowever, the optimal mixture is 4% LPG/air.  So, 4 parts LPG (propane) to 96 parts air.

With complete combustion, the burner produces a blue flame.

So, richer mixtures, those closer to 9.6%, are likely to suffer from incomplete combustion.

A yellow flame, the collection of soot and excessive water vapour condensation are three physical signs of incomplete combustion.

The natural gas – methane – limits of flammability are different, at 5.4% to 17%.

The optimal combustion mixture for methane is also different, at approximately 10.42%.

Combustion Formula Equation for LPG - Propane

In the presence of sufficient oxygen, LPG burns to form water vapour and carbon dioxide, as well as heat.

Formula Equation for Complete Combustion of LPG - Propane:

Propane + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water + Heat

C3H8 + 5 O2 → 3 CO2 + 4 H2O + Heat

If not enough oxygen is present for complete combustion, incomplete combustion occurs with water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide being produced.

Formula Equation for Incomplete Combustion of LPG - Propane:

Propane + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Carbon Monoxide + Water + Heat

2 C3H8 + 9 O2 → 4 CO2 + 2 CO + 8 H2O + heat

Using Approved Appliances and Gas Fitters

Australian Gas Association certification labelsAustralia has some of the most stringent standards on gas appliance combustion emissions of any country in the world. 

This makes our indoor gas heaters very safe to use.

The gases of primary concern are CO (carbon monoxide) and NOX (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide).  

These gases can be produced during combustion.

To be certified for use in Australia, indoor gas heaters must meet or surpass these strict standards. 

Only buy or use Australian tested, certified and labelled gas appliances.

Make sure your gas appliances are installed by a licensed gas fitter and that you have adequate ventilation.

Finally, when you use your gas appliances, always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Don't Use Outdoor Gas Heaters Indoors

outdoor radiant heaterThe same requirements are not applicable to outdoor heaters and appliances.

Because they are intended for outdoor use, with unrestricted ventilation, they are not required to meet the indoor heater emission standards. 

This includes heaters, BBQs, pizza ovens and all other outdoor appliances.

If a gas appliance has been marked for outdoor use only, do not use it indoors or in partially-enclosed areas without adequate ventilation.

Never use an outdoor gas appliance indoors.

Gas Appliances Maintenance

Most gas appliance manufacturers recommend routine maintenance every 12 or 24 months.

This can vary by manufacturer and appliance model.

It is important that your gas appliances are only service by qualified technicians. 

In most cases, this means a licensed gas fitter or a factory technician. 

Good maintenance helps ensure proper combustion and minimal CO generation.

Yellow flames are a warning signKey warning signs that your gas appliance requires servicing are a yellow or red flame, a flame with a yellow burning tip, the accumulation of yellow/brown soot around the appliance, pilot lights that frequently blow out or an acrid smell and eye irritation. 

The exceptions to this are gas fireplaces and gas log fires that are designed to have yellow flames.

The above signs may be indications of incomplete combustion. 

The result is that you could be wasting gas and/or generating carbon monoxide. 

The latter is a serious safety problem, if it occurs with an indoor appliance. 

If you observe any of these warning signs, you should schedule a service ASAP.     

Detecting Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

CO is slightly less dense than air, so it rises.

It is considered toxic when encountered in concentrations above about 35 ppm

It is lethal in 30 minutes at 4,000ppm.  It drops to 5 minutes at 5,000ppm.

Health symptoms of CO poisoning includes headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, light-headedness and loss of consciousness.

If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning while operating any gas appliance, you should stop using it immediately, move to an area where you can breathe fresh air and seek medical attention.

If you smell gas, it is not carbon monoxide, it is the odourant added to natural gas or LPG.

You should immediately deal with the leaking gas.

Turn off the gas and ventilate the room, if safe to do so.

The best way to detect carbon monoxide is with a CO detector.

These can be purchased from many retailers, including hardware stores, as well as from online merchant.

At the time of this writing, at least one major hardware chain and various online merchants had a choice of models, for under $50 each.

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

Final Thoughts

When used and maintained correctly, indoor gas appliances are very safe.

Just remember to never use outdoor gas appliances indoors.

There is nothing like the warmth you get from a gas heater, the fun of cooking with gas or the beautiful warmth of a gas fireplace.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Comments, questions or feedback?
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The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free and may not be applicable in all circumstances.

How BBQ Gas Bottles – Propane Tanks – Are Made

How BBQ Gas Bottles – Propane Tanks – Are Made

The manufacturing of BBQ gas bottles – propane tanks – requires excellent quality control to assure long life and safe use.

Most users expect a minimum of 20 years of use, so premium materials and quality manufacturing are a must.

But how are they made?

Starting with the Cylinder Body

The process starts with a coil of sheet steel.

The sheet is fed through a strong punch press, creating circular blanks of about 48cm (19 inches) in diameter (image below).

Steel disc blanks for forming the cylinder body

The circular blanks then go through a powerful hydraulic press, as shown below, which draws the steel disc into the shape of a half of a cylinder.

Steel disc pressed into half of a cylinder

An automated trimmer gives it a clean edge so the two halves can be welded together evenly, without any gaps.

Cylinder Add-Ons

A hole is punched into the top of the cylinder and a threaded valve flange is inserted, as shown.

Valve flange for screwing in the valve

An automated welding station, shown in the following image, fuses the flange to the top of the tank.

Valve flange is automatically welded in place

This provides a secure sealed opening for screwing in the tank valve.

Steel strips are punched and formed into the circular foot rings.

The foot rings (below) are welded to the bottom of the tank with another automated welding machine.

Foot ring is welded in place

In a similar process, the neck ring is punched and formed from another strip of steel and welded to the top half of the tank.

The difference is the secondary bending that is done to form the gas bottle handle.

About the Valve

Brass valve for BBQ gas bottleThe main valve on a BBQ tank is made out of brass.

Why brass? 

Brass is considered to be "non-sparking", so there is less chance of any accidental ignition.

The valve also has an integral Pressure Relief Valve (PRV).

The PRV is the single most critical safety feature on an LPG cylinder. 

It is incorporated within the main valve and appears as the protrusion opposite the main connection. 

Pressure relief valves are designed to relieve excess pressure that might result from overfilling or exposure to excessive heat or fire. 

The function of a PRV is to keep a cylinder from rupturing in the unlikely event of excessive pressure build-up.

The pressure relief valves are held in the closed position by the force of a powerful spring inside.  

As long as the pressure is less than that of the spring, the valve will remain closed. 

Stamped On Information

The neck ring contains a lot of important information that is stamped into the steel.

This information typically includes:

• Cylinder manufacturer name

Country of manufacture

Date of manufacture, which is important for the tank re-testing date reference

Test station identification

Tare weight – empty weight of the cylinder

Water capacity, which is indicative of volumetric capacity

A hydraulic stamp is used to embed this information into the steel of the neck ring.

Space also remains on the neck ring for additional date stamps, required when the cylinder is retested in the future.

 Final Assembly

The two tank halves come together and are welded in a special rotary welding station (shown below).

Two cylinder halves are welded together

Entire tank is then heat tempered, in a furnace (as shown below), to provide for the correct hardness required for the expansion and contraction that occurs during pressurisation.

gas cylinders going through a tempering oven

Tanks are painted on an automated electrostatic paint line with electrostatically charged powdered paint, as seen in this image:

Eloectrostatic painting of the gas bottles

This process helps assure full and even paint coverage.

The last assembly step is the valve insertion (below) and tightening.

Inserting the valve for tightening

Testing

There are a number of tests performed to assure a quality product.

Testing is done on the weld seams to assure that they are as strong as the adjacent steel.

A water pressurisation test is done to test for expansion.  This assures that the heat tempering was properly done.

Prior to valve insertion, the tank undergoes an internal inspection, using a small video camera, to look for contamination or corrosion inside the tank.

The final test involves the air pressurisation of the tanks, whilst they are submerged (see below), to test for leaks.

Water pressurisation test

Final Thoughts

Most people don't realise how much goes into making a BBQ gas bottle.

Quality is paramount to ensure long life and safety.

 

 

 

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All images courtesy of Worthington Industries

The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free and may not be applicable in all circumstances.

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