The Properties & Composition of LPG

LPG is primarily composed of propane, butane, isobutane and mixtures of these gases.

LPG exists as liquid or gas (vapour), depending on pressure and temperature.

LPG has many properties including density (specific gravity), flame temperature, boiling point, flash point, vapour pressure, odour, appearance, energy content, gaseous expansion, combustion formula, limits of flammability, nomenclature and molecular formula.

We’ll review these most commonly referenced properties…

What is the Composition of LPG? Which Gas is Present in LPG?

LPG is composed of propane, butane & isobutane.LPG – Liquefied Petroleum Gas – describes flammable hydrocarbon gases including propane, butane and mixtures of these gases.

LPG, liquefied through pressurisation, comes from natural gas processing and oil refining.

In different countries, what is supplied can be propane, butane or propane-butane blends.

In Australia, LPG is just propane.

10 Important LPG Facts

1. LPG (or LP Gas) is the acronym for Liquefied Petroleum Gas or Liquid Petroleum Gas.

2. LPG is a group of flammable hydrocarbon gases that are liquefied through pressurisation and commonly used as fuel.

3. LPG comes from natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

4. There are a number of gases that fall under the “LPG” label, including propane, butane and isobutane (i-butane), as well as mixtures of these gases..

5. LPG gases can all be compressed into liquid at relatively low pressures.

6. LPG is frequently used for fuel in heating, cooking, hot water and vehicles, as well as for refrigerants, aerosol propellants and petrochemical feedstock.

7. LPG is generally stored, as a liquid, in steel vessels ranging from small BBQ gas bottles to larger gas cylinders and storage tanks. (45kg gas bottles shown)

8. "Wet gas" is a term that is sometimes used to describe LPG, as a result of its liquidity. 
9. It may also be referred to as a Natural Gas Liquid -- NGL.
10. Propane does not occur alone naturally. 

LPG = Propane

It is also called LPG Gas, LP Gas, Propane, BBQ Gas, Camping Gas or Autogas.
LPG can be other gases in other countries. 
Propane is a three carbon molecule with the formula C3H8
A model of the molecule is shown in the illustration.

LPG (Propane) Properties Chart

LPG (Propane) Properties Chart
LPG Boiling Point
-42 °C  or  -44 °F
LPG Melting - Freezing Point
-188 °C  or  -306.4 °F
Specific Gravity of Liquid LPG
0.495 (25°C)
LPG Gaseous Density
1.898 kg/m3 (15°C)  or  0.1162 lb/ft3
Energy Content of LPG
25 MJ/L or 91,547 BTU/Gal (60°F)
LPG Gaseous Expansion
1 L (liquid) = 0.27 M3 (gas)
Flame Temperature
1967 ºC  or  3573 ºF
Limits of Flammability
2.15% to 9.6% LPG/air
Autoignition Temperature
470 °C  or  878 °F
Molecular Weight
44.097 kg/kmole
  Note: Some numbers have been rounded.

LPG Boiling Point

Water boils at 100°C or 212°F, becoming a gas (steam).  

In contrast, LPG boils at -42°C or -44°F, becoming gas vapour.  

LPG stays liquid because it is under pressure in a gas cylinder. 

As a liquid, it looks a lot like water.

It is colourless and odourless in its natural state. 

LPG Melting Point - Freezing Point

Water freezes at 0°C or 32°F, becoming ice.

LPG freezes at a much lower temperature.

LPG (propane) melting point/freezing point is at -188°C or -306.4°F.

LPG Pressure Varies with Temperature

As previously mentioned, when LPG is stored in a gas bottle, it is under pressure. 

The term “pressure” refers to the average force per unit of area that the gas exerts on the inside walls of the gas bottle. 

(LPG Pressure-Temperature Chart shown)

LPG Pressure-Temperature ChartPressure is measured in kilopascals (kPa) or pounds per square inch (psi).

“Bar” is yet another unit of measure for pressure. 

1 Bar = 100 kPa, so it is metric based but not an SI unit of measure.

LPG pressure can vary greatly based on temperature, as shown in the chart.

The level of fill in the gas bottle comes into play when the LPG is being used, as it affects the rate of vapourisation. 

As LPG is a liquefied gas, the pressure inside the cylinder will remain the same from full until the last of the liquid LPG is vapourised. 

Then the pressure will fall quickly as the last of the LPG vapour is used, as well.

Odourant is Added for Safety

In its natural state, LPG is an odourless gas.
The distinctive smell that people associate with LPG is actually added to it as a safety measure.
Without the addition of an odourant, leaking gas could collect without being detected.

Avoid Direct Contact - Cold Burns

Caution should always be used to avoid direct exposure, as liquid LPG is cold enough to cause severe cold burns on exposed skin.

LPG Density and Specific Gravity

LPG – propane – gas density is 1.55 times heavier than air at 1.898 kg/m3 vs 1.225 kg/m3 for air (both 15°C at sea level).

LPG – propane – liquid density is about half that of water at 495 kg/m3 (25°C) vs 1,000 kg/m3 (4°C) for water.

Specific gravity of propane and water is 0.495 (25°C) and 1.000 (4°C), respectively.

LPG Density - Specific Gravity of Liquid LPG

Density of LPGUnlike water, 1 kilogram of LPG does NOT equal 1 litre of LPG. 
LPG density or specific gravity is about half that of water, at 0.51.  
In Australia, where LPG is propane, 1kg of LPG has a volume of 1.96L. 
Conversely, 1L of LPG (propane) weighs 0.51kg. 
1 gallon of liquid propane weighs 4.24 pounds.
The specific gravity (SG) of liquid LPG – Propane – is 0.495 (at 25°C)
Propane is 580.88 kg/m3 (at boiling point)
The specific gravity (SG) of liquid Butane is 0.601 (at 25°C)
Butane is 601.26 kg/m3 (at boiling point)

What is the Density of LPG Gas? LPG is Heavier than Air

The density of gaseous LPG – Propane –  is 1.898 kg/m3 (at 15°C and sea level).
1 ft3 of propane weighs 0.1162 pounds.
Butane is 2.5436 kg/m3 (at 15°C and sea level)
In contrast, the density of Air is 1.225 kg/m3 (at 15°C and sea level).
So, LPG is heavier than air.
Note that LPG gas is also referred to as LPG vapour, which is the more technically correct term.

Energy Content of LPG

LPG (propane) contains approximately 25MJ per litre. 
This also converts to 6.9kWh.
One gallon of propane contains 91,547 BTU (60°F).

LPG Gaseous Expansion

Gaseous expansionLPG expands to 270 times the volume when it goes from liquid to gas. 
So, 1L of liquid LPG (propane) equals 270L of gaseous LPG.   
As there are 1000L in a cubic meter (M3), 1L of liquid LPG expands to 0.27M3.

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 monoxide, and carbon dioxide 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

LPG Flame Temperature

Blue flame with complete comustion of LPGAn LPG (propane) flame burns at 1980°C. 
When it is burning properly, the flame is blue
A yellow or red flame is usually indicative of incomplete combustion.

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.

LPG Flash Point Temperature

The flash point of LPG (propane) is  -104°C or -156°F.  
This is the minimum temperature at which propane will burn on its own after having been ignited.   
Below this temperature, it will stop burning on its own.  
However, if a source of continuous ignition is present, it will burn below  -104°C.

Autoignition Temperature

The autoignition temperature is the lowest temperature at which it will spontaneously ignite in air without an external source of ignition, like a spark or flame.
The autoignition temperature decreases as the pressure or oxygen concentration increases.
The autoignition temperature of LPG – Propane – is 470 °C or 878°F.
The autoignition temperature of Butane is 405°C or 761°F.

Dissipation

LPG gas is heavier than air and will sink to and collect at the lowest point.  
If LPG is vented to the outside air, it will quickly dissipate with the slightest movement of air.   
Conversely, if LPG is vented into a sealed structure, with no air movement, the LPG gas will collect on the floor and rise vertically as more LPG is vented into the structure.

Molecular Weight for LPG – Propane – Butane – Isobutane

The molecular weight for LPG – Propane – is 44.097 kg/kmole.
The molecular weight for Butane (n-butane) is 58.12 kg/kmole.
For Isobutane (i-butane), the molecular weight is the same as for n-butane at 58.12 kg/kmole.

LPG Vapour (Gas) Use vs. Liquid Use

LPG (propane) can be supplied in either liquid or vapour. 
The difference is in the extraction from cylinder or vessel in which it is supplied.
Most LPG applications use vapour.  
Appliances such as water heaters, room heaters and cookers all use vapour.  
If these appliances were to have liquid LPG flow to their burners, the result could possibly be a fire or similar safety hazard.  
This is why LPG cylinders should always be kept upright, so that only vapour is released.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About LPG

While you may know some of these facts, chances are you don’t know all of them. 

Have a read and learn more about:

  1. Real LPG Explosions are Really Rare

  2. Simulated Natural Gas from LPG

  3. The Source of LPG

  4. Australian Made Energy

  5. LPG is a Renewable Energy Source

  6. LPG is NOT Coal Seam Gas (CSG)

1. LPG Cylinder Explosions are Extremely Rare + Video

Propane tank peril courtesy of Myth BustersHollywood and the media would have you believe that LPG cylinder explosions are a common event. 

In fact, explosions are quite rare and it is quite difficult to even intentionally make an LPG cylinder explode. 

You’ll enjoy watching this Myth Busters Video where they try to make a cylinder explode.

Gas explosions are typically the result of gas leaking into a confined space, like a kitchen. 

This is no more likely with LPG than with piped natural gas. 

In many cases, the gas bottle itself is not even involved in the event, as gas bottles are always stored outdoors.

2. Simulated Natural Gas from LPG

Most people have never even heard of Simulated Natural Gas (SNG) let alone know that it can be made with LPG. 

SNG is produced by mixing vapourised LPG with air.

SNG can be used in place of natural gas, as it has virtually identical combustion characteristics. 

It can be used alone or mixed with regular natural gas. 

No changes are required in burners, regulators or gas jets.

There are a number of reasons that SNG might be used:

•  To help meet peak demand when natural gas supplies are inadequate

•  To operate while in preparation for the start-up of a natural gas supply

•  As a stand-by in the event of a natural gas supply disruption

Simulated natural gas has a number of names.  In addition to SNG, it is also called propane-air and LPG-air.

3. The Source of LPG

Many people mistakenly think of LPG as a by-product. 

In reality, LPG is a valuable co-product that is produced from gas fields and crude oil refining.

The gas stream from natural gas fields is processed to separate the gases present, including methane, ethane, propane, butanes and pentanes. 

Impurities are also removed, including water.

The produced gases are each funnelled into their own supply streams. 

Propane and butane, the two common types of LPG, are captured and stored in their liquefied form.

The same is true of crude oil refining. 

The refinery process creates a number of co-products including gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, naphtha, kerosene and LPG.

4. LPG is Australian Made Energy

LPG is the only motor fuel in which Australia is self-reliant. 

Unlike both petrol and diesel, for which Australia relies on imports, we actually produce more LPG than we consume.

Not only is Australia completely self-sufficient in LPG but it is also a net exporter of LPG. 

In 2013, Australia produced 2.3 Million tonnes of LPG, satisfying a local demand of 1.5 million tonnes with net exports of 815,000 tonnes.

5. LPG is now a Renewable Energy Source

LPG is now a renewable energy source

LPG has gone from being a traditional fossil fuel to a new form of renewable energy. 

Scientists have created a genetically engineered version of the common E. coli bacteria that produces propane (LPG). 

So, LPG is now a renewable energy.

The bacteria consume sugar and are tricked, through genetic modification and the help of a couple of enzymes, into making propane instead of their normal cellular material. 

The propane produced is chemically identical to regular propane. 

6. LPG is NOT Coal Seam Gas (CSG)

There is some confusion over what Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is and what it is not. 

LPG is not CSG.

While CSG may contain a number of gases, it is characteristically 95% to 97% pure Methane. 

LPG is not Methane. 

LPG is Propane.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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