Everyone in Australia is familiar with LPG as a fuel for the BBQ at home or the gas stove when camping. However, some people don’t know about the many different applications for LPG, propane and butane, so it’s worth looking at their differences and relative advantages.
Propane vs butane – choosing the most environmentally friendly option
Propane, LPG and butane are all liquefied petroleum gases. Generally, the acronym LPG and the word propane are interchangeable, with propane being the preferred term in the United States and LPG preferred in Australia and New Zealand.
Propane has a lower boiling point than butane at -42°C vs -0.4°C. Propane also has about 4x the vapour pressure of butane. This makes propane a better choice for cold climates. Butane is an effective propellant due to its lower vapour pressure. In other ways butane and propane are the same.
Although there are real differences between butane vs propane vs LPG, all three gases are actually LPG – Liquefied Petroleum Gas.
Consider camping carry weight before purchasing your propane tank
Backpacking is fun, but the novelty will soon wear off if your pack is overweight, unbalanced and uncomfortable. Consider carrying one or two small butane canisters and a simple camping stove. These cannisters are cost-effective and energy efficient for spending a glorious day or two camping solo or with a friend.
If travelling by car or motorhome, make sure to visit Swap’n’Go and fill up your 9kg and 4kg gas bottles before hitting the road. LPG gas (Propane) and Butane are useful fuel sources for enjoying the Australian outdoors. For LPG service, including 45kg, 90kg, and 210kg cylinders for home or business use, contact your nearest Elgas distributor.
Understanding boiling points of butane and propane
The most important difference between propane and butane is the boiling point of the gases. Propane has a boiling temperature of -42°C, whilst butane has a higher boiling point at -2°C. This means that propane will continue to vaporize and turn to gas in colder climates, which is perfect for cold weather and outdoor use. When stored as a liquid in a tank, propane exerts a greater pressure than butane at the same temperature. This makes it very suitable for exterior storage.
Effect of propane gas and butane gas on emissions
Propane and butane are clean-burning energy sources that emit few pollutants or harmful refrigerants. They are low-carbon and safely transported. An increase in propane utilization and decrease in harmful emission fuel sources will help to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect the environment. Here are some advantages of propane.
- Lowering harmful emissions – Propane is a clean and versatile fuel. Propane emits around 26% fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than gasoline in vehicles, 38% fewer GHGs than fuel oil in furnaces and half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of a charcoal barbecue.
- Propane is an ideal fuel source for household appliances and is the perfect partner during transition to renewable energy supply.
- Reducing pollution – Air pollution effects natural and man-made ecosystems worldwide. Air contaminants contribute to ground-level ozone, haze and acid rain. Poor air quality is also known to lead to a range of major health issues. Using propane instead of other common fuels will reduce air pollution.
- Propane emits 60% less carbon monoxide (CO) than gasoline, 98% less particulate matter than diesel and contains virtually no sulphur, a contributor to acid rain.
- No spill hazard – Propane (LPG) gas cylinders are tough enough to handle regular shifting and transporting. In the unlikely event of a leak, propane becomes a vapour that dissipates quickly into the atmosphere. This is important when operating in environmentally sensitive areas.
- No fugitive emissions – ‘Fugitive emissions’ is a term for gas that escapes into the atmosphere before being combusted. Propane is a smart environmental choice as it isn’t a greenhouse gas and won’t impact the atmosphere if accidentally released prior to combustion.
Natural gas (methane), on the other hand, is a potent greenhouse gas in its unburnt state. Up to 5% of natural gas is released during transmission prior to use. This unburnt methane generates 25 times more greenhouse impact on the atmosphere than CO2.
Common uses for propane gas and butane gas
Propane has a high octane rating, making it a great choice for use with spark-ignited internal combustion engines. If spilled or released it presents no threat to the soil, surface water, or groundwater.
Propane is produced as a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. Its main uses include home heating and stand-alone heaters, hot water, cooking, refrigeration, clothes drying and powering farm and industrial equipment. The chemical industry also uses propane when making plastics and other compounds.
Butane is a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas. It’s colourless, odourless and easily liquefied. Butane typically used as fuel for lighters and portable stoves. It’s also a propellant in aerosols, a heating fuel, a refrigerant, and is used in the manufacture of a wide range of products. Butane is also found in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Since 1987, hydrocarbons have replaced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the most common propellant used in aerosols. Today, butane is found in numerous aerosol products.
Choosing the right gas for flexible application
In Australia, we’re fortunate to have access to abundant energy supplies. We are also a country of extremes, where different approaches to energy use and sustainability are appreciated. From natural gas to propane and butane, the choices are available for Australian home and business owners. Propane (LPG) plays a significant role, particularly in rural and regional areas not covered by the Australian gas pipeline network.
Elgas understands the equation, with more than 40 service centres around the country. There’s bound to be an Elgas near you for convenient supply and distribution of clean burning LPG for your home gas or business gas needs. At Elgas, We’ve perfected the delivery process, including our automated tanker delivery system and commercial bulk delivery systems. We also source quality LPG appliances from well-known brands such as Rinnai, Bosch, Paloma, Cannon and Dux.
Keep temperature sensitivity in mind when choosing the right fuel
Australia is a big country from the tropics to the snowy south, so it’s important to take the right outdoor gear with you. When it comes to outdoor cookers, butane burns perfectly fine in warm weather. However, when the temperature plummets below freezing in high altitudes you’re better off opting for propane which has a much lower boiling point.
Which is better to use: butane or propane?
Which gas is more flammable, butane or propane?
Propane produces more heat than butane and is more efficient in combustion. With both gases there are no long-term negative environmental impacts. Propane and butane are both safe, non-toxic, clean-burning fuels and a great source of energy for wide-ranging applications.
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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.