Connection between Propane, Butane and LPG

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Home 9 Business LPG Blogs 9 Connection between Propane, Butane and LPG

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The terms Propane, Butane, and LPG are often interchanged and are usually confused. Propane’s lower boiling point and higher vapour pressure make it suitable for colder climates, while Butane’s higher boiling point makes it an excellent propellant and great for warmer climates. LPG, or Liquified Petroleum Gas, is usually a mix of both Propane and Butane. Everyone in Australia is familiar with LPG as fuel for the BBQ at home or the gas stove for camping trips. However, some people don’t know about the many other commercial applications for LPG industrial gases, propane, and butane, so it’s worth looking at their differences and advantages.

Propane vs Butane

Propane, LPG and butane are all liquefied petroleum gases, so they are the same type of gas in some ways. Generally, the acronym LPG and 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 colder climates, while butane is an effective propellant due to its higher boiling point and lower vapour pressure. When stored as a liquid in a tank, propane exerts greater pressure than butane at the same temperature. This makes it very suitable for exterior storage even in cold weather.

These industrial gases are often used with cutting attachments and welding accessories, such as in a hand-held flame torch, mig GMAW (gas metal arc welding), and other industrial applications working with mild steel and other materials.

Both butane and propane are industrial gases that are heavier than air. Propane gas weighs 1.898 kg/m³, Butane gas weighs 2.5436 kg/m³, whilst air weighs 1.225 kg/m³. 

Although there are real differences between butane, propane, and LPG, all three are technically considered Liquefied Petroleum Gases.

Effect of propane gas and butane gas on emissions

Propane and butane are often considered low-carbon because they are clean-burning fuels that emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit than other fossil fuels such as diesel. An increase in propane utilisation and a decrease in harmful emission fuel sources can help to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect the environment. Here are some advantages of choosing the most environmentally friendly option with propane (LPG).

Lowering harmful emissions – 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. It is an ideal fuel source for environmentally friendly household appliances.

Reducing 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. Using propane instead of other common fuels will reduce air pollution.

No spill hazard – Propane gas cylinders (LPG) 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.

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.

Consider weight before purchasing your camping propane tank

Backpacking is fun, but the novelty will soon wear off if your pack is overweight with a heavy gas stove. If you are looking for portability, consider carrying one or two small butane canisters and a simple camping stove. These canisters 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, an outdoor-rated portable LPG gas stove is a great choice for all your cooking needs. SWAP’n’GO has medium 3.7kg gas bottle sizes perfect for outdoor and camping use, or large 8.7kg gas bottles for longer trips. 

Just make sure that you refill or swap your bottles before hitting the road to avoid running out of gas. Find your nearest SWAP’n’GO retailer here.

Propane Uses

Propane has a high octane rating, making it a great choice for spark-ignited internal combustion engines. If spilled or released, it presents no threat to the soil, surface water, or groundwater.

Industries also use propane LPG as an alternative to acetylene for blow torch cutting attachments and hand torches. Propane is also the most common gas used for mig welding since it has a low heat index, making it ideal for soldering and welding. 

Its high BTU capacity or energy allows for a faster and cleaner cut than acetylene, making it effective for heating and bending applications. When using propane instead of acetylene, it’s highly advised to keep all cutting accessories intact, such as the flashback arrestor and regulator, to prevent the backflow of gases into the main line. Propane may have a lower heat index than acetylene, but it still packs a punch.

Propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. Its main uses include home heating and stand-alone heaters, outdoor heating for gazebo accessories, 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 Uses

Butane is a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas. It’s colourless, odourless, and easily liquefied. Butane is typically used as fuel for lighters, pencil flame torches, and portable stoves. It’s also a propellant in aerosols, used as a heating fuel or as a refrigerant, and used to manufacture a wide range of products. Butane can also be found in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Butane gas cylinders are also used for household and outdoor gas stoves, home heating, hot water, cooking, and commercial heating applications.

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 are fortunate to have access to abundant energy supplies. We are also a country of extremes, where different energy use and sustainability approaches are appreciated. From natural gas to propane and butane, the choices are available for Australian homeowners and business owners. Propane (LPG) plays a significant role, particularly in rural and regional areas not covered by the Australian natural gas pipeline network.

ELGAS understands the equation, with more than 40 service centres nationwide. 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. 

We’ve perfected the delivery process at ELGAS, including our automated tanker and commercial bulk delivery systems. 

Keep temperature sensitivity in mind when choosing the right fuel

Australia is a big country, from the tropics to the snowy south, so taking the right outdoor gear with you is important. 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 with a much lower boiling point.

Always check the user manual that comes with your gas appliances before  purchasing an LPG bottle to ensure you use the right fuel for the appliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know which size gas bottle I need?

The perfect gas bottle size depends on your usage requirements or consumption. An 8.7kg bottle is sufficient for patio heaters and barbecues. Home heating, cooking, and hot water systems need larger capacities. We recommending having two 45kg LPG gas cylinders installed for these applications.

Larger tanks, at least 90 kg or more, would be needed for higher consumption needs, small businesses, and industrial applications, such as metal cutting, brazing and large-scale heat applications.

How long does an LPG gas bottle last?

Similar to gas bottle sizes, the length of your propane or LPG gas bottle will also vary depending on your use rate. Home heating applications will also consume slightly varying rates of LPG gas or propane depending on the season and usage patterns.

An 8.7kg gas bottle used for household cooking or outdoor BBQ may last for several cookouts. On the other hand, 45kg cylinders for home heating will last for approximately one month.

How do I safely connect and disconnect a gas bottle?

When you buy from our nearest SWAP’n’GO gas bottles, you will need to connect and disconnect a gas bottle from the appliance yourself. Always ensure the gas valve is switched off when switching gas bottles.

Before disconnecting a gas bottle, be familiar with the type of regulator mounted, how to turn it off, and how to unscrew the gas hose. 

We also advise using the right regulator specifications and gas fittings or hose assembly for your appliance. After securely connecting a new gas bottle, turn on the gas valve and check for leaks by applying soapy water to the hoses.

Take note: never force gas fittings and connections if they feel too tight or won’t fit at all. If in doubt, get a licensed gasfitter to check the gas fittings for you. 

What are the safety precautions for storing propane gas bottles?

Always store your LPG bottles upright on flat surfaces and in well-ventilated areas. Keep the gas bottle away from open flames, electricity, and direct sunlight when cooking.

If you have a spare full gas bottle, store it in dry places away from windows and entryways to avoid direct sunlight or falling and causing an accident.

How can I check for leaks on a gas bottle?

Oftentimes, a leak is determined by the smell of rotting eggs or a distinct gas smell. You can apply soapy water to the gas connections and the tank itself and watch for bubbles that indicate leaking gas.

If you find indications of a leak, immediately turn off the valve and disconnect the gas bottle only when it is safe. Move the gas bottle to an open area and call our emergency hotline at 1800 819 783

What should I do if my gas bottle is empty?

You can easily replace 3.5kg and 8.7kg LPG gas bottles at our SWAP’n’GO locations across Australia and New Zealand. Simply take your empty gas bottles to our swap stations and exchange them for a full one.

We also refill empty propane gas cylinders at our refill stations or can deliver LPG to your location.

Business LPG can be delivered via forklift supply and bulk LPG. Our ELGAS engineers and technicians assist you with refilling your LPG storage tanks.

How do I dispose of an old or damaged gas bottle?

If you have an empty propane gas cylinder lying at home consumed by rust and wear, here’s what you need to do:

Do not throw your LPG gas bottles in rubbish bins or for kerbside pickup. Empty and old gas bottles may still hold gas, exposing you and municipal kerbside pickup to safety risks. 

Contact our team at 131 161 for LPG pickup and removal. We carefully handle old and damaged LPG gas bottles and perform several tests. Our processes will determine whether the gas bottles are still safe for repair and refilling or declared unsafe and for disposal. We’ll then punch a hole in unsafe bottles and properly dispose of them.

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