Your Guide to How Propane is Made

There is a reason why Hank Hill would refer to propane so fondly as “Sweet Lady Propane” – it’s a hallmark resource for its various uses. You don’t need to be a propane enthusiast like him to understand how this liquid energy is instrumental in parts of our everyday lives. Propane supply is a constant with demand, with propane suppliers in Grand Prairie to numerous suppliers around the globe. Yet, it’s not understood very well for a substance we use every day. See how propane is made and understand why it’s a commonly used resource for many.

What is Propane?

On a chemical level, propane is a three-carbon alkane that comes in the form of gas, with its molecular formula being C3H8. In layman’s terms, propane is known mainly as liquified petroleum gas – which is compressed and stored as a liquid.

At first glance, propane is a colourless liquid and is generally odourless. However, some might attest that propane does have a smell, which is simultaneously true but not true. The scent you might get from propane comes from people consciously adding an identifying odour so it can be easier to detect since it’s a flammable substance.

How is Propane Used?

Cooking gas - lighting stove

You can find propane being used in practically everything and everywhere, from common residential homes to being imperative in industrial uses. The beauty behind the versatility of propane comes from how it’s a compressed gas. As a compressed gas, it makes for a convenient, transportable liquid used for energy.

Yet, in what ways does propane create energy? Well, there are plenty! You can see propane at work through space and water heating in your own home. In turn, propane’s power helps keep your home warm during colder months and something as simple as being able to cook. You may notice during the summer months that people go out to buy propane tanks since they help fire up BBQ grills.

Since it has energetic properties, propane is also a great means of fuel. It’s used to power many engines like forklifts, farm irrigation engines, fleet vehicles, and buses. And naturally, propane is used to fuel the ordinary cars you see driving by every day. When propane is used in vehicles, it’s known as propane autogas.

There are many applications with propane already, but it’s only rapidly growing further as we innovate with new technological developments.

How is Propane Made?

You can’t know how propane is made without understanding the processes that formed its creation. And interestingly enough, propane is a byproduct of two approaches – natural gas production and crude oil refinement.

Propane is extracted from liquid components in natural gas production to prevent condensation in natural gas pipelines. Meanwhile, propane is produced at various stages in crude oil refining through fractional distillation under pressure or the stabilization stage. These processes make heavier hydrocarbons sink to the bottom while lighter hydrocarbons like propane are easily removed from the top layer of the mix.

These methods of extracting propane are common but have been contentious with environmental issues. However, despite that, the future for propane is still bright! Instead of using finite resources like oil in most common processes, there is also a method for making renewable propane.

The energy from oil comes from ancient organisms, known as fossil fuel, which renewable propane processes emulates differently. The process to produce renewable propane is made from a mix of waste residues and sustainably sourced materials. These include agricultural waste products, cooking oil, and meat fats. In addition, it can be produced as a co-product of biodiesel production, where feedstocks go through a series of complex treatments. They are then merged with hydrogen, where it goes through a process called hydrogenolysis, which purifies the energy content.

Propane production will remain a constant in our lives as a necessary resource. The demand is never low – if anything, it’s constantly increasing. The various uses that propane provides have become an integral part of our everyday lives. All that we have, use, and enjoy is thanks to propane’s energy. Despite propane being a byproduct of non-environmentally processes, its makeup can easily be emulated and produced in a greener way nowadays. If anything, the future of how propane is made will only get better and will always remain in our lives.