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Propane

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  • Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula C3H8, normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central heating.
    A mixture of propane and butane, used mainly as vehicle fuel, is commonly known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP gas).
  • It may also contain small amounts of propylene and/or butylene. All commercial propane fuels include an odorant, almost always ethanethiol, so that people can easily smell the gas in case of a leak.
  • Propane is produced as a by-product of two other processes, natural gas processing and petroleum refining. The processing of natural gas involves removal of butane, propane, and large amounts of ethane from the raw gas, in order to prevent condensation of these volatiles in natural gas pipelines.
  • Additionally, oil refineries produce some propane as a by-product of cracking petroleum into gasoline or heating oil. The supply of propane cannot easily be adjusted to meet increased demand, because of the by-product nature of propane production. About 90% of U.S. propane is domestically produced.
    The advantage of propane in cars is its liquid state at a moderate pressure. Meanwhile it is noticeably cleaner (both in handling, and in combustion), results in less engine wear (due to carbon deposits) without diluting engine oil (often extending oil-change intervals), and until recently was a relative bargain in North America.
  • Commercially available "propane" fuel, or LPG, is not pure. Typically in the USA and Canada, it is primarily propane (at least 90%), with the rest mostly ethane, propylene, butane, and odorants including ethyl mercaptan.
  • This is the HD-5 standard, (Heavy Duty-5% maximum allowable propylene content, and no more than 5% butanes and ethane) defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials by its Standard 1835 for internal combustion engines. Not all products labelled "propane" conform to this standard.
  • Propane powers about 190,000 vehicles in the United States and more than 14 million worldwide.
  • Propane vehicles are a good choice for many fleet applications, including school buses, shuttle buses, taxis and light-duty trucks. The advantages of propane as an alternative fuel include its domestic availability, performance, safety, and clean-burning qualities.

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