Propane 101: What’s It Made Of?

We explain where propane comes from and what’s in it

propane company maryland Households and businesses in Prince Frederick, MD, and the many communities we serve have quite a few energy choices. And a steadily growing number are choosing efficient, clean-burning propane gas for heating, hot water generation, and major appliances.

But what is propane made of, and how is it different from other fuels? At Q-Dog, we have the experience and know-how to answer all your questions about propane.

Is propane the same as natural gas?

This is a frequent point of confusion. Propane and natural gas are part of the same production pipeline and function similarly in gas-fired equipment. They’re even scented to have the same sulfurous odor. But they are distinctly different fuels.

Propane is a denser fuel than natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. (Propane is methane-free.) Utility pipes must be used to deliver natural gas directly into your home. Unfortunately, natural gas is out of the question if you’re not in an area with access to a utility.

Propane travels farther and easier because it can be compressed into a liquid form. On trucks and train cars and in cylinders and stationary propane tanks, propane is a liquid. When pressure is relieved, the propane becomes gas for use in your heating equipment and appliances.

Also worth noting: propane produces more than double the heat per cubic foot as natural gas.

What is propane made of?

Almost all propane is a co-product of natural gas extraction and crude oil refining.

Propane is primarily derived from natural gas production. Natural gas wells also extract fuels like ethane, butane, isobutane and pentane. Propane is the largest co-product of this process. It’s separated to prevent condensation buildup in pipelines, then sold separately.

Some propane comes from the stabilization phase of oil refining. During this process, heavier hydrocarbons settle at the bottom while lighter ones rise. Propane is a lighter hydrocarbon and can be separated easily.

About 90 percent of America’s propane is produced domestically. This means that the U.S. has an abundant supply of the fuel, and its price is more stable than many other energy sources.

Is propane green?

Absolutely. Propane is not a greenhouse gas. It emits minimal carbon dioxide in use. It contains no methane and virtually no particulate matter, a known carcinogen.

And propane is becoming even greener with the advent of renewable propane. Renewable propane is chemically identical to conventional propane, but it’s made using organic and recycled ingredients. For the most part, these feedstocks are considered waste. They include:

  • animal oils
  • vegetable oil
  • biomass
  • plant matter

Renewable propane’s production process has an extremely low carbon intensity (CI), so the fuel is eco-friendly. A Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) study determined that renewable propane has less than half the CI of conventional propane — and roughly one-fifth the CI of grid electricity!

Renewable propane isn’t widely used yet, but its production footprint is growing. Soon, it will reliably, affordably, and sustainably fuel homes, businesses, and even vehicles on the highway!

The team at Q-Dog proudly provides dependable propane delivery service throughout Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Southern Anne Arundel, and Southern Prince George’s counties. Contact us today to become a customer.