Information provided by the Propane Education and Research Council
What is propane?
An affordable, clean, American-made fuel, propane is explained as a gas normally compressed and stored as a liquid. It is most commonly used for space and water heating, for cooking, and as a fuel for engines; however, its applications are rapidly growing due to new technology developments.
- Propane is nontoxic, colorless, and virtually odorless; an identifying odor is added so it can be detected.
- Propane is also sometimes known as liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG. When used as vehicle fuel propane is known as propane autogas.
Where does propane come from?
Propane is primarily a byproduct of domestic natural gas processing, though some propane is produced from crude oil refinement. U.S. propane supplies are becoming increasingly abundant due in large part to increased supplies of natural gas.
- As shale gas extraction has increased, the production of propane from crude oil refinement has dropped dramatically. In 2011, 69 percent of the total U.S. supply of propane came from natural gas liquids produced in the U.S. and Canada.
- Much growth in propane supply is expected to come from the Marcellus shale play in the northeastern U.S. Industry observers estimate the Marcellus shale alone can supply more than 2 billion gallons of propane per year.
- Because of the drastic increase in U.S. sources of propane, the U.S. produces more than enough propane to meet current demand and became a net exporter of propane in 2011.
Though historically associated with other crude oil products, such as a gasoline or diesel fuel, propane differs from these fuels in several critical ways:
- Affordable. Propane prices have fallen relative to gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil due to the growing supply.
- Cleaner. Propane is a cleaner-burning, lower-carbon fuel than other petroleum-based products such as gasoline or diesel because it burns hotter and more efficiently.
- Abundant and Domestic. In 2011, domestic propane production from natural gas plant liquids exceeded consumer demand for the first time. Propane is an abundant bridge fuel, making it a clean-burning alternative to gasoline and diesel that can address energy challenges while long-term renewable technologies are developed.
Who uses propane?
Propane is used in 48 million households as well as many businesses for water and space heating, indoor and outdoor cooking, clothes drying, and backup power. Additionally, many industries increasingly choose propane to cost effectively fuel vehicles and equipment while lowering emissions.
- On-Road Vehicles. Propane autogas is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990 and the third most popular vehicle fuel worldwide behind gasoline and diesel. Propane is commonly used to fuel buses, light- and medium-duty trucks, vans, shuttles, taxicabs, and police and government vehicles.
- Professional Landscape Equipment. More than 15 models of propane-powered commercial lawn mowers are available today from industry-leading brands.
- Agricultural Equipment. More than 1.2 billion gallons of propane were sold for agricultural use in 2009. This includes propane that is used to run pumps and engines, heat buildings, and dry and process crops.
How is propane distributed?
With up to 56,000 miles of pipeline and nearly 6,000 retail dealer locations nationwide, propane is widely available and easily portable.
For on-road use, there are more fueling stations in the U.S. for propane autogas vehicles than there are for vehicles of any other alternative fuel except electricity. Propane is the only alternative fuel with fueling stations in every state.
How does the propane industry contribute to the economy?
The propane industry generated nearly $15 billion in direct domestic value in 2009. Nearly 50,000 workers across the U.S. are employed in propane production, transportation, and distribution.