Propane 101

About propane

Propane is a low-emission, portable energy source composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms – chemical symbol C₃H₈. Produced in Canada, propane is transported to and used in every corner of the country. Sometimes also known as liquid petroleum gas or LPG, propane naturally occurs with petroleum deposits and the associated natural gas that accumulates in subterranean reservoirs made of porous layers of sandstone and carbonate rock.

Propane is a colourless, odourless gas which is why an odorant, ethyl mercaptan, is added for leak detection. It is easily liquefied and is stored and transported in pressure cylinders, making it a versatile energy source that can be used almost anywhere, from powering farms for crop drying, irrigation, and barn heating to heating homes and commercial buildings in remote communities in the Canadian North. Its applications are vast and its reach extensive.

Auto Propane powers Canadian fleets to reduce emissions and costs

Propane is known as auto propane when it is used to power vehicles. It is a clean-burning alternative energy source that’s been used for decades to power light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles. It is Canada’s most popular low-emission alternative vehicle energy source: police services, taxis, airport transportation and school bus providers are switching to propane because it gives them lower emissions, increased savings, proven safety and reliability.

Propane is important building block for essential Canadian products

Propane is also an important building block for Canada’s growing petrochemical industry. Propane is converted into higher value polypropylene used to make many important plastic products used around the world, from dentures to cell phones, automobiles, even Canadian currency. By upgrading here at home instead of shipping our product internationally, Canada reduces emissions, making it one of the most responsible and lowest emissions petrochemical producers in the world.

Why are more Canadians choosing propane?

Demand for propane is growing in Canada. Cleaner, affordable and readily
accessible, propane can go anywhere – propane is energy for all.

Clean

Propane is recognized for its low emissions and environmental impact by Canada’s Alternative Fuels Act. Substituting heating oil and diesel with propane saves consumers money and reduces greenhouse gases and air pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.

Economical

Propane’s cost compared to other energy sources is typically lower. It is an efficient-burning energy source, producing many more units of energy than several other fuel sources. Propane appliances also have a much shorter energy savings payback period.

Abundant

Canada has an abundant supply of propane. Approximately 50 per cent of the propane Canada produces is used here while the remainder is exported to overseas markets.

Reliable

Even during extreme weather events and natural disasters, propane continues to deliver vital energy to consumers. Propane is not dependent on the electrical grid so it can continue to reliably heat and power homes, institutions like hospitals and schools, and commercial applications such as farms – even when the electricity goes out.

Immediate

Propane can immediately help Canada reduce its emissions. While other energy options require largescale infrastructure spending or further technological development, propane is ready to go today.

Propane Applications

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians rely on propane in countless applications for their homes, businesses, farms and fleets.

At Home:

Heating air & water
Fireplaces & cooking
Fridges & dryers
Pool heaters & generators

On the Road:

School & transit buses
Taxis & courier vans
Police cars & other fleet vehicles

In Agriculture:

Barn & greenhouse heating
Powering irrigation systems
Grain drying

In Industry:

Mining operations
Construction heating
Powering forklifts
Metal processing

Where does propane come from?

More than 93% of the propane produced in Canada is a derivative of natural gas processing. The remaining amount is produced from crude oil refining. It was first discovered as a compound in gasoline in 1911, with scientists discovering a way to condense, capture and store propane and other hydrocarbons, which were previously wasted when they evaporated from gasoline.
Propane is produced from liquid components recovered during natural gas processing. These components include ethane, methane, propane, and butane, as well as heavier hydrocarbons. Propane and butane, along with other gases, are also produced during crude oil refining.
Propane is 270 times denser as a liquid than as a gas, and therefore the extracted propane is stored and transported as a liquid. Because propane is colorless and odorless, an odorant is added for detection.

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Renewable propane

In addition to conventional propane, renewable propane—which is produced from renewable feedstocks—is also being explored. Chemically identical to conventional propane, renewable propane is made from sustainably sourced and technically approved raw materials, including vegetable oils, waste and residues.

Renewable propane is chemically identical to conventional propane and can be blended and used by all existing appliances suitable for use with propane. It is currently available for production and sale in Europe and the United States.

Since its first utilization in the early 1900s, the application of propane has continued to grow across Canada and around the world.

1911 – U.S. Bureau of Mines discovers a way to condense, capture and store propane, butane and other hydrocarbons, which were previously wasted when they evaporated from gasoline.

1927 – The first known use of propane in Canada; Dominion Oxygen Gas of Toronto imports 100lb cylinders by rail from West Virginia.

1934 – A propane odourant is created in order to make the detection of leaks easier.

1934 – Imperial Oil develops the first refinery to produce propane on a commercial scale in Montreal, Canada.

1949 – A branch of the US-based LP Gas Association is founded in Canada.

1950s – Propane distribution reaches across Canada, and many regional propane retailers get their start.

1960s – Canadian industry pioneers, including Dome Petroleum, Amoco, Imperial Oil and British American, build and operate fractionation plants in Alberta.

1970 – The Sarnia propane storage and fractionation plant comes on line, receives natural gas liquids from the Interprovincial Pipeline and becomes a hub for the eastern Canadian propane industry.

1970s & 80s – Strong growth in the use of propane as an automotive fuel, spurred by the oil crisis.

2000s – Shale gas production greatly increases the North American supply of propane.

2011 – Canadian Propane Association launched after the Propane Gas Association of Canada (PGAC) and Ontario Propane Association (OPA) unite.