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Know your propane basics

What is Propane?

Propane is an efficient and portable fuel composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms – chemical symbol C3H8 – that is a derivative of natural gas processing and oil refining.

Recognized for its low environmental impact by Canada’s Alternative Fuels Act, propane is one of the cleanest and most versatile fuels in existence. Propane’s greenhouse gas (GHG) and particulate emissions are significantly lower than most other carbon-based fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and heating oil.

Propane is from the family of light hydrocarbons, called natural gas liquids (NGL) when sourced from natural gas processing or liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) when sourced from oil refining. Other members of the NGL and LPG families include butane and ethane.

Propane is a safe and reliable energy source

Propane is stored and transported in its compressed liquid form, but by opening a valve to release propane from a pressurized storage container, it is vaporized for use.

Recognize the smell of propane

An odorant called ethyl mercaptan is added to propane so that leaks are easily detected.

Make sure your family recognizes the smell of propane – like rotten eggs or a skunk. Also, learn how and where to shut off the propane supply to your tank and appliances.

Any time you smell propane…

  • FLAMES OUT – cigarettes, fires, sparks or electronic devices.
  • PEOPLE OUT – get everyone out of the building and don’t go back in until experts say it is safe.
  • PROPANE OFF – if it is safe to do so, shut off the main propane supply valve on your propane tank.
  • CALL-IN – call your propane retailer – if you can’t reach them, call fire services.
  • CHECK-UP – don’t try to use your propane tank or appliances until a qualified inspector has inspected your entire system.

Also know that:

  • Propane has the lowest flammability range of all alternative fuels (2.4% – 9.5%) – so there must be a very specific combination of propane and oxygen for it to burn.
  • Propane’s auto ignition temperature is approximately 493° – 549°C (920° – 1020°F), gasoline’s auto ignition temperature is around 257 °C (495°F) – therefore, gasoline will burn or explode at a much lower temperature than propane.

Transportation of Propane & Propane Cylinders
Transport Canada administers and enforces the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Act & Regulations, which specifies requirements for transporting propane, such as means of containment, safety marks, training, permits and emergency response assistance plans.

The Canadian Propane Association and its subsidiary Emergency Response Assistance Canada offer the following services to its members to assist in complying with the TDG Act & Regulations:

  • TDG Emergency Response Assistance Plans (ERAPs)
    The TDG Act requires that before a person offers for transport or imports certain dangerous goods, the person must have an approved Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP). For assistance with ERAPs, please see the Emergency Response Assistance Canada (ERAC) website.
  • Equivalency Certificates (Permits)
    If a person wishes to carry on an activity related to transporting dangerous goods, in a way that is not technically in compliance with the TDG Regulations, he or she can apply for a permit for the activity if it can be shown to provide an equivalent level of safety and compliance with the intent of the regulations. The CPA has applied for and holds a number of these valid permits on behalf of members. For more information, see our Equivalency Certificates page.

Weights & Measure

Measurement Canada is the authority responsible for ensuring equity and accuracy where propane is bought and sold on the basis of measurement. Click here for information.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Environmental Emergency (E2) Regulations

Environmental Emergency (E2) plans are required by Environment and Climate Change Canada for all industries that have large volumes of hazardous substances produced or stored at their facilities. ERAC can assist Plan Participants in meeting the regulations.

The objectives of the E2 Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) are to reduce the frequency and consequences of uncontrolled, unplanned or accidental releases of hazardous substances into the environment.

Under these regulations, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) requires any person who owns or manages propane on a property, at or above the threshold of 4.5 tonnes, to notify ECCC when this quantity threshold is met or when the maximum container capacity meets or exceeds this threshold.  If the total quantity and container capacity threshold are both met, there is an additional requirement to prepare and exercise an E2 plan. The E2 plan ensures that any individual that owns or manages specific toxic or hazardous substances above a certain threshold has a plan for preparedness, prevention, response and recovery in the event of an environmental emergency.

History

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

Key historical moments include:

  • 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.