Propane Quick Facts
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.
Storage and Use
At normal temperature and pressure, propane is a gas. It changes to a liquid when cooled and moderately pressurized – about twice the pressure in a normal truck tire.
It is stored and transported in its compressed liquid form, but by opening a valve to release propane from a pressurized storage container, it is vapourized into a gas for use. Even at -40°C (-40°F), propane still vapourizes; that is why propane can even be used at extreme freezing temperatures.
- Propane is an odourless gas to which an odourant – ethyl mercaptan – has been added to help detect leaks.
- Liquid propane boils to vapour at -42.2°C (-44°F).
- In a liquid form, propane is half the weight of water.
- One unit of liquid propane has the same energy content as 270 units in gaseous form.
- About 23.5 cubic feet (0.66 m3) of air is required to burn 1 cubic foot (0.028 m3) of propane.
- Complete combustion of propane produces clean water vapour and carbon dioxide.
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.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians rely on propane in countless applications for their homes, businesses, farms and fleets.
- Heating air & water
- Fireplaces & cooking
- Fridges & dryers
- Pool heaters & generators
On the Road:
- School & transit buses
- Taxis & courier vans
- Police cars & other fleet vehicles
- Barn & greenhouse heating
- Powering irrigation systems
- Grain drying
- Mining operations
- Construction heating
- Powering fork lifts
- Metal processing
The Canadian propane industry supports 21,000 direct jobs, and each year generates more than $4.4 billion for the Canadian economy and contributes over $1 billion in taxes and royalties.
Canada produces around 11 million cubic metres of propane a year, with approximately 50% being exported. Around 92% of Canada’s supply is produced as a derivative of natural gas extraction. The remaining 8% comes from oil refining.
The cost-effectiveness of propane and its integrated infrastructure makes it the energy choice of hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Heating a home with propane can cost at least a third less than heating with electricity, while propane for vehicles typically costs around 40% less than gas and diesel.
Propane is a clean-burning energy source that is low carbon, emits virtually no air pollutants, and is safely transported and used across Canada every day.
Compared to other fuels, propane’s utilization helps to improve air quality, reduce GHG emissions and protect the environment.
- Fuel vehicles that produce far fewer harmful emissions than traditional fuels.
- Provide heat and power to rural and remote ‘off-grid’ communities across Canada, decreasing health impacting pollutants.
- Offer farms a chemical-free way to control pests and weeds, and a cleaner way to dry crops and heat barns.
- Act as a reliable and portable back-up energy source in conjunction with renewables.
In Canada provincial and federal authorities regulate the storage, handling and transportation of propane. For inquiries regarding technical or regulatory matters, please contact the applicable regulatory authority. Click here for a list of regulatory authorities.
Still have Questions?
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.