What is LPG? In Belgium and the Netherlands LPG is seen as a clean and cheap alternative to petrol or diesel. Otherwise known as autogas. And they would be right. But LPG is much more than vehicle fuel for economical, eco-conscious drivers.
What is LPG?
LPG stands for liquefied petroleum gas. It is a collective noun for all mixtures of light gaseous hydrocarbons, such as propane and butane, including what we might call autogas. So how is LPG produced? LPG is actually a by-product of the production and processing of natural gas (by condensation) or the refining of crude oil. Liquification occurs under huge pressure to facilitate storage, transport and supply. Before use it is converted back into a gas.
What forms does LPG come in and what is it used for?
Propane, butane and autogas (which is a mix of both) belong in the category of liquified petroleum gas. Due to their specific properties and flexible storage options, they are suited to various applications.
- Propane is often stored in bottles and tanks as a fuel resource for homes that are not connected to the gas transmission network. It may be stored in tanks above or below ground when large volumes are needed for heating or cooking or in smaller bottles for barbecues or patio heaters, for instance.
As well as residential use, propane is also often used as a fuel for forklift trucks (which are fuelled with propane in liquid form), and by farmers to burn weeds, dry out crops, heat stalls and hothouses, and protect vineyards and orchards from frost. Propane is also used in hospitality (or horeca), construction and heavy industry due to its flexibility and reliability.
- Butane has very similar properties to propane. So what’s the main difference between the two? Butane condenses at around 0°C, propane at -42°C. As a result, butane is more suited to indoor and non-temperature-sensitive applications. Propane, on the other hand, is better suited to outdoor applications and storage. Even in freezing temperatures, propane will still be able to fuel your chosen appliance. That’s why the typically blue butane gas bottles are used to fuel such things as caravans, boats, barbecues and mobile kitchens.
- Autogas is an LPG mix consisting of propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10). The precise ratios depend on the season and the raw material prices. Autogas is mostly used to fuel cars. This requires the installation of a dedicated tank in the boot, usually at the expense of the spare wheel. The low CO2, soot and fine particle emissions make autogas a particularly eco-friendly fuel.
What are the pros of LPG?
Liquefied petroleum gas has many advantages. These are the biggest:
- Environmentally friendly: LPG is a cleaner fuel. The combustion process produces less CO2, NOX and soot than other fossil fuels like heating oil. When combined with energy from renewable sources it is undoubtedly the eco-friendly choice.
- Efficient: Propane, butane and autogas have a high calorific value. They are high-energy, energy-efficient fuels.
- Flexible: As a liquid, LPG is easier to transport in tankers and bottles. They can be used in remote areas without a connection to the gas network or electricity grid.
- Versatile: LPG is well suited to a whole host of applications – at home, on the farm, in hospitality, heavy industry or recreation.
- Affordable: LPG is cheaper than natural gas or heating oil and the price is less sensitive to fluctuations on the energy markets than other fuels.
And did you know?
- Around 60% of LPG comes from natural gas processing, 40% from petroleum refining.
- Autogas is a mix of propane and butane.
- Propane and butane have a whole host of applications and can be used everywhere, specifically in areas without a connection to the gas network or electricity grid.
- Biogas is produced from food waste and renewable vegetable oils.
The story of LPG