As a reader who utilizes DiSanto Propane’s propane services or is interested in our services, we assume that you are somewhat familiar with propane as a whole. Most people know about propane grills, propane tanks, and other various household propane applications. However, there are a random collection of fun propane factoids out there that the average propane consumer probably doesn’t know about.
From outlining some of the history of propane to some of propane’s interesting uses to its relevance in pop culture, we’ll touch on some of the lesser-known information about this powerful and efficient resource.
The Father of Propane
Regarded by Hank Hill of the hit FOX TV series King of the Hill as the “father of modern propane,” Dr. Walter O. Snelling is credited with discovering propane and helping put it to use in similar ways that we use propane today.
After hearing of a man complaining of gas vapors leaking from his then-new Ford Model T, Dr. Snelling decided to investigate the issue. He brought over a glass jug filled with conventional gasoline and put a cork in it. To his surprise, when he was transporting the jug over, Snelling noticed that the cork kept popping out. This observation eventually led to propane as we know it today.
After examining the vapors, Dr. Snelling realized that they could be used as an energy source. He discovered that once the propane component could be controlled, then the versatile fuel could be safely used for many purposes from cooking, to cutting metal, and so forth. This discovery occurred in 1912, meaning that propane as a fuel source is actually relatively young!
A North American Fuel
Apparently, propane is very popular in the United States – nearly 97 percent of propane used in the United States is produced in North America.
On top of that, the propane industry significantly helps produce quality jobs in the United States, through companies like DiSanto Propane and our associated propane services. As of 2012, more than 145,000 workers across the U.S. are employed in propane trade, wholesale, and sales. Not bad for a fuel that’s only slightly more than 100 years old!
On the Farm
According to the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), propane is considered a staple on over 650,000 farms. Propane is used in a wide range of agricultural applications, including but not limited to:
- Crop drying for corn soybeans, grains, tobacco, peanuts, onions, apples, and other crops
- Fruit ripening
- Refrigeration of foods
- Water heating for dairies and stock watering tanks
- Creating flames to control weed growth using propane burners
- Space heating for various livestock, nurseries, orchards and incubators
- Running a number of farm engines like tractors and seedling planters
Propane is a three-carbon alkane, with a molecular formula of C3H8 (three carbon molecules, 8 hydrogen molecules). Liquid propane will boil from a liquid to a vapor at a rather chilly -44 degrees Fahrenheit, or -42.2 degrees Celsius.
Propane is about one and a half times the weight of air, therefore propane will settle in low areas. However, in a liquid form, propane is about half the weight of water. Additionally, about 23.5 cubic feet of air is required to burn one cubic foot of propane.
The complete combustion of propane produces a clean water vapor and carbon dioxide. Propane gas is not considered a greenhouse gas because propane is actually one of the lightest, simplest hydrocarbons in existence. As a result, propane is one of the cleanest burning of all the fossil fuels.
Of all alternative fuels, propane gas is the most widely used. According to the National Propane Gas Association, roughly 4 million vehicles worldwide run on propane fuel. More than 350,000 of these vehicles are located in the United States, reports the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Additionally, the Alternative Fuels Data Center documents that there are 4,175 public propane refueling stations, but estimate that much more exist. This is more than three times as many as any other alternative fuel source filling stations. Plus, propane-powered vehicles are said to offer the best combination of durability, performance and driving range.
In 1981, the Department of Energy released a report containing an analytical examination of fatal accidents involving propane gas transportation and storage between 1971 and 1979. Overall, the purpose was to determine the risk between propane storage and transportation.
The report concluded that the individual risk of propane storage and transportation is about one death per 37 million persons. That’s about the same odds as being on the ground and getting killed by an airplane crash. The odds are even less than the risk of death by lightning, tornadoes, or dam failures.
For more context, the voluntary risk of being in a standard motor vehicle accident was 1 in 4,700. So, something that most of us do every day is considered far more likely and dangerous than an LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) transportation or storage accident occurring. There’s a mark for propane safety!