If you commonly come across propane services in your home or work life, which many people do, then you might be wondering how propane is made, exactly. Or rather, how is propane refined or processed in a way that we can use it for its many fuel applications?
Propane services across the world, such as DiSanto Propane, have efficiently streamlined propane refill and propane delivery in order to heat your home, fuel your grill, or ignite your stove, just to name a few uses. Though the science is technical, here’s a high-level overview of propane:
Propane is a naturally occurring gas composed of three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms. Essentially, propane is created along with a number of other hydrocarbons like crude oil, butane, and gasoline by the decomposition and reaction of organic matter over long periods of time.
After the naturally-occurring gas is released from oil fields deep within Earth, propane is separated from other petrochemicals and refined for commercial use. There exists a class of materials known as liquefied petroleum gasses, also known as LPGs. Propane is an LPG and is known for its ability to be converted to a liquid under relatively low pressures.
We’re sure that you’re perfectly familiar with propane service in gas form, but propane is transported and stored as a liquid before it is commercially applied as a gas. This is because, as a liquid, propane is roughly 270 times more compact than it is as a gas. Propane science is cool and efficient!
As it turns out, propane is not necessarily “made”. Rather, propane has natural origins, and it is not “made” of other raw materials. Propane is found in petroleum chemical mixtures deep within the earth, which are literally composed of rock oil, or combinations of various hydrocarbon-rich fluids. These hydrocarbon-rich fluids accumulate in subterranean reservoirs composed of sandstone and carbonate rock. A series of complex reactions known as diagenesis and catagenesis form petroleum in these sedimentary rocks, preparing it for the manufacturing process.
Without going into extreme detail, when propane is manufactured, separation and collection of the naturally-occurring gas element from its petroleum sources occur. Propane and a host of other LPGs are isolated from petrochemical mixtures in one of two main ways: one method involves the separation of natural gas from petroleum, and the other method is a refinement of the crude oil itself.
When propane is manufactured, it produces a variety of byproducts that are economically useful. It is probably more accurate to think of these propane byproducts as co-products because these byproducts are produced at the same time as propane during the petroleum refinement process.
These co-products can be in the form of solids, gasses, or liquids. Various solids, or semisolids, include bitumes, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide, which are sold for fuel purposes. Liquid co-products like crude oil are further refined into a variety of useful products. The versatile nature of the crude oil co-product is partly due to its variance in appearance and physical properties, such as boiling point, density, odor, and viscosity. Additionally, many of the co-products of propane production, such as propylene and butylene, are useful in areas such as gasoline refinement, synthetic rubber manufacture, and petrochemical production.
A Recent Innovation
A few years ago, scientists at the Imperial College in London successfully demonstrated that they can make propane from glucose, using a genetically engineered version of the bacterium E coli. Yes, that’s right – the bacterium we all know well as causing food poisoning.
This recent breakthrough in propane technology demonstrates that propane, the gas that DiSanto Propane provides to power your home or business, can now be made using a renewable process, instead of conventional methods. The scientists at the Imperial College in London believe that the sustainably-derived propane fuel should work exactly the same as propane, due to the fact that it is chemically identical to conventionally-sourced propane.
Streamlining this relatively new, sustainable way of harvesting propane might still be a future prospect. However, this means that DiSanto’s propane services will be more efficient than ever when these renewable production methods are put into regular practice. We’re excited for all of the advancements to come in the propane industry, and as your number one propane provider, DiSanto is proud to be at the forefront of this change.