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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 Characteristics

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.


Propane Applications

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians rely on propane in countless applications for their homes, businesses, farms and fleets.

At Home:

Heating air & water
Fireplaces & cooking
Fridges & dryers
Pool heaters & generators
On the Road:

School & transit buses
Taxis & courier vans
Police cars & other fleet vehicles
In Agriculture:

Barn & greenhouse heating
Powering irrigation systems
Grain drying
In Industry:

Mining operations
Construction heating
Powering fork lifts
Metal processing


Environmental Benefits

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.

Propane can:

  • 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.