Propane isn't something you'd call a treat. You wouldn't eat it, but several of your appliances that you use regularly at your home sure would, and it's a fluid, so we're profiling it here at Liquid Treats. If you want to learn more about propane, where it comes from, how it's used, how to handle it, and where you can get it, then this article is for you. Many people have no idea how much propane plays into their daily lives, so you never know, you might learn something!
Propane is a hydrocarbon. It has three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, and although it is one of the smallest members of the alkane family, it is also one of the best known and most useful to people who live in North America. Other members of the alkane family include methane (one carbon atom), butane (four carbons), and hexane (six carbons). The alkane family is set apart from other hydrocarbons because its atoms are linked together only by single bonds.
Did you know what propane has no natural smell? That distinct "propane" smell that you're familiar with from gas leaks is actually an additive, as a safety measure. Propane is highly flammable, so it's important to know if there is any gas in the environment; otherwise, the simple act of striking a match or even a static electricity shock can cause combustion. It's an immediate danger, as compared to other substances often found in homes like mold, which are not immediately harmful, but which can cause health problems over the long term.
Propane is most often found in gas form, but when it is stored, it is compressed into a liquid so that it's easier to transport. So when you go to the propane exchange or the gas station to refill your barbecue tank, you're actually transferring liquid propane into the tank. Then your barbecue releases it in gaseous form.
Propane is extremely flammable, and when burned properly, its only by-products are water and carbon dioxide. This is why propane is so useful to us, whether we live in a condo or work in industry. It is used to power barbecues and portable stoves, to heat homes, to fuel kitchen stoves, in space heaters, in portable lanterns, to power some kinds of vehicles like ice resurfacers, fork lifts, and trains, and even, in some cases, to generate electricity, and to power portable refrigeration and heating units in industry.
Propane is actually a by product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. Pipeline strainers designed to weed out impurities sometimes burn off propane when they're collecting heating oil, gasoline, or natural gas, because it will condense inside the pipelines. A lot of times, however, rather than waste it, it is collected and stored for separate sale. Most propane used in North America is made here. You can buy it in 20 lb tanks at outdoor stores for your barbecue, in smaller tanks at department stores for other portable appliances, and refill your existing tanks from the large one at most gas stations.
Typical propane tanks