LPG (or liquefied petroleum gas) is a versatile fuel commonly used in homes and businesses.
In summer, you'll often see people swapping LPG bottles at the local petrol station, getting ready to power up their BBQ.
LPG is also important for use in industrial, commercial, agricultural, horticultural and manufacturing applications. At home, it can provide us with heating, hot water and power to cook our food, as well as fuel for our cars. It even powers cogeneration plants!
In Australia, LPG is propane gas, but overseas it can also be a mix of propane and butane gas. For those scientifically minded, propane (C3H8) contains three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms. Butane (C4H10) contains four carbon atoms and ten hydrogen atoms.
Simply put, this means propane works well in cold weather, but butane isn't as effective. For those happy campers who wake up to cold mornings, butane isn't a great option.
Home appliances can run on either natural gas or LPG so it's important to know the difference between the two.
LPG is produced during oil refining or is extracted during the natural gas production process. If you release LPG, gas is emitted. In order to transport it, LPG needs to be placed under modest pressure to form a liquid. It can then be stored and transported in LPG cylinders.
Natural gas is extracted from deep within the earth and can contain ethane, propane, butane and pentane. Homes typically have hot water, appliances and heating fuelled by natural gas, which is delivered in pipelines.
LPG has a high heating or caloric value which means that as an energy source, LPG provides a high level of heat in a short lifetime. LPG also has a virtual absence of sulphur, leading to cleaner burning. Usually sold in gas cylinders, LPG is a convenient, portable energy source that is easy to transport and store.
For industry, LPG has a consistent quality. That means when it's used for gas engines in forklifts or industrial boilers, it's reliable and steady.
You can check the level of gas in your LPG cylinder by carefully pouring hot water down the side of the cylinder. Give it a minute and then run your hand down the cylinder. It will feel cool to the touch at the level of the gas. Be super careful with the hot water!