Have you ever wondered where the propane that lights up your gas range or propane grill comes from? Most propane is a co-product of natural gas extraction and crude oil refining.
In addition to propane, natural gas wells also extract fuels like ethane, butane, isobutane and pentane. Propane, the largest co-product of these wells, is separated to prevent condensation build-up in pipelines. Producers then can sell it as a separate fuel. No additional drilling is needed!
Propane is also separated during the stabilization phase of oil refining. Heavier hydrocarbons settle at the bottom, while lighter ones rise during this phase. Propane is a relatively light hydrocarbon and can be easily separated.
Propane is also known as liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and its chemical formula is C3H8. It was first identified in 1910 by chemist Walter O. Snelling. While investigating gasoline evaporation and storage, Snelling discovered that several evaporating gases in gasoline could be converted into liquids, propane among them. Snelling created a method to bottle the liquid gas and the propane industry was born. Three years later, Snelling sold his patent on propane to Frank Philips, founder of Philips Petroleum for $50,000. That’s $1.3 million in today’s money.
About 90% of the propane supply in the United States is produced domestically. In fact, the U.S. exports as much propane as we use domestically. This is great from a price perspective since it means propane is somewhat insulated from volatile global energy markets.
Propane is extracted with the liquid components from the processing of natural gas and lighter components of oil refining. It gets sent to bulk distribution centers by pipelines, tanker ships, trains, trucks and barges. Distributors then send the propane to local suppliers like Parker Gas so we can provide home propane delivery and propane cylinder refilling.
The increase in shale gas extraction in recent decades has led to more domestic propane production here in the U.S. Because of that, our supply is so abundant that we’ve become a net exporter of propane!
And thanks to the United States having such a plentiful supply of propane, it ensures that no matter what happens elsewhere, we’ll always be able to deliver the propane you need.
Propane is clean-burning and energy-efficient, saving you money on energy costs and propane appliances. Thanks to that clean burning, propane creates much fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other fuels, especially when you factor in how much of our electricity comes from coal-fired plants.