In a raw and unprocessed state, it has a density of nearly 1.5 times that of air, and hence it sinks to the ground. Liquid propane evaporates at atmospheric pressure. Under proper combustion, this gas produces 91 megajoules per cubic meter.
Propane is a three-carbon alkane, and is non-toxic in nature, and burns with a clear and visible flame. When inhaled deliberately, it causes asphyxiation or oxygen deprivation, and this risk is caused by commercial products that contain this gas.
Its combustion is clean, and the C-C bonds, along with those of propylene and butylene, generate organic exhaust. It is stored at room temperature, and under pressure. Its sudden expansion and cooling on release is known to cause frostbite.
In 1910, propane was first identified by Dr. Walter Snelling. He was working with liquefied gas, and discovered that a bottle full of propane was sufficient to light a home for three weeks! He invented ways to liquefy this gas from the refining process of natural oil.
In 1911, a patent was issued for his production of a pure form of this gas. Propane is a commonly preferred cooking fuel, and is also used in vehicles. It's low boiling point of −43.6° F enables its vaporization on release, thus rendering it safe for transportation and as a compressible gas within pressurized containers.
This property eliminates the need for a vaporizing device. It fuels forklifts, locomotives, and heavy ice resurfacing machines. It also powers water heaters and other heating appliances. Commercially marketed propane fuel contains 90% propane, 10% butane, propylene, and some odorants.
This fuel is transported via large tanks and service trucks. It is compressed within cylinders, or transported from the excavation site via a pipeline, to the nearest delivery plant. Consumers get their supply of this fuel in individual tanks of varying sizes.
Propane heaters are quickly replacing traditional ones that work on fossil fuels. Industries are now using this gas in brick kilns, glass manufacturing units, and similar industries that use heat-blasts. It can blend with isopropane to power a refrigerator that works on gas absorption.
This mixture leads to less depletion of ozone, and successfully replaces chlorofluorocarbon and hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants. This ability makes it a great replacement as an alternative fuel in refrigerators and air conditioners.
After gasoline and diesel, propane is the third most preferred vehicle fuel. The autogas vehicles make optimum use of this gas in a liquid state. Quicker refills, increased cost-effectiveness, and cleaner handling makes it a popular choice.
Oil refineries produce propane while processing "crack" petroleum. This gas helps to save a lot on energy bills. It is not only cleaner than most other fuels, but also is one of the most environment friendly sources of energy. It is recognized within the "Clean Air Act Amendments" of 1990.