Propane Vs. Natural Gas

Propane Vs. Natural Gas

Join us as we compare propane and natural gas in order to determine which of these two fuels is more efficient.
HelpSaveNature Staff
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2018
Even though propane is derived during the processing of natural gas, it differs from the latter to a considerable extent. Having said that, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Comparing the two in terms of efficiency, cost, and possible hazards can help you decide which one has an edge over the other.
Propane Gas
An efficient fuel, propane is normally a gas that is compressible to a transportable liquid. This fuel is derived from petroleum products during natural gas processing. Propane is most often used as a fuel for engines and portable appliances. The popularity of propane refrigerators and propane heaters seems to be soaring day by day.
Natural Gas
Furnace Burner
Natural gas is formed by methanogenic organisms in bogs and marshy areas. The fuel is closely associated with fossil fuels and primarily consists of methane gas. It can be stored in compressed form as well as uncompressed form.
In compressed form it is stored as ...
  • Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG)
It is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and hence, harmful for the environment.
Propane Vs. Natural Gas
Efficiency
Natural gas contains approximately 1,030 BTU energy per cubic foot, whereas propane contains 2,490 BTU energy per cubic foot. Simply put, if a particular amount of natural gas provides 1000 BTU energy, the same amount of propane would provide 2500 BTU energy. (BTU or British Thermal Units is a scale used to measure heat.)
When shifting from one fuel to another, you have to alter some components of your machine. Conversion kits available in the market facilitate conversion from propane to natural gas or vice versa, with utmost ease.
Cost
Propane is processed from natural gas, while the latter is extracted from the ground in a usable state. Owing to the extra processing, i.e., separation and distillation, propane becomes costlier than natural gas. Generally, propane is six times more expensive than natural gas, though the price may differ from region to region.
Portability
When it comes to portability, propane has a definite edge over natural gas because propane, which turns to liquid at −46 °F, can be easily compressed and filled in tanks and transported to your home. On the other hand, it is very difficult to compress natural gas, and therefore, it is transported by the means of pipelines.
Risk of Explosion
Both are prone to explosion, but propane being heavier than natural gas tends to settle down, and that makes it more vulnerable to large explosions. Natural gas is lighter and dissipates easily, hence there are relatively less chances of explosion.
Environment Friendly
Although, both propane and natural gas are considered clean burning fuels, the latter is also considered a potent greenhouse gas. Propane is a non-toxic gas which won't pollute the environment even if it is released in air. Therefore, when it comes to being environment friendly, propane scores over natural gas and thus, is referred to as a 'green fuel'.
Both these fuels share several common traits, which makes it difficult to pinpoint as to which one is better. Depending on your use, you can choose the one that is beneficial for you. Portable propane heaters and grills are available for home use.
However, you should make a choice after taking into consideration several factors; the most prominent ones being safety, availability, and your usage. For instance, even though propane barbecues are available, people prefer natural gas as propane barbecues release pollutants which allegedly alters the taste of the food.