Difference Between Propane and Natural Gas (With Table)

When it comes to fueling or heating vehicles, there are several fuels available in the market. Propane and natural gas are two of the popular fuels among them, but they are not only limited to vehicles they are also used in furnaces, appliances, and even in the home.  

In addition, propane and natural gas are tasteless and odorless, which makes them dangerous in case of leakage. If while leaking, they came in contact with the source of high concentrations and ignition then it can also cause explosions. Although sometimes people use them as synonyms, they are different from each other. 

Propane vs Natural Gas 

The main difference between propane and natural gas is that propane is a fuel that is present in natural gas in the form of combustible hydrocarbon gas. On the other hand, natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbon compounds. When it comes to storage propane, can be stored in gas cylinders or tanks, while natural gas can be stored in a natural gas pipeline.  

In the paraffin series, propane comes at the third number following methane and ethane. Propane is a colorless and gaseous compound of carbon and hydrogen or simple hydrocarbon. In large quantities, it is separated from light crude, oil refinery gases, and natural. Commercially it is available as a major constituent of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or as liquid propane.  

Natural gas primarily consists of methane and ethane. Natural gas is a type of petroleum that occurs with crude oil. The manufacture of plastics plays a vital role as a chemical feedstock. It is also necessary for a range of other chemical products such as dyes and fertilizers. As a fossil fuel, it is used for the generation of electricity. 

Comparison Table Between Propane and Natural Gas 

Parameters of ComparisonPropaneNatural Gas
InterpretationIt is present in natural gas in the form of combustible hydrocarbon gas.It is a mixture of hydrocarbon compounds.
Energy2500 BTUs/cubic foot1030 BTUs/cubic foot
StorageGas cylinders or tanksNatural gas pipeline
Environmental ImpactEco-friendly green fuelClean burning “greenhouse gas”
CostExpensive than natural gasCheaper

What is Propane? 

Propane at a standard temperature is gas, and when compressed it is converted into liquid. In its liquid form, it becomes easier to transport propane. Propane is a byproduct of petroleum refining and natural gas processing. This fuel is generally used in domestic and industrial applications and public transportation with low emissions. 

Propane was discovered by the French chemist namely Marcellin Berthelot in 1857. In 1911, the US was the first to make propane commercially. It is one of a group of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). The others include propylene, butylene, butane, butadiene, isobutylene. Propane burns more cleanly than coal and gasoline even it has lower energy density.  

In the ethylene petrochemical industry, propane is a vital raw material. When propane is decomposed in hot tubes to structure ethylene, then it yields propylene. Organic chemicals as propylene glycol and acetone are derived from propylene. The oxidation of propane is also of commercial interest but oxidation with compounds of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.  

-42.1 degrees Celsius is the boiling point of propane, and that’s why under elevated pressure, it can be liquefied. Therefore, it is handled and transported as a liquid in tanks and cylinders. For industrial and domestic uses, it has considerable importance as a fuel. 

What is Natural Gas? 

Natural gas is a mixture of gas four gases that occur naturally, four of them have different molecular structures. It primarily consists of methane, ethane, propane, and butane. In this mixture, ethane makes up 70-90%. Natural gas is the result of pressure and compacted heat from deceased animals buried deep.  

With the help of alongside oil drills and natural gas drilling inside the earth can help to extract natural gas. After the extraction of this, it is combined with crude oil and thus, it can be used in everyday energy. Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania now are three of the states which have natural gas in abundance.  

Natural gas was found by French explorers in America in 1626. At that time Native Americans were igniting gases with the help of gases that were seeping out from the ground. America is the world’s leading producer of natural gas. According to estimation, it has at least 100 years of natural gas supply.  

Natural gas is preferred over other energy sources due to its advantages such as being less chemical complex, affordable, fewer impurities, reliable and less pollution after combustion. Natural gas is also a clean energy source due to many reasons such as electricity generation, fertilizer making, transportation (land and sea), and usage in most of the manufacturing products. 

Main Differences Between Propane and Natural Gas  

  1. When it comes to composition, propane is composed of propane molecules. But natural gas is composed of methane and other simple hydrocarbon substances such as ethane, propane, butane, and carbon dioxide.  
  2. Propane is heavier than air because its relative density is higher. On the other hand, natural gas has low relative density and that’s why it is lighter than air.  
  3. Propane produces harmful substances in higher amounts compared to natural gas. On the flip side, natural gas produces harmful substances in less amount than crude oil.  
  4. In terms of compressibility, it is easy to convert propane into propane liquid by easily compressing it, while natural gas cannot be easily compressed to liquefy the gas.  
  5. The propane gas is generally stored in portable tanks, and that’s why it is easier for liquid propane to stockpile, whereas natural gas is distributed by a gas line that is directly connected to the pressurization plant of the local utility company. 

Conclusion 

It can be concluded that propane and natural gas are used as alternative fuels options for many applications such as for residential use (cooking, drying, and heating) and vehicles. Due to their odorless and tasteless characteristics, they both are highly explosive and volatile. So, while using both fuels, people should be alerted.  

Propane is composed of propane molecules, while natural gas is composed of methane, ethane, propane, butane, and Carbon dioxide. Propane produces harmful substances in high amounts compared to natural gases, whereas natural gas produces harmful substances in less amount than crude oil. So, propane and natural gas are two different fuels with their different characteristics and usage in applications. 

References  

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010218004000938
  2. https://author.energy-community.org/enc-author-prd/dam/jcr:23f23617-f51f-4659-946b-5a8e6b7e266d/Natural_gas_processing.pdf

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