How Does LPG Work?

A clean-burning fossil fuel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is naturally derived from crude oil and natural gas. Marketed as Propane and Butane, or a combination of the two, LPG is used worldwide in a number of different applications.

Origins of LPG

LPG results from processing natural gas and refining crude oil. About 60% of the world"s LPG is obtained from natural gas, and the remaining 40% is achieved from refining crude oil.

When natural gas is pulled from the ground, the resulting hydrocarbon is a mix of several gases and liquids. About 90% of what is recovered is methane, or natural gas. The other 10% is made up of propane, butane and ethane -- or LPG. In order to transport the produced gas, the LPG must be separated from the methane.

LPG is also created when crude oil is refined. One of the first products to be removed from crude oil before refining the hydrocarbon into jet fuel, diesel or gasoline, LPG constitutes about 3% of a barrel of crude oil. When crude undergoes the stabilization process in order to be transported via pipeline or tanker, associated gases, or LPG, must be removed from the hydrocarbon.

Labeled "liquefied gas" because LPG is so easily converted to a liquid state, LPG requires only slight pressure or refrigeration to transform it from its natural gaseous state into a liquid. As a gas, LPG occupies 274 times its volume as a liquid, making the liquid state much preferred for transportation and storage.

Applications for LPG

LPG is marketed as propane, butane or a combination of the two, and can be used in a number of applications. Used for domestic water and space heating, LPG is also used for cooking. For instance, many outdoor grills are powered by LPG. Additionally, LPG can be used in power generation and industrial heating.

LPG Used for Automobiles

The most widely used alternative fuel for automobiles in Europe, LPG is used to power internal combustion engines, as well. About 6 million cars and buses in the European Union are powered by LPG today, and there are some 17,500 filling stations that provide LPG to domestic users there. Although no passenger cars fueled by LPG have been produced commercially in the United States since 2004, gasoline and diesel cars and trucks can be reworked to run on LPG.

Easily stored in massive tanks, LPG is many times used as a fuel source in remote areas where obtaining other products via pipeline or transport would be impossible.

Considered a clean-burning fossil fuel, LPG burns completely, leaving no waste and emitting significantly less pollutants into the environment than other hydrocarbons. New applications for LPG are constantly under evaluations, resulting in preliminary LPG-powered air conditioning systems, greenhouses and motorcycles.


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