What is Propane?
Propane comes out of the same well as natural gas and crude oil. These products are called “hydrocarbons” because they contain hydrogen and carbon. At a fractionation plant or refinery, the substances are “cleaned up”, heated, cooled and separated. The chemical formula for propane is C3H8. Propane is shipped throughout North America by pipelines, trucks and tank cars (rail).
The "Propane Advantage"
The great characteristic of propane is that it can exist as a liquid or a gas.
It is stored and transported as a liquid, but can be used as either a liquid or a gas. A small amount of propane liquid produces a lot of propane gas (called vapour) and that reduces the size of storage containers required. It also enables propane to be stored and transported economically.
What does propane look like?
Just to look at propane, it would be difficult to tell it from water. Like water, propane can exist as a liquid or a gas.
In its natural state, propane is a clear, odourless, colourless, non-toxic liquid. As it changes from a liquid to a gas, it appears as bubbles.
Why does propane smell?
In its natural state, propane is odourless. As a safety precaution, an odourant called Ethyl Mercaptan is added so any presence of propane may be easily detected. And while most of us are able to detect even the slightest propane odour, some people are unable to.
Is Propane Dangerous?
Used with care, propane is a safe and convenient fuel. Propane gas is not toxic. However, should a leak occur, the build-up of propane gas can become dangerous. Because propane is heavier than air it tends to settle in the lowest available space. Very small amounts of propane are required to create a flammable mixture of gas and air. In the limited space of a recreation vehicle, for example, a propane leak can create a hazardous situation.