Propane gas and natural gas for heating and cooking

Natural gas and propane are both highly popular fuels for heating and fuelling vehicles. Although people often use them interchangeably, there exist significant differences between them. In this blog, we draw a comparison between natural gas and propane, highlighting their key differences.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is a hydrocarbon that is non-renewable, colourless, odourless, flammable, and non-toxic. It is a mixture of gases, with methane being its primary component, accounting for 70-90% of it. Other gases present in the mixture include propane, butane, and ethane.

After extracting natural gas from underground sources, it needs to be combined with refined oil to generate fuel that we use every day. This process extracts propane, butane, and ethane as by-products.

What is propane?

Propane is a non-toxic, colourless, and odourless gas that is generally compressed and stored in liquid form. The primary source of propane is natural gas processing, where it is extracted as a by-product. It can also result from crude oil refinement.

What are the significant differences between propane and natural gas?

Although propane and natural gas share several similarities, like being clean-burning, colourless, and odourless, significant differences exist between them.

Energy efficiency

When comparing fuels, it is crucial to evaluate the amount of energy generated from an equal quantity of fuel. For this comparison, we use BTUs (British Thermal Units), which measure thermal energy.

One cubic foot of natural gas produces 1030 BTUs, while one cubic foot of propane produces 2516 BTUs. This means that propane generates 2.5 times the energy generated by natural gas when the same amount is used.

Cost

We can only discuss cost after evaluating energy efficiency. Comparing propane and natural gas prices is easy; if propane’s price is given in gallons, we convert it to cubic meters/feet (the unit of measurement for natural gas). We then multiply the natural gas price by 2.5 to buy the same amount of energy at calculated prices. This formula only applies when we are strictly curious about the cost-energy ratio, ignoring other factors like eco-friendliness.

Eco-friendliness

Natural gas and propane are clean-burning gases, with propane being the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Although natural gas is not far behind, propane is considered a greener fuel.

Household use and transportation

Both natural gas and propane are ideal for heating and cooking at home, but they have different delivery methods. Natural gas is delivered to homes via gas pipelines, thus guaranteeing 24/7 uninterrupted gas supply once connected. Propane is generally stored in liquid form in propane tanks, which can be delivered to any location, even in areas without a gas pipeline.

Safety

Propane and natural gas are both odourless and colourless gases. Manufacturers add chemicals like ethyl mercaptan to these gases to facilitate detection as these chemicals possess an unpleasant strong odour. One key difference between propane and natural gas is their density, with propane being heavier than air and natural gas lighter. Whenever there’s a gas leak in confined spaces such as homes, propane will tend to be concentrated at ground level while natural gas will accumulate at the ceiling level.

Conclusion

There are a lot of similarities and differences between natural gas and propane. Both are odourless, colourless, and clean-burning fossil fuels.

Propane is more energy-efficient and considered to be a green fuel, while natural gas is not. Natural gas is delivered to houses via gas pipelines. Propane is delivered in propane tanks.

If you require a quote for any of our Propane Bottle’s, please contact us on 01772 584 871 or sales@compass-gas.co.uk