LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is a gaseous petroleum product, the main components of which are propane, butanes, propylene, butenes and performance additives. LPG is a gaseous fuel intended for the propulsion of spark ignition engines with a fuel supply system specially adapted for this fuel. LPG intended for use as an engine fuel should meet the requirements of EN 589. The basic parameter determining the quality of LPG is the vapour pressure, which is regulated by the ratio of propane to butane. The standard distinguishes 5 LPG grades designated A, B, C, D, E, with a quality defined by a minimum temperature where the relative vapour pressure is not less than 150 kPa. These temperatures are set at: -10, -5, 0, 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. LPG under low pressure can be stored and transported in liquefied form in special cisterns. Apart from the fuel intended for engines’ propulsion, there is a gaseous fuel propane-butane, named “liquefied gas C3-C4”, according to the requirements of PN-C-96008, intended for power and municipal applications, distributed, among others, in gas cylinders. LPG is also referred to as:
LPG is colourless and odourless, which is why a strong odourless agent is added to it so that even a very small leakage can be detected.
LPG appeared quite late in the refining industry (oil and gas). Its history can be traced back to the early 20th century. In the first years of petrol production, one of the problems was that the stored petrol evaporated quickly. In 1911, an American chemist, Dr. Walter Snelling, discovered that the cause of its evaporation was propane and butane contained in it. He soon developed a practical method for removing these gases from petrol. Commercial LPG production started in 1920 and in 1950 there was the first regional trade. LPG was not used on a large scale until the 1940s, and the LPG market only really developed in the 1960s. In the mid 1930s a large oil company introduced LPG to the French market, and in 1938 a large gas company built a bottling plant in Italy, near Venice. But the further development of the LPG industry was halted by the war. Until the early 1950s, the companies produced LPG cylinders for domestic use and marketed them elsewhere under licence. The real development of the LPG industry began with the availability of refineries. This was particularly true in the 1960s, when new refineries began to be built at a rapid pace and coal, which was previously an industrial fuel, was replaced by fuel oil. Throughout Europe, LPG sales increased from 300,000 tonnes in 1950 to 3 million tonnes in 1960 and 11 million tonnes in 1970. Prior to 1970, international LPG trade took place on a regional business basis, where each region had its own price structure, transport network and its own buyers and sellers. The first transactions of regional trade took place in the 1950s, when LPG was transported from the Gulf of Mexico to South America. The oil crisis in 1973 was a turning point. Many oil-rich countries built factories to recover the liquid phase because they realized that by exporting LPG they could get a high return on investment. The Middle East’s expansion of LPG production and exports between 1975 and 1985 was truly staggering – from 6 million tons of capacity installed in 1975 to 17 million tons in 1980 and 30 million tons in 1985. LPG plants were built not only in the Middle East. Australia, Indonesia, Algeria, the North Sea and Venezuela have also become new sources of supply. The 1980s in fact proved to be a period of huge expansion of LPG exports worldwide. During this time, the LPG market became a real global market. Manufacturers needed buyers, whether they were in Asia, Europe, the United States or South America. New export volumes had to look for new markets.
There are over 1000 LPG applications. Today, hundreds of millions of people use LPG and rely on it for commercial, industrial, transport, agricultural, energy, cooking, heating and recreational purposes. Only LPG offers such a wide range of applications. It can be a family cooking fuel in South Africa and in a public kitchen in India, it can be a cooling fuel used by a shop owner in Brazil and autogas used in taxis in Tokyo. It can also be used for welding by car makers in Germany, for heating a family home in Canada, and for weed burning by a farmer in Texas. It can be used as a source of heat for the balloon’s first trip around the world without any flight interruptions, as a propellant in hairspray for Hollywood stars and as a fuel for life-saving climbers on Mont Everest. It is even used to power the Olympic torch. This is why LPG is described as the most versatile energy in the world.
LPG is a unique energy source because of its origin, benefits, use and industry. As a clean, efficient and innovative source of energy with low carbon emissions, it offers benefits to consumers, industry and the environment. With immediate and global availability, environmental benefits, its natural origin as a by-product, transport flexibility and versatile applications, LPG plays a decisive role in the transition to a safer, renewable and competitive energy model. LPG is an efficient and sustainable fuel that burns cleanly. Today it is the primary source of energy for hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is a versatile energy with literally thousands of applications. It can be easily moved, transported, stored and used virtually anywhere in the world, and its resources are sufficient to meet the needs of consumers for many decades. LPG also emits less greenhouse gases than petrol, diesel and electricity per unit of energy.