LPG

LPG

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:

  • liquid petroleum gas,
  • liquid petroleum gas,
  • liquefied hydrocarbon gas,

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.

Autogas combustion generates virtually no particulates and soot, and NOx emissions are 96% lower than those of diesel.

Origin (Source)

LPG comes from two sources: 60% is obtained during the extraction of natural gas and crude oil from the ground and the remaining 40% is produced in the process of oil refining. LPG is therefore a naturally occurring by-product. In the past, LPG has been destroyed by venting or burning in a torch (i.e. burning out unnecessary gas), which has wasted the potential of this unique energy source. Although LPG is inextricably linked to the extraction of natural gas and crude oil, it has its clear advantages and can replace almost any use of the primary fuels from which it is derived.

Natural gas and oil extraction

When extracting natural gas and oil from the ground, a mixture of several different gases and liquids is separated, where LPG usually accounts for about 5% of its volume. Before natural gas and oil are transported or used, the gases that make up LPG – and are slightly heavier – are separated.

Oil refining

The oil refining process is complex and consists of many stages. LPG is extracted from crude oil in several of these stages, including atmospheric distillation, reforming, cracking and others. LPG is extracted because the gases it consists of (butane and propane) are trapped in the crude oil. To stabilise the oil prior to distribution to a pipeline or tanker, the ‘extra’ gases and natural gas are converted into LPG in a further process.

History

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.

In 1928, LPG was used for the first time to power the first car.

Applications

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.

Agriculture

Being a modern and environmentally friendly source of energy, LPG already plays an important role in agricultural development. In the poultry house, LPG ensures the right temperature, which is essential for optimal animal growth. LPG is also used in mushroom farms to help keep the temperature ideal for mushroom growth. LPG can also be part of the dual fuel system in tractors, e.g. in combination with ON. Furthermore, LPG is used for thermal drainage, crop drying, refuelling of agricultural vehicles and as an insect repellent.

Automotive

LPG is preferred as an alternative fuel for car transport. Currently autogas is the most accepted alternative fuel in the automotive sector and there are more than 26 million LPG-powered vehicles worldwide. The added value of LPG as an automotive fuel is that it produces significantly less harmful substances than other fossil fuels, contributing to the protection of the environment and human health while mitigating the risks of climate change.

Recreation

The flexibility of LPG and its environmentally friendly energy features make it the ideal fuel for recreational applications, both on land and on water. LPG is a fuel commonly used for cooking, no matter where you spend your leisure time: in a tent, camper van or trailer. On a campsite or even in its own garden, an LPG-powered barbecue provides a constant cooking temperature and is the best available energy source in terms of reducing CO2 emissions.

LPG provides significant benefits in terms of reducing emissions and should therefore be a logical partner when spending time outdoors in the countryside. LPG is the most flexible energy source available and is ideally suited to the needs of millions of leisure enthusiasts around the world, thanks to its ease of transportation and its many storage options. LPG is also an attractive option for marine applications, including the refuelling of recreational craft. Its insignificant impact on water allows end users to enjoy the beauty of lakes and rivers, while taking care of the quality of the environment. Thanks to LPG people can also enjoy extraordinary views during hot air balloon flights.

Cooking

Cooking on the hob is one of the most energy-intensive activities in the world. Consumers in industrialised countries can choose from numerous types of hobs and cookers powered by LPG, natural gas or electricity. In developing countries, people use simple cookers for LPG, natural gas and kerosene or use locally produced biomass stoves (e.g. wood, plant residues and fertilisers). These stoves often have a negative impact on human health and the environment. In many regions, LPG is the most efficient cooking fuel. LPG provides a reliable energy supply and is therefore widely used in hotels and restaurants. It is the preferred choice of many chefs because it provides a high flame temperature immediately after ignition, thus eliminating the warm-up time. LPG produces heat that immediately responds to changes in settings and distributes it over the entire surface of the base of the kitchen unit. Furthermore, LPG has a high combustion efficiency without producing black smoke. It does not leave any traces on the cooking appliances, and thus ensures easier cleaning of the appliances. For developing rural communities, LPG can be the first modern alternative to traditional cooking fuels (e.g. wood, coal, fertilizer), contributing to a better quality of life and, importantly, relieving women and children of the obligation to collect fuel that takes up a lot of their time. It enables them to continue their education or to do business with added value in their community.

Heating

Houses and hotels need a reliable source of energy for many applications, including central heating, tap water heating, swimming pools with heated water and air conditioning. LPG is the energy that can meet all these needs and additionally protects individuals and businesses from exposure to power cuts.

Energy production

As one of the cleanest conventional fuels available, LPG complements the list of renewable energy sources and renewable technologies which, in contrast, are dependent on certain weather conditions or daylight. LPG also enables highly efficient, decentralised energy generation through small stand-alone generators and micro-CHP units. In this type of energy generation, the carbon footprint of LPG is lower than that of diesel and significantly lower than that of petrol.

Why is it worth using?

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.

Eco-friendly

Local air quality can have a serious impact on human health, plants, animals and even buildings. Transport, ‘fixed combustion sources’ (cooking and heating) and energy production are major sources of local air pollution. LPG can have a positive impact on improving air quality compared to diesel, heating oil and solid fuels. Considering its carbon footprint – the sum of greenhouse gases emitted – LPG is one of the cleanest conventional fuels available. It is mainly derived from the production of natural gas and is also non-toxic and does not affect the soil, water and underground aquifers. LPG also helps to reduce organic carbon (Black Carbon) and particulate matter (PM) emissions, which not only threaten indoor and outdoor air quality but can also cause serious health problems. According to the World Health Organisation, particulate air pollution takes an average of 8.6 months of every human being’s life in the EU. The LPG industry is particularly well placed to provide solutions to improve air quality, ranging from encouraging the use of autogas and hybrid engines in the automotive sector to assisting developing countries in the transition from wood or kerosene for cooking and heating to LPG.

Low-emission energy source

As a fuel with low carbon monoxide emissions and low environmental impact, LPG is regarded by governments around the world as energy that can contribute to improving indoor and outdoor air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the carbon footprint of LPG is 20% lower than that of heating oil and 50% lower than that of coal. Autogas can play a significant role in mitigating climate change. It has one of the lowest GHG emission rates of all fuels available on the market, measured over the entire product life cycle. LPG provides the lowest greenhouse gas emissions from all the fuels analysed over the well-to-wheel cycle (i.e. from acquisition, through transport or distribution, to use in the vehicle) per 100 kilometres driven. GHG emissions from LPG are lower than those from petrol and diesel in almost every region and 12% lower than those from corn ethanol (E85) in North America. LPG is also one of the lowest carbon monoxide fuels used for cooking in many regions of the world. LPG used to heat the home helps consumers significantly reduce their carbon footprint. In Europe, greenhouse gas emissions from using LPG for heating are 15% lower than those from heating oil. The advantages of LPG over electricity are even greater: greenhouse gas emissions are 30% lower in South America, 35% lower in Japan, 38% lower in the Republic of Korea and up to 54% lower in North America. LPG is also one of the most attractive fuels for water heating. In South America, electronic instantaneous water heaters powered by LPG emit 14 percent less greenhouse gases than electric boilers. In Japan, switching from fuel oil to LPG can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15%. In North America, switching from electric boilers to LPG water heaters can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35%. In India, using LPG instantaneous water heaters instead of similar electrical equipment can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50%.

Efficient source of energy

LPG is a high-energy fuel source with a higher calorific value per unit than other commonly used fuels, including coal, natural gas, diesel, gasoline, fuel oils and alcohols derived from biomass. This means that LPG burns at a higher temperature, an advantage that translates into higher efficiency. As a cost-effective energy source, LPG can be up to five times more efficient than traditional fuels, resulting in less energy loss and better use of the planet’s resources. LPG is extremely versatile and can be easily moved. It can be transported by sea, rail or road. LPG is available in a wide range of packages and can be stored in a variety of ways from refillable cylinders to underground tanks. LPG is also a fuel available even in the remotest corners of the world, improving the lives of millions of people around the world and setting the pace for regional development. In relatively few rural or remote areas, natural gas can be used through gas installations, so LPG is an ideal energy source for these areas, either as a primary source or in combination with renewable fuels. LPG does not require the construction of a huge gas installation infrastructure in order to be able to use it. It is often the only fuel that can be supplied to communities living on islands or at high altitudes, and in the event of emergencies or national disasters it can be crucial for survival. In developing rural communities, LPG can be the first modern alternative to traditional cooking fuels (e.g. wood, coal, fertilizer), improving the quality of life and, crucially, freeing women and children from the obligation to collect fuel that takes time. It enables them to continue their education or to do business with added value in their community.

Innovative source of energy

As one of the cleanest conventional fuels available, LPG complements the list of renewable energy sources and renewable technologies which, in contrast, are dependent on weather or daylight. LPG is a natural partner for renewable energy sources. LPG also improves energy efficiency as it enables decentralised power generation through small stand-alone generators and micro-CHP units. LPG is widely used in agriculture for thermal drainage, crop drying, refuelling of agricultural vehicles and as an insect repellent. Being a modern and environmentally friendly source of energy, LPG can play an important role in the current development of agriculture, replacing agricultural chemicals for e.g. disinfection of animal cubicles and weed control.

Combustion of LPG does not emit any black carbon at all.