Understanding the risks of overfilled propane tanks

As a company that supplies propane to thousands of Americans, safety is a top priority. Always has been and always will be. Each and every day our dedicated and prepared employees strive to be entirely aware of the wellbeing and safety to all. In our books, you, our customers, and our employee’s own safety is No. 1. Plain and simple.

That’s precisely why we want to inform you on any safety risks regarding the use of propane. One safety concern that may come about is an overfilled propane tank. Although the chances of your propane tank being overfilled are rare, it is a possibility. It’s doesn’t happen often due to the National Fire Protection Association in 1998 requiring DOT cylinders, grill tanks included, to have an overfilled protection device (OPD). If you’re wondering what an OPD looks like, you’ve likely seen and used it many times. It’s the triangular handle that you use to turn the gas on and off.

From understanding why we’ll never fill 100% of your propane tank to knowing the dos and don’ts of grilling, Ferrellgas and Blue Rhino are committed to providing peace of mind for all customers. That includes the importance of knowing what to do when safety precautions are necessary when dealing with propane. Our employees undergo rigorous training on how to fill tanks, and, per federal guidelines, they’re instructed to only fill tanks to 80% capacity to allow propane to expand when external temperatures rise. The hotter it is outside; the more propane expands to fill the extra 20%. 

Can my propane tank be overfilled?

In rare instances, yes. The first sign that a propane tank is overfilled comes in the form of smell. An overwhelming smell of propane gas, or mercaptan, which is added to the odorless propane, means that propane could be escaping the tank. If true, a vapor stream of liquid propane will come out of the tank, and, if not handled properly, it can be a safety and fire hazard.

There are a couple other signs that your tank could be overfilled:

  • Your relief valve is released, and the sound of propane shoots out of the tank
  • If your gauge is high after the tank is filled

When a propane tank is filled properly, propane releases a quick spurt when the connection is released. Sometimes, too, no spurt will be heard. So, yes, a propane tank can be overfilled, which makes it important to know the risks and how to handle the situation.

What are the risks?

The ultimate risk, and downright worst-case scenario, is an explosion. It can certainly happen, which is why it’s important to be aware of how to act. An explosion is usually the result of improper handling of propane. Also, a note: It is not advisable to drain an overfilled propane tank.

What happens if I have an overfilled propane tank?

If this happens to you, you’ll first want to clear the area and make sure there are no ignition sources nearby, which could result in explosion or open fire.

Next, call your propane specialists and we’ll help you with next steps. Your local propane pros are trained to swiftly diffuse these situations. Quite simply, it’s our job to protect you.

To refill or exchange? What works best?

The never-ending debate of propane tank exchange vs. tank refill will likely continue for years to come. But Ferrellgas is here to service either option

Do you prefer to quickly swap out your grill tank at a nearby convenient store, hardware store, or pharmacy? Then our handy Blue Rhino Propane Finder might be calling your name. Or, would you rather head to your local Ferrellgas office for a refill and a chat with a friendly Ferrellgas employee?

When you let Ferrellgas help fuel what matters most to you, you’re working with the very best and most trustworthy propane professionals in the industry. There’s eight decades of history to back that up. And when it comes to safety, we'll always have your back.

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