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What is Propane: Uses, Properties, and Chemical Formula


For the end user who simply wants to grill a delicious steak, heat a home, or operate appliances, propane gas is a simple, trouble-free, safe, and reliable energy source. Yet, there are many steps and processes between the extraction of propane and its delivery to your home or business as a way to power your life.  

What is propane? 

Propane is a byproduct of processing and refining natural gases and crude oil. It's a fossil fuel found alongside other gases, such as ethane, methane, butane, and other hydrocarbons, but it offers some things other fossil fuels do not. 

Where does propane come from?  

The history of propane is a journey that spans centuries, marked by many milestones in its discovery, development, and utilization as a versatile energy source. 
Propane’s discovery can be traced back to the 16th century when people realized it was a component of natural gas. It wasn't until much later that its properties and potential applications were fully understood.  

Chemist Walter Snelling is credited with developing liquid petroleum gas, or propane. In 1910, he observed how the corks of gasoline jugs would pop off as pressure built up inside. After a few years, Snelling developed and sold patent, and others started developing new uses for the fuel. The 1920’s saw an uptick in use cases, with products slowly rolling into homes.  

What is the Chemical Formula of Propane? 

The chemical composition of propane is relatively straightforward. Its molecular formula is C3H8, indicating that a propane molecule consists of three carbon atoms bonded to eight hydrogen atoms. This arrangement is responsible for propane's energy-rich characteristics and its numerous applications as a fuel source. 

How much energy does propane have? 

Each gallon of propane packs a substantial energy punch, containing over 91,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). This measurement represents the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit, and its notably high BTU content sets it apart as an efficient fuel choice. With a well-established production and delivery infrastructure spanning the nation, propane becomes a versatile option for powering homes and businesses alike. 

What is propane used for? 

Propane's wide array of applications contributes to its status as a go-to energy source. It's employed for residential heating, cooking, and hot water systems, as well as commercial and industrial processes. Propane-powered appliances such as stoves, water heaters, and dryers offer efficient and reliable performance. Moreover, businesses utilize propane for space heating, forklift operation, and as a fuel for generators during power outages. And that’s just the beginning of the list!  
Additionally, propane finds favor in the agricultural sector, powering irrigation pumps, crop dryers, and pest control equipment. It's also a mainstay in the hospitality industry for space and water heating in hotels and restaurants. Its role in transportation extends beyond traditional vehicles, encompassing buses, fleet vehicles, and even lawnmowers, where its environmental benefits shine through. 

How is propane stored? 

Storing propane safely and effectively is a crucial consideration, both in transportation and stationary storage.  

Storage tanks come in various sizes, from small portable containers for grilling to larger tanks for residential and commercial use and are typically placed in areas that provide convenient access for refueling. 

Propane is heavier than air, and if there is a leak, the gas will settle to the lowest level possible. Just like any other fuel source, if exposed to a flame or other combustion sources, the buildup of escaped propane gas could ignite and cause damage. Always be mindful of a “rotten egg” smell in low-lying areas and get familiar with steps to take in case of a propane leak. 
When it comes to your propane tank, proper ventilation, adherence to safety regulations, and routine inspections ensure that propane storage remains hazard-free.

Why Choose Propane 

The advantages of choosing propane extend beyond its energy density and versatility. Here are a few benefits to keep in mind: 


Each gallon of propane packs a substantial energy punch, so it is no surprise that using propane for all of your home’s key systems beats all-electric

Clean burning  

Propane is notably cleaner-burning compared to other fossil fuels, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants. This cleaner combustion contributes to reduced maintenance needs, longer equipment lifespan, and improved air quality. 

Highly accessible  

With an extensive distribution network that spans the nation, propane’s accessibility translates to reliable supply and competitive pricing, making it an economically viable choice for homes and businesses. Its portability also contributes to its accessibility. It can be stored in containers and tanks and transported by truck or rail. Propane can go where many other fuels cannot. 

Long shelf life 

While gasoline and diesel degrade over time, propane fuel has no expiration date, nor will its potency suffer while being stored. The only thing you need to worry about when storing propane is maintaining the health and integrity of the propane storage tank, as well as placing the tank in a safe, well-ventilated location.  

Environmentally-forward energy 

Propane's energy efficiency and adaptability align with environmental concerns and evolving energy needs, positioning it as a forward-looking energy solution. 

Want to learn more about the benefits of propane for your home or business? Our team is here to answer questions and provide the guidance you need to make the best choice possible.  

Contact Ferrellgas for your propane needs 

For more than 80 years, Ferrellgas has been delivering propane - a safe, reliable, and clean fuel alternative. Thanks to the development of an extensive processing and delivery infrastructure, as well as advances in safety technology, propane remains among the best choices to power your home, appliances, and fleets.  

Ferrellgas, one of the nation’s leading propane companies, stands ready to support your propane needs by providing easy propane service to its customers. Contact us today! Visit or call 1-888-337-7355.