For over 100 years, Americans have used propane in countless residential and commercial functions. Once Walter O. Snelling’s pioneering research made it possible to trap lighter hydrocarbons from oil and store them as liquid in a steel container, propane became a popular way to power blowtorches, stoves, and other equipment. In 1929, the first bobtail trucks hit U.S. roadways. The 1932 Olympic Village in Los Angeles used propane to fuel all its cooking appliances and water-heating equipment. By 1945, propane sales had reached 1 billion gallons. *
In short, once Americans saw the potential of propane, they began using it in multiple aspects of their lives.
Today, we’re seeing another research revolution in propane. The emergence of renewable propane gas (rPG) and other innovative, eco-friendly blending products such as renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) promises conventional propane’s benefits with a carbon impact rapidly approaching zero. While renewable propane is still emerging, it’s already used throughout this country.
Just as conventional propane first emerged as a coproduct of oil refining, renewable propane, at this point, is largely a coproduct of biodiesel. As such, biorefineries produce a lot of rPG. Today, one of the main uses of this co-produced rPG is in refinery systems. Biorefineries use the renewable propane coproduct they generate to provide the energy for the biodiesel production process rather than bringing in some other energy source, such as natural gas.
While this is a reasonable use of rPG, a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the Propane Education & Research Council found that recovering and selling rPG can offer significant revenue opportunities for biorefineries — with capital recovery payback periods in as short as two months.
The transportation sector represents over one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. Propane autogas provides a fantastic alternative fuel source for our light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, roughly 60,000 autogas vehicles are already on the road, and school districts across the country are taking advantage of autogas buses’ clean performance and cost-saving benefits.
Conventional propane emits significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions — including carbon dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide — than gasoline or diesel, with a carbon intensity (CI) score of only about one-fifth. Switching to autogas is generally much more affordable than switching to an electric vehicle fleet. Financial incentives through the Renewable Fuel Standard Program give producers of renewable propane autogas a chance to further improve their revenue streams.
Autogas made from rPG is expanding across this country. In 2020, U-Haul brought one million gallons of rPG to autogas stations in Southern California, and this year, a New England propane retailer brought the fuel to pumps in Connecticut.
We’re seeing retailers serving residential and commercial customers bring rPG to market in Oregon, Washington, New York, Vermont and other states. Renewable propane is currently used in 16 states, and that number will grow as time goes on.
There are fantastic incentives for embracing this green fuel, which can be used in existing propane-fired equipment without modifications. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits for fuel used or sold after 2024 with a CI rating of less than 47.4 gCO2eq/MJ. Renewable propane generally has a score of around 20.
Homeowners and business owners want low-emissions energy that does not require the exorbitant costs associated with electrification. 2027 U.S. production capacity for rPG and other innovative blends could reach 277 million gallons. Fuel producers, wholesalers and retailers — and the customers they serve — have incredible opportunities in the future.
If you’re interested in joining the Renewable Propane Alliance or would like more information on our work, reach out to us here.
* Source: Propane Education & Research Center, “Sources and Processing of Propane”
Today, most people agree that we must explore every possible avenue to decarbonize how we power our vehicles, heat our homes and fuel our residential and commercial equipment. As with all major challenges, combatting climate change requires innovative thinking and buy-in from both public and private stakeholders.
Unfortunately, in many New England states, we’ve seen an aggressive push from activists and policymakers to ignore green advances in traditional fuels in favor of an agenda of forced electrification. This narrow, poorly considered strategy could impose massive expenses on households and businesses and imperil our already fragile electric grids.
Even so, there’s been movement in recent weeks to make green, efficient and affordable renewable propane gas (rPG) available to more users in the Northeast.
On September 12, Massachusetts received its first delivery of renewable propane. The NGL Supply Wholesale Springfield terminal in West Springfield received a shipment of rPG for distribution to retailers in the region.
“The cost is just slightly more than traditional propane today,” Anderson said, “but we anticipate, as more of it is produced, that that cost is going to come down. And if you think about the added benefit that you get by knowing you’re helping the climate and helping the planet by using renewables — I think a lot of people are willing to spend a little bit more to get that.”
Propane retailer Hocon Gas made news on September 15 when it brought in Connecticut’s first renewable propane shipment. The rPG delivery will supply Hocon’s propane autogas filling station. Autogas made from conventional propane is far more eco-friendly (and affordable) than gasoline or diesel. It emits less carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen/sulfur oxides. Renewable propane has even better greenhouse gas performance, with a typical carbon intensity that’s roughly 23% that of gasoline or diesel.*
There is certainly a market for renewable propane autogas in the Constitution State. Connecticut has over 600 propane autogas-fueled school buses, the most of any state in New England.
These are just the most recent rPG deliveries in the Northeast. They follow the April 2022 arrival of two 30,000-gallon rail cars of rPG to Ray Energy in Troy, NY. That fuel served end users in New York and Vermont. Ray Energy recently delivered a propane blend containing 5% rPG to Maine for the grand opening of the state’s largest school bus autogas dispensing facility.
These events show how, even though renewable propane isn’t in wide use yet, its availability is continuing to grow — and there is an appetite from households and businesses for access to it. The Propane Education & Research Council found that the U.S. has the capability to produce 40 million gallons of rPG each year, and that number could reach 277 million gallons by 2027. We’ll need the support of businesses and policymakers to realize that growth. Renewable propane is a fantastic opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions without endangering the power grid or forcing expensive equipment conversions on everyday Americans.
You can learn more about how renewable propane is leading the way in decarbonization here.
*Source: Propane Education & Research Council
Everyone agrees that climate change is a genuine existential threat to our planet, and we must adjust our energy usage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional propane has long been an eco-friendly alternative fuel that powers heats, powers home appliances and commercial equipment, fuels road vehicles and serves many other vital functions.
Even so, the propane industry is working tirelessly to find ways to lower its product’s environmental impact. Renewable propane gas (rPG) is one of the most promising decarbonizing tools in development and limited use today. But how do you quantify a fuel’s emissions impact? The most useful measurement is carbon intensity.
Carbon intensity (CI) is a convenient measure to determine how much of an emissions impact our energy has. Essentially, it indicates how many grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) are generated to produce a given amount of energy. We typically express units as grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 released) per Megajoule (energy produced). You might see this represented as gCO2eq/MJ. This measurement is used by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, among others, and it allows us to compare multiple fuels. For reference, the CI score of conventional propane is 79.
Carbon intensity is also a useful measurement because it accounts for CO2 released into our atmosphere over the life cycle of an energy source, including generation and distribution — not just at one point in the process.
Advocates of total electrification argue that mandating electric heating, appliances and vehicles will lower home emissions. But this ignores the environmental impact of generating grid electricity. The average U.S. grid’s CI rating is 130. That said, different states’ grids have variable CIs. West Virginia and Wyoming rely heavily on coal and other fossil fuels for their electricity and have CIs approaching 300.
Even a state like New York (CI rating: 59) with a relatively clean power grid must fall back on natural gas, petroleum and other fossil fuels when demand spikes.
Map source: https://propane.com/about-propane/renewable-propane/
Now, look at the CI ratings of several renewable propane (rPG) products.
By creating a fuel that is molecularly identical to conventional propane from organic and recycled feedstocks, rPG producers significantly lower the overall CI rating. While all rPG products boast a CI far lower than U.S. grid electricity, fuel oil, gasoline and diesel, how low it is depends on the feedstock involved.
According to the California Air Resources Board, rPG made with domestic, non-rendered, used cooking oil has a carbon intensity score of 20.5.
Renewable propane producers are working tirelessly to identify and develop renewable feedstocks that ensure a lower carbon impact. One of the most appealing prospects right now is camelina, an oilseed crop with similar properties to canola. Camelina grows on dry, fallow land, requires little water, matures quickly and is naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
Even better, camelina can become livestock feed after oil is extracted. California-based Global Clean Energy estimates that, with this “meal credit,” renewable fuel made from camelina can have a CI score of 7!
Renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) is a biogas with similar properties to butane and propane. The raw materials that produce rDME are plentiful, including landfill and farm waste. Because you can store, transport and burn rDME like you do propane, it can blend with conventional propane and rPG.
And rDME can significantly lower the CI of propane. The question is what the optimal blend ratio is. With rDME-blending trials in the U.S., Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom, there is hope that we could soon see a drop-in propane blend with a CI at or below zero!
Map source: https://propane.com/about-propane/renewable-propane/
Sources: The Propane Education & Research Council, Global Clean Energy, World LPG Association, Oberon Fuels
We all agree that climate change is one of the great challenges of our time. We need to work together to find solutions to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, much of the climate action conversation these days involves only one solution: forced electrification. Many state governments are pursuing policies that would force American households to convert to 100 percent electric heating and appliances. This narrow, poorly considered strategy is trying to push other crucial green technologies — including renewable propane — out of the conversation.
A central element of electrification is mandating that homes switch from heating systems powered by traditional fuels to electric heat pumps. The idea is that moving home heating to the electric grid will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a horribly flawed assumption, as we will address later. It also creates a host of risks and burdens for families.
In May 2023, New York became the first state in the country to ban gas-powered heating and cooking equipment in new buildings, starting in 2026.
This kind of ban shows how forced electrification extends beyond home heating. When new construction must forego natural gas and propane in favor of heat pumps and electric stoves, countless other popular and efficient products disappear, too, including:
These are just a few of the crucial gas-fired appliances that homeowners lose with mandated electrification.
The central conceit of electrification advocates is that electric heating and home appliances are better for the environment. That ignores the carbon impact of electricity generation. Right now, over 60 percent of American electricity is sourced from fossil fuels, including nearly 20 percent from burning coal — a long way from a renewable grid.
Now, consider propane. Conventional propane’s carbon intensity (CI) is roughly 79 grams of CO2 per megajoule — compared to 130 grams per megajoule, the CI of American grid electricity.** Additionally, propane is methane-free and emits virtually no particulate matter.
Renewable propane takes conventional propane’s eco-friendliness to the next level. With its organic and recycled feedstocks and low-carbon production process, rPG typically has a CI score around 20! And rPG, like biodiesel-blended heating oil and renewable natural gas, is a “drop-in” home energy source requiring no expensive equipment conversions or modifications.
Electric heat pumps and other electric appliances are tools in the decarbonization conversation. But electrification isn’t a silver bullet to combat climate change. We need an inclusive and balanced renewable energy plan that includes clean fuels like propane, rPG and other innovative blends. This is a smarter, less disruptive pathway than the risky “electrify everything” strategy.
Want to learn more about renewable propane’s eco-friendly production process? Check out our page on how rPG is made.
**Source: Propane Education & Research Council
Wildfires have been in the news lately, with the blazes in Canada causing significant air quality issues in the eastern United States. Wildfires put lives and homes at risk, and they release a massive amount of carbon and other harmful products into the air.
California officials certainly know something about wildfires. From 2010 to 2020, 11 percent of America’s third largest state was burned, compared to only 3 percent in 1970-1980.* The seven largest wildfires in California history have all happened in the last five years.** Drier conditions caused by rising temperatures are making wildfires more prevalent. Something as simple as a lightning strike can spark massive blazes.
Clearing out dry wood and other biomass has been a critical component (along with prescribed fires and managed wildfires) in reducing uncontrolled blazes. But how can you put this forest waste to productive use?
Renewable propane gas (rPG) production, along with the production of other renewable fuels, has a significant role in this process since woody biomass is a fantastic feedstock.
In a Renewable Gas 360 roundtable, Matt Baker, then the Deputy Secretary for Energy for the California Natural Resources Agency, discussed the environmental quandary presented by woody biomass in forests. One ton of wood contains roughly 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released into the atmosphere if that wood burns. If the wood decomposes, though, it releases methane first. Methane is over 80 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.
Baker noted that, with increasing wildfires, California land was becoming more of a source of CO2 emissions than a means of containing them. He asked, “How can we capture the carbon value of that wood and achieve some of our goals?”
As part of an all-inclusive conservation and renewable energy strategy, his agency looped in renewable fuel production, including biodiesel, renewable natural gas and renewable propane.
Dan Adler of the Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development noted that biofuel products have “the extreme benefit of capturing and sequestering carbon … and [creating] the input for a range of different final energy products that can be utilized.”
Essentially, diverting forest waste to fuel production puts it to use as residential and commercial energy. Otherwise, it would be a literal powder keg of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
According to an October 2022 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) about renewable propane production, biomass as an rPG feedstock is “much more robust and will be better suited to meet the renewable propane yield” than many other materials. The reason is plant waste’s wide availability and the relatively low carbon intensity associated with collecting and transporting it.
The primary process for converting forest waste to biofuel is called gasification/Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. In this process, the feedstock is heated at an extremely high temperature (700–1000°C), creating a synthesis gas. This gas is then cleaned, conditioned and converted into hydrocarbon products. Among these products is rPG, though FT also produces biodiesel, naphtha and renewable jet fuel.
As processes become more advanced and more production comes online, you can expect to see biomass like the wood cleared from areas vulnerable to wildfires playing a more significant role in a net-zero carbon future.
You can learn more about renewable propane’s place in the decarbonization conversation here.
* Source: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148908/whats-behind-californias-surge-of-large-fires
** Source: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/the-20-largest-wildfires-in-california-history-by-acreage/
How do renewable propane producers create a product that offers the efficient, clean-burning energy generation of conventional propane while massively lowering its carbon intensity?
They use organic feedstocks that are sustainably sourced and converted through a process with low carbon intensity. Many of these feedstocks are what most people would consider waste products. Other ingredients are agricultural and forest resources. Often, these items are the same as those used in biodiesel production.
Here’s a breakdown of common feedstocks for renewable propane gas (rPG).
We all feel a little guilty for eating a greasy meal, but you can feel better knowing that used cooking oils, animal fats and grease, can become clean, renewable energy. These restaurant waste products contribute to the production of biodiesel, rPG and other renewable fuels. And no food production is sacrificed in this process!
Municipalities produce a lot of refuse. Some paper, plastic, glass and other products can be recycled. Unfortunately, up to 65 percent of global waste ends up in landfills or dumped on land or at sea. Not only is this horrible for soil and clean water, but it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Luckily, municipal waste provides a valuable feedstock to produce rPG and other renewable fuels. This production chain diverts billions of pounds of waste from landfills each year. And research at MIT is making inroads on a process to convert plastic into rPG!
Dead trees and woody biomass can be wildfire hazards, and disposing of large forest waste products can be challenging. Agricultural waste like leaves and stalks serve little purpose for farmers. Happily, researchers have made fantastic strides in extracting the compounds to generate renewable fuel from these feedstocks.
Soybean oil and inedible corn oil have been ubiquitous biofuel feedstocks. They significantly contribute to rPG production, supporting American farmers in the process.
There are some lesser-known agricultural resources with potential in the rPG production pipeline.
One promising resource is camelina sativa. Similar to canola, this plant grows in otherwise-fallow land, doesn’t need much water, matures quickly and is resistant to pests. Growing camelina requires few resources and doesn’t displace food crops — and it’s an effective rPG feedstock.
Pongamia pinnata is a member of the pea family that grows widely in Asia, Indonesia and Australia. The seeds of these fast-growing trees have long been used as a leather tanning agent, soap ingredient, lubricant and medicine. Now researchers have found that pongamia is a good resource of natural oils for bioenergy use. The research is in its early stages, but there’s hope it could be a boon for renewable energy and economies where pongamia grows.
One of the most exciting products in the rPG space is renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl-ether (rDME). This gas originates from animal waste and other refuse products. Its chemical properties are nearly identical to propane, and you can store and transport rDME in the same container as propane.
Blending rDME with conventional propane (and rPG) considerably lowers the CI of the resulting blend, potentially into negative territory!
As we speak, the World LPG Association is testing rDME/propane blends to identify the best ratio that can be used in unmodified propane equipment.
There’s a fantastic range of organic and recycled products that we can put to use right now to fuel propane vehicles, systems and appliances. If you’re interested in learning more about renewable propane, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Tucker Perkins of the Propane Education & Research Center (PERC) has said that “the path to a low-carbon future is paved with innovation.”
The propane industry truly embodies this sentiment. Propane has always been a low-emissions home fuel. Still, the industry is continually looking for innovative ways to lower propane carbon intensity (CI) and power high-efficiency propane-fired equipment using renewable resources.
Here are a few of the most exciting outside-the-box initiatives that are expanding the possibilities for renewable propane gas (rPG) and other innovative blends.
Plastic use has quadrupled in the last three decades, and there currently aren’t many good options for dealing with plastic waste. In landfills, it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Some plastic is recycled, but the recycled products it produces aren’t the same quality.
A 2022 MIT study has created a process for recycling plastic waste on a molecular level. And its end-product is propane!
The process that MIT developed uses hydrogen gas to break down chemical bonds. Hydrogenolysis can happen at relatively low temperatures, and the MIT team also incorporated a cobalt-based catalyst, which results in an even cleaner process. In the end, they produce 80 percent propane gas that can be used in propane systems, vehicles and appliances.
The team has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to scale up this technology. It has the strong potential to reduce this country’s pervasive plastic waste problem and produce clean propane gas in the process!
Renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl-ether (rDME) comes from a range of existing sources, including animal, agricultural and municipal waste. This product has similar properties to liquified petroleum gases (LPG) like propane and butane. Like propane, rDME can be transported and stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders and tanks.
As you can imagine, there is tremendous potential for rDME to act as a renewable alternative to conventional propane. Indeed, it has the potential to reduce propane’s CI to net-negative intensity!
The World LPG Association is performing technical and safety assessments on the blending of rDME and conventional propane. The goal is to identify the best renewable blend ratio that can be used in propane-fired equipment without modifications. Soon, recommended blends will enter a trial phase in advance of a robust rollout that will considerably reduce your home or business’s CI.
Responding to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s call for “big, bold, clean energy projects” to combat the harmful impacts of climate change and promote environmental justice, PERC has laid out a roadmap of promising propane innovations. These initiatives include:
With innovative programs like those listed above, the propane industry is at the forefront of decarbonization efforts . Products like renewable propane and rDME are on their way to meaningfully reducing the environmental impact of American homes, businesses and vehicles.
Want to learn more about any of these innovations? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), roughly 27 percent of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. That is the highest percentage for any sector.
As we look to combat the harmful effects of climate change, corporations, municipalities, small businesses and individuals are searching for ways to travel our roadways in the most environmentally responsible way possible.
For decades, one of the best tools for reducing vehicle emissions has been propane autogas. Over 60,000 autogas vehicles are on U.S. roads right now, with more than 500 autogas service locations across the lower 48 states. And renewable propane is making these fleets even cleaner!
Propane’s per gallon price has historically been lower than gasoline and diesel. Today’s almost entirely domestic production of propane helps to moderate the price. Propane has a lower fuel economy than these other fuels, but the price difference offsets this. So, drivers can typically expect better value overall from propane. Because propane autogas burns so cleanly, autogas engines tend to have lower maintenance costs than gas and diesel engines.
Propane autogas vehicles are a more affordable alternative to electric vehicles, too. Installing the infrastructure to fuel 10 autogas vehicles costs up to $60,000, compared to $480,000 for the fast EV charging stations that 10 electric vehicles need.
Additionally, you don’t sacrifice performance when choosing propane over electricity. While electric shuttles can manage 120 miles on a full charge, a comparable autogas shuttle has technology that can provide a range of over 400 miles on a single fill. Range anxiety is not an issue when using propane.
Finally, it’s worth noting that propane autogas is fuel you control with on-site storage and dispensing. Electric vehicles are dependent on an overburdened and unreliable electric grid to run.
In addition to financial and performance benefits, propane autogas significantly outpaces gas and diesel for emissions and air quality. Consider these facts from studies conducted by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC):
These emissions reductions are great for the environment and the air our families, neighbors and co-workers breathe.
Autogas vehicles are some of the top beneficiaries of renewable propane gas. Because rPG is made from organic and recycled products in a production process with a low carbon intensity (CI), the fuel’s overall CI is even lower than conventional propane — and vastly lower than gasoline, diesel and U.S. grid-based electricity.
|Energy source||Carbon Intensity (grams CO2 equivalent per megajoule)|
|U.S. grid electricity||138.6|
|Renewable Propane||20.5 – 43.5|
And rPG can be used in autogas engines without modifications. If your vehicle fleet has the infrastructure to store, dispense and use propane autogas, you can seamlessly incorporate rPG and other innovative blends.
Renewable propane autogas represents a dynamic addition to a fuel supply that is already almost wholly U.S.-produced. Last year, U.S. producers made 4.6 million gallons of rPG, according to the EPA. We anticipate more than 100 million gallons of rPG will come to the market in the next few years. That will keep a lot of clean-driving fleets on the road!
Interested in advances in renewable propane? Contact us with any questions or comments.
One of the reasons that renewable propane (rPG) is so promising as a means for lowering carbon emissions is that it can be blended with conventional propane and used in unmodified propane-fired equipment. That’s because rPG has the same chemical structure and physical properties as conventional propane. It enables fuel producers and retailers to incorporate renewable material into their propane and vastly lower its carbon intensity (CI).
Renewable propane is methane-free and has a CI as low as zero. It’s created from renewable sources. Let’s take a moment to discuss the materials that go into making renewable propane and other innovative blends.
The feedstocks used in producing renewable propane are plentiful and inexpensive. Many would otherwise languish in landfills, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. They fall into four categories:
You might notice that these feedstocks are similar to those used in creating biodiesel and other biofuels. Just as conventional propane can be extracted as a co-product of oil refining, rPG can emerge from the same process as biofuel production.
The process of converting renewable feedstocks into fuel has a relatively low carbon intensity. It follows this general trajectory:
Another significant material promises to greatly reduce propane’s carbon intensity — renewable dimethyl ether or rDME.
This colorless gas has similar handling requirements to propane, so it can be stored in the same containers as conventional propane. Already, rDME is used as an alternative to diesel, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, it “can virtually eliminate particulate emissions and potentially negate the need for costly diesel particulate filters.”
There is fantastic potential for rDME to reduce propane’s CI to zero. Many manufacturers are working on research to ascertain its maximum blend percentage. You can expect to see rDME playing a big role in the near future.
The companies that produce renewable propane and other renewable fuels are entering 2023 with the wind at their backs.
Neste, which has a European rPG facility with a 40,000-ton annual capacity, made headlines late last year when it provided LAX airport with over 500,000 gallons of “MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel.” This jet fuel is produced using similar feedstocks to renewable propane.
Tucker Perkins of the Propane Education & Research Council projects that the U.S. will bring over 1 billion gallons of rPG to market within 10 years. By 2030, rPG, along with conventional propane and other innovative blends, should be the most widely accessible and affordable zero-carbon solution to America’s energy challenges.
In short, renewable propane is the liquid fuel for our future.
Want to learn how you can help advance the development of renewable propane? Check out our Clean Energy information page .
The development and production of renewable propane has skyrocketed in recent years. One significant reason for this growth is the availability of its feedstocks, which include animal and plant oils and materials that most consider to be waste.
In Europe, renewable propane producers have been working in tandem with biogas (also called renewable natural gas) companies to put food, agricultural, human and animal waste products to use creating renewable energy. In the process, they are making substantial strides at reducing methane emissions.
On a molecular level, propane consists of a chain of three carbon atoms bonded to eight hydrogen atoms. Methane’s molecule consists of one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms. This makes a difference in terms of the two products’ physical properties. Methane must be cooled substantially to take a liquid form. Propane becomes a liquid under pressure at a much higher temperature.
This is why natural gas (which is primarily composed of methane) exists in a gaseous state and must be transported in a utility’s pipe grid, whereas liquid propane can be transported in trucks, rail cars and cylinders. Propane also burns at a much higher temperature than methane, producing more than double the Btu output per cubic foot.
One concerning issue regarding methane is that it is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. In addition to fuel extraction, livestock farms, landfills and the microbial activity in wetlands contribute mightily to methane emissions. It’s not possible to remove methane from the planet altogether.
But there are ways to lower methane emissions in the service of renewable energy.
Diverting organic waste away from landfills can lower the release of methane. Putting it to use generating biofuel, renewable propane and biogas has the benefit of replacing less green heating products used in homes, businesses and on our roadways.
In Europe, many of these renewable energy products are called “off-grid renewable gases” because they can be distributed without a utility grid. These fuels are insulated from grid dependability issues and can more easily serve poorer, rural households that don’t have access to a utility.
Reducing methane emissions has immediate environmental benefits. The technology already exists to convert methane-emitting waste into biofuel, biogas and renewable propane. Currently, 150 nations have committed to the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to “reduce global methane emissions at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.” These nations include the U.S., the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Speaking at a recent World LPG Association (WLPGA) roundtable, Charlotte Morton, OBE of the World Biogas Association noted that, although Europe remains a prime hub for methane reduction in the service of creating biofuels, she sees potential growth in the United States. Citing the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Morton believes there are growing incentives coming from American policymakers.
Renewable propane is produced with similar feedstocks to biofuel and biogas. We believe the renewable propane and other innovative blends will be America’s most widely available, affordable carbon-neutral energy solution. Producing them will be a crucial component in reducing methane emissions.
Sophia Haywood is the Advocacy and Communications Manager for Dimeta, a company that advances the production of renewable fuels, including recycled carbon Dimethyl Ether (rDME), which can be blended with conventional propane and markedly lower its carbon intensity. Speaking at the WLPGA roundtable, she was optimistic about the industry’s embrace of renewable technologies.
“We need a solution that will work for the industry, as well as households, businesses and policymakers,” she said. “I think we’re all headed in the right direction — we just need to keep up the momentum.”
You can learn more about renewable propane’s role in a cleaner, more sustainable future here.