Most people tend to view natural gas and propane (LPG) as pretty much the same thing. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Once consumers examine the facts a bit more closely, the difference between LPG and natural gas are quite obvious. In this article, we will look at where these two gasses come from, how does natural gas work in comparison to LPG for home heating or cooking and a few other key considerations like safety and cost.
Where do these gasses come from?
Natural gas is formed by decomposing organic material deep in the earth. It is harvested from nature, cleaned and sent on its way. Humans don’t make natural gas, nature does.
Petroleum gas (propane) is a byproduct of refining crude oil. Nature does not make petroleum gas, humans do.
Which of these two gasses are more earth friendly?
Since none of us like the idea of turning the earth into a non-life-sustaining wasteland, let’s talk about how each of these gases affect our planet. Natural gas is cleaner burning than propane. It produces less CO2 emissions of the two. Most consumers will notice that propane leaves behind a thin film of oil particles on windows and mirrors. This doesn’t give people happy thoughts about what a propane stove may be adding to the air in their home. While both gasses are a better choice for the planet than other popular fuels, natural gas is better for the planet we live on.
How are these gases delivered to the consumer?
Of the two gases, petroleum gas is easier to transport for one main reason: It can be easily compressed into liquid form (LPG). This liquid form means that more gas for the same volume can be trucked around the country and delivered. Natural gas can be compressed to liquid form, but it takes a lot more pressure to do it. This means that a container stout enough to hold that higher pressure would be thicker and heavier than LPG gas bottles. In general, gas suppliers move LPG around in containers of all sizes ranging from hundreds of gallons to less than one gallon. Natural gas is generally moved about the country using buried natural gas pipelines. Consumers who wish to use natural gas will need to consider the proximity of their home to a municipal gas pipeline and the costs associated with tying into the gas suppliers main. Rural areas generally get the raw end of the deal here. It’s nothing personal, just the difference between LPG and natural gas delivery methods.
Which one is cheaper?
Since the million dollar question is: “Which one is cheaper?”, let’s go ahead and get some of the nerdy math out of the way. Because LPG and natural gas are not billed the same, we will have to do some calculating to compare the two on equal ground.
- LPG is typically sold by the gallon.
- Natural gas is usually billed by the therm.
- The heat produced from most stoves and heaters is measured in British Thermal Units. A BTU is the heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
- To get 100,000 BTUs, we would consume 1 therm of natural gas.
- This same 100,000 BTUs produced with LPG would take 1.093 gallons of petroleum gas.
- Let’s assume that an average therm of natural gas will cost us $0.55. One gallon of propane is currently selling for $2.10.
- 100,000 BTUs from natural gas will cost $0.55.
- 100,000 BTUs from propane will cost $2.30.
In light of the above numbers, the benefits of natural gas now begin to hit home.
Which gas is safer?
Simply put, natural gas is safer. Since propane is heavier than air, it will congregate down low if it should happen to leak from its container or piping. When these low lying pockets of gas are ignited by a spark, the results are explosive (pun intended). Natural gas is lighter than air. If a leak occurs, it will dissipate upwards and diffuse into the air quite quickly. This makes it easier to vent natural gas in the event of a leak.
Bottled gas suppliers are a godsend to people who need portable gas in the form of LPG. Propane has been a must-have for campers, rural consumers and tailgate barbeque cooks for decades. For consumers who live near a natural gas main, the benefits of natural gas are many: cheaper home heating costs, cleaner burning fuel and those warm fuzzy feelings associated with doing something good for the planet.