Propane Facts

Lots of people and businesses use propane every single day. How many? About 48 million households, according to the Propane Education & Research Council. As a clean, affordable and abundant fuel that’s domestically produced, its uses are many, its benefits varied.

Give yourself a few minutes to browse this page and learn all the ins and outs of propane. You might be surprised to see just how useful, environmentally friendly and economically responsible propane truly is.

Propane Uses

Between residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural applications, the list of things propane can be used for is a long one … and one that’s actually still growing. Here are just a few of propane’s innumerable uses.

  • Space heating (boilers and furnaces)
  • Water heating (hot water heaters, pool heaters and spa heaters)
  • Cooking (grills, ovens and stovetops)
  • Refrigeration (gas absorption refrigerators)
  • Clothes drying
  • Grain drying
  • Power generation (standby, portable and mobile generators)
  • Engine fueling (on-road vehicles, landscaping and construction equipment)
  • Blowtorching
  • Soldering

Propane Benefits

Propane offers countless benefits, but above all it provides S.H.E.E.R. comfort and peace of mind.

Safe: Propane is a nontoxic, nonpoisonous fuel that doesn't contaminate groundwater or soil. Propane tanks can be safely buried underground at home sites in areas that are beyond the natural gas main.

High-performance: Propane can easily fuel any of the high-performance amenities today's homeowners are demanding, while also reducing energy costs and emissions and increasing comfort, compared with heating oil or electric appliances.

Efficient: Propane-powered appliances and other propane applications deliver homeowners better value and comfort compared with most other energy sources, while also reducing overall energy costs.

Environmentally friendly: Propane is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990. It is a low-carbon alternative fuel that produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than most other energy sources.

Reliable: Propane is a proven energy source homeowners can count on, even when the electrical grid is down.

Propane FAQ

What is propane?

An affordable, clean, American-made fuel, propane is a gas normally compressed and stored as a liquid. It is most commonly used for space and water heating, for cooking, and as a fuel for engines; however, its applications are rapidly growing due to new technology developments.

  • Propane is nontoxic, colorless, and virtually odorless; an identifying odor is added so it can be detected.
  • Propane is also sometimes known as liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG. When used as vehicle fuel, propane is known as propane autogas.
Where does propane come from?

Propane is primarily a byproduct of domestic natural gas processing, though some propane is produced from crude oil refinement. U.S. propane supplies are becoming increasingly abundant due in large part to increased supplies of natural gas.

  • As shale gas extraction has increased, the production of propane from crude oil refinement has dropped dramatically. In 2011, 69 percent of the total U.S. supply of propane came from natural gas liquids produced in the U.S. and Canada.1
  • Much growth in propane supply is expected to come from the Marcellus shale play in the northeastern U.S. Industry observers estimate the Marcellus shale alone can supply more than 2 billion gallons of propane per year.2
  • Because of the drastic increase in U.S. sources of propane, the U.S. produces more than enough propane to meet current demand and became a net exporter of propane in 2011.3

1. ICF International, Propane Supply Sources and Trends, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, August 2012), prepared for the National Propane Gas Association.
2. ICF International, 2012 Propane Market Outlook, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, 2010), prepared for the Propane Education & Research Council.
3. ICF International, Propane Supply Sources and Trends, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, August 2012), prepared for the National Propane Gas Association.

Why propane?

Though historically associated with other crude oil products, such as a gasoline or diesel fuel, propane differs from these fuels in several critical ways:

  • Affordable. Propane prices have fallen relative to gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil due to the growing supply.1
  • Cleaner. Propane is a cleaner-burning, lower-carbon fuel than other petroleum-based products such as gasoline or diesel because it burns hotter and more efficiently. 2
  • Abundant and Domestic. In 2011, domestic propane production from natural gas plant liquids exceeded consumer demand for the first time. Propane is an abundant bridge fuel, making it a clean-burning alternative to gasoline and diesel that can address energy challenges while long-term renewable technologies are developed.3

1. ICF International, 2012 Propane Market Outlook, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, 2010), prepared for the Propane Education & Research Council.
2. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, "Propane Explained: Use of Propane," July 2009.
3. John D. Podesta and Timothy E. Worth, natural Gas: A Bridge Fuel for the 21st Century (Center for American Progress and Energy Future Coalition, August 10, 2009),https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2009/08/pdf/naturalgasmemo.pdf (accessed January 4, 2012).

Who uses propane?

Propane is used in 48 million households1 as well as many businesses for water and space heating, indoor and outdoor cooking, clothes drying, and backup power. Additionally, many industries increasingly choose propane to cost effectively fuel vehicles and equipment while lowering emissions.

  • On-Road Vehicles. Propane autogas is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 19902 and the third most popular vehicle fuel worldwide behind gasoline and diesel.3 Propane is commonly used to fuel buses, light- and medium-duty trucks, vans, shuttles, taxicabs, and police and government vehicles.
  • Professional Landscape Equipment. More than 15 models of propane-powered commercial lawn mowers are available today from industry-leading brands.
  • Agricultural Equipment. More than 1.2 billion gallons of propane were sold for agricultural use in 2009.4 This includes propane that is used to run pumps and engines, heat buildings, and dry and process crops.

1. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA), Table HC1.1 Fuels Used and End Uses in U.S. Homes, by Housing Unit Type, 2009,http://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/data/2009/#undefined (accessed May 18, 2012).
2. Air Pollution Control Act, Public Law 84-159, U.S. Statues at Large 69 (1955): 322, as amended, codified at U.S. Code 42, 7401-7626 (commonly known as the Clean Air Act), http://epw.senate.gov/envlaws/cleanair.pdf.
3. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, "Alternative & Advanced Fuels: Propane as an Alternative Fuel," last updated May 11, 2012,http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/propane_alternative.html (accessed May 18, 2012).
4. ICF International, Propane Industry Impact on U.S. and State Economies, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, 2011), prepared for the Propane Education & Research Council, 33.

How is propane distributed?

With up to 56,000 miles of pipeline and nearly 6,000 retail dealer locations nationwide, propane is widely available and easily portable.1

For on-road use, there are more fueling stations in the U.S. for propane autogas vehicles than there are for vehicles of any other alternative fuel except electricity.2 Propane is the only alternative fuel with fueling stations in every state.3


1. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, "Natural Gas Transmission, Gas Distribution, and Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Annual Mileage," last updated December 30, 2011.
2. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, "Alternative Fueling Station Total Counts by State and Fuel Type," station data last updated April 30, 2012, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/stations_counts.html (accessed May 18, 2012).
3. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, "Alternative Fueling Station Total Counts by State and Fuel Type," station data last updated April 30, 2012, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/stations_counts.html (accessed May 18, 2012).


How does the propane industry contribute to the economy?

The propane industry generated nearly $15 billion in direct domestic value in 2009.1 Nearly 50,000 workers across the U.S. are employed in propane production, transportation, and distribution.2


1. ICF International, Propane Industry Impact on U.S. and State Economies, (Washington, D.C.: ICF International, 2011), prepared for the Propane Education & Research Council, 1.
2. U.S. Census Bureau, "2007 NAICS Definition: 424710 Petroleum Bulk Stations and Terminals," April 2008.