Frequently Asked Questions About Propane
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Where does propane come from?
Propane is one of many petroleum hydrocarbons that come from either crude oil or natural gas wells. Almost 87% of the propane used in the United States is produced here, with about 55% of the US production being the by-product of natural gas.
Propane is considered a clean burning fuel and because of its portability it has been used around the world for more than fifty years. Some of its uses are cooking, heating, manufacturing, agriculture, recreational, petro-chemicals, propellants, and because it is considered a clean burning alternative fuel for gasoline and diesel, propane has gained recent popularity in transportation and warehouse (forklift) arena.
Is propane the same as butane?
Propane and butane are both members of the liquid petroleum gas family. They are similar and in some cases can be used for the same application, with minimal equipment modifications. There is a difference in the chemical make up of each fuel. For example, propane (C3H4) has a boiling point of –44 ° F, with 91690 BTU‘s per gallon, and an octane number over 100. Butane (C4H10) on the other hand has a boiling point of 32° F, with 102032 BTU ‘s per gallon, and an octane number of 92.
Is there a difference in fuel quality?
Yes, fuel quality does vary. There are several degrees of blends for LP-Gas. The most common blends being commercial grade propane, commercial grade butane, HD5 and HD10 grade of propane, and butane/propane blends. The fuel we sell is HD10 specification or better. HD10 is the industry’s recognized standard for motor fuel. We purchase our product from suppliers who guarantee this high quality.
Why does propane smell so bad?
Propane in its natural state is odorless. After it is produced, odorant is added to the fuel which allows for its detection. The odorization of propane permits the early detection of leaks before gas concentrations reach hazardous levels. The odorant most commonly used is ethyl mercaptan.
What determines the price of propane?
The oil refineries set prices based on several factors, such as: the cost of crude oil, the size of the gas reserves, their refining costs, and the old law of supply and demand.
How do you know if a tank is leaking?
There are several ways of identifying a leaking tank or cylinder:
- Smell. This is why the odorant is placed in the product. If you smell the unmistakable odor, there could be a leak or open fitting somewhere in your LP-system.
- Oily film around the valve or fitting connections: small leaks often leave an oily residue at the point of leakage.
- Sound. A more severe leak will sometimes emit a sound from a low “psssss” to a high pitch squeal.
- Fuel level decreasing faster than normal. If the level of propane is dropping faster than normal, one possible scenario could be that a leak exists somewhere on the container, it’s lines or the apparatus that is being used.
Leaks in liquid space will usually cause a frosting or freezing around the leaking spot.
Once a leak is suspected or if you just want to routinely check for leaks, a liquid leak detector or gas sniffing device is recommended. For emergency detection, soapsuds can be used. The liquid detector or soapsuds will cause a bubbling up effect that will point out the leaks origin. However, continued use of certain brands of soap could cause corrosion to the brass, rubber, or sealant used on the tank valves or fittings.
If the leak is on the propane container, get it outside and away from any source of ignition. If the leak is on the fuel line (vapor or liquid), shut off the flow of fuel by closing the service valve. Once you have found a leak or suspect one, call your propane supplier. They will guide you through the situation.
How much does a full tank of propane weigh?
- 8-gallon steel forklift tank 69lbs.
- 8-gallon aluminum forklift tank 57lbs.
- 5-gallon steel BBQ tank 37lbs.
Why does the forklift take freeze up or sweat while on the forklift?
A tank/cylinder will sweat or freeze if the forklift is drawing fuel from the vapor space of the forklift container. This can happen if:
- The tank/cylinder is placed on the forklift incorrectly. (On a DOT cylinder, the two holes on the neck ring need to be on the bottom, so when the tank is in the horizontal position, the bracket peg will fit in one of the holes.)
- The liquid tube is broken on the inside of the container.
- You are low on fuel that the liquid level is below the liquid withdraw tube opening.
- A vapor withdraw tank/cylinder is being used on a liquid withdraw system.
What is recertification?
There are two types of propane containers, the ASME tank and the DOT cylinder. NFPA pamphlet 58 states that all DOT cylinders need to be recertified after 12 years from the manufacturing date and depending on what certifying method is used they are recertified every 5,7,12 years thereafter. Recertification involves a periodical documented inspection and testing of the cylinder to confirm that the cylinder is still safe and legal to remain in service.
ASME tanks do not get recertified. They should have the relief valve replaced every 10 years and follow the same standards established by the Dept. of Transportation.
Can I use a forklift tank on my BBQ?
No! Propane tanks are designed for specific uses. Make sure you check with your supplier before placing propane containers in situations that are different from what the original purpose was. It can be very dangerous to use a propane container for a use it was not designed for.
Containers made for BBQ use are designed for vapor withdraw. Containers used for forklift applications are usually designed for liquid withdraw. A liquid withdraw container should never be used for vapor withdraw applications. All appliances use a vapor withdraw application. Note – most vapor applications of propane will require the use of a regulator to regulate the appropriate working pressure.
Can I take my BBQ tank to be refueled?
Yes. Most BBQ tanks are vertical containers. The best method of transporting your propane container is to secure it in the vertical position in a pick up. If you must use a car, secure it in the vertical position, preferably in the trunk. After refueling always remove the container A.S.A.P. from your vehicle.
Whenever you transport any propane container, they should be secured in their proper position, being vertical or horizontal. We strongly recommend that you use other forms of transportation than autos. Note – some states do not permit propane tanks to be placed in passenger compartments of vehicles.
Where can I legally put this propane tank?
Generally speaking, small cylinders up to and including 420 lbs. (100-gallons) should be outside and at least 15 feet from a building opening such as a window, door, vent, etc. Most small multiple cylinders/tanks are required to be stored outside in a rack or a secured area. A larger tank, 100 – 499 gallons, must be 10 feet away from the building or property line. Tanks from 500 – 2000 gallons are set 25 feet away from a building or property line. 2000+ gallon tanks are 50 feet away from a building or property line. Protective barriers or concrete foundations may be needed and local fire departments and other governing agencies may be involved in the installation process.
Every city can have different rules and regulations as far as the placement of either portable or stationary propane containers are concerned. Also, rules are different for residential and commercial use. You can call us or the local fire department for advice on your specific situation.
How do I properly dispose of a propane tank?
You can bring it to us!
It is illegal to throw away a propane tank in a trash bin. There are major fines associated with that because there is hazardous material involved.
We charge to dispose of your propane tank because there is a process we go through to make sure your tank is safe to dispose of. First, we remove all the product (liquid propane and vapor) from the tank. Next, we de-valve the tank, to further ensue that there is no more propane trapped in the tank. After that we submerge the tank in water to make sure that all the residual propane in the pores of the metal are flushed out. And lastly, we dispose of your tank to a metal recycling company so that you don’t have to.
- 8 gallon forklift tank: $25/each
- 5 gallon barbecue tank: $5/each
- Motor Fuel Tank: $40/each
Unless you are a customer of ours that we deliver to we do not pick up your tanks from your location. Instead, please drop them off at our location: 5140 Elton Street Baldwin Park, CA 91706.
How does the weather cause my cylinder to lose propane?
It doesn’t. The temperature of the propane impacts the liquid density, which means that the volume of liquid contracts as it cools, sometimes enough to change the reading of the gauge. A cylinder filled on a hot day actually appears to “lose” propane as the temperature drops, even though the cylinder contains the same amount of propane.
Can I buy the valves to fix my propane tank myself?
We would never sell the valves to you to fix your own propane tank. There is too much liability. That’s why our labor fee is so low to make it cost effective for you to let our trained professionals do it for you. Remember you are dealing with a flammable gas in a pressure vessel. Your safety comes first.
Propane vs. Electric Forklift
There are many advantages and disadvantages of both propane and electric forklifts. The key to making the right decision depends on your work environment. Below are some facts to help you make a well informed decision.
Advantages of Electric Forklifts
- Electric forklifts have zero tailpipe emissions in a better and more safe work environment for the employees.
- Outside, on-site fuel storage is eliminated which reduces liability.
- Spend less on planned maintenance and repair maintenance, ie Electric lift trucks don’t have engines, transmissions or radiators.
- Capacity ratings and stability are usually better at high lifting heights, partly due to a lower center of gravity.
- Turning radius specifications are typically better which can increase storage capacity, reduce product and truck damage and/or increase productivity.
- In the design of the electric forklift, braking happens automatically and electrically as soon as he operator’s foot is removed from the gas pedal resulting in less brake wear.
Disadvantaged of Electric Forklifts
- They may or may not meet performance expectations in applications that require high and/or constant duty drive line torque, ie ramps, chiselling, etc.
- The cleaning, watering and charging requirements of the expensive industrial battery are very important and may not be manageable, particularly in a multi-shift operation.
- Forgetting to charge the battery overnight could result in significant productivity consequences the next day, particularly when the business operates with only one forklift.
- Initial purchase price or capital cost is higher when compared with propane and diesel forklifts.
- Adequate ventilation is required around the forklift when the battery is being recharged.
- Battery chargers have certain voltage and amperage requirements, particularly during start up. An existing electrical service may or may not meet these requirements.
Advantages of Propane Forklifts
- There is little risk associated with running out of fuel other than the inconvenience of having to change propane cylinders.
- Initial purchase price or capital cost is lower when compared with electric forklifts.
- Better than most electric forklift (not all) when the application requires high and /or constant duty drive line torque.
- Acceptable for most indoor applications provided that other WorkSafeBC criteria is met. May or may not be acceptable for food handling.
Disadvantages of Propane Forklifts
- Rearward visibility off the back end of the counterweight is restricted due to the location of the propane tank.
- Liability exposure, ie there is always the possibility of a fuel system leak while the truck is indoors. Also, operators need to be trained on the safe handling of propane fuel.
- Propane fuel is not always readily available in remote locations.