Propane and Natural Gas- 12 Best Difference!

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between Propane and Natural Gas

Propane and Natural Gas: Both propane and natural gas are widely used in the United States for their heating and fuel purposes. Many people mistakenly believe that propane and natural gases are the same because they are similar. However, there are several differences.

The two gases are similar in their heating, drying, and cooking functions. They’re also colorless, odorless, and have a chemical structure. Their major differences lie in the weight, heat efficiency, transportation, cost, and compression.

What is Propane Gas?

Propane Gas
Figure-01: Propane Gas
  • Propane fuel is an energy source with many uses and applications, including being stored as compressed form or transported at normal pressure and temperature levels. Propane comes from refining crude oil and natural gas as its source material.
  • Propane has the formula C3H8, denoting its chemical makeup of eight hydrogen and three carbon atoms, making it easily vaporizable before burning as energy source.
  • Production Process Propane is produced primarily through refining crude oil or processing natural gas, using fractionation technology to isolate it from other hydrocarbons in crude oil or natural gas. Heating this crude or gas allows us to separate its various components based on boiling point separation.
  • Propane can be extracted both from natural gas and oil sources. Propane often forms as an afterproduct of methane extraction during natural gas processing; similarly by-products from petroleum refineries can also provide this source.
  • Propane’s energy density makes it an attractive fuel. One gallon (3.8 liters) contains around 91.5 500 British Thermal Units (BTUs). Propane makes for an efficient use of resources.
  • Propane has many applications across different sectors – residential, industrial and commercial. From heating homes, cooking with it and barbecuing outdoors to fuelling furnaces, stoves and water heaters it has found widespread usage across industries and applications. Furthermore, propane can also be used as a pesticide in agriculture as well as fuel for vehicles, forklifts or generators – an indispensable product to use daily!
  • Propane gas can be stored in pressurized storage tanks or cylinders designed to handle the pressure created during its liquefaction, with transport available via railcars, ships or trucks.
  • Propane fuel is considered an environmentally-friendly fossil fuel option; however, combustion produces greenhouse gas emissions similar to coal or oil combustion processes; however, it produces lower CO2 and NOx emissions than either coal or oil sources.
  • Propane gas can be dangerous. To stay safe around it, it’s vitally important to use, store, and handle propane correctly. Although initially inert in its original state, an additive called ethyl-mercaptan gives propane its unique smell which aids detection of leakage. Installing, ventilating and maintaining propane appliances are vital parts of their safety.
  • Propane gas has many applications across a wide spectrum of residential, industrial, and commercial settings. With its high energy output and cleaner combustion process making propane an attractive choice among many users.

What is Natural Gas?

Natural Gas
Figure-02: Natural Gas


  • Naturally-occurring natural gas primarily comprises methane. However, small quantities of hydrocarbons like propane and butane may also exist within it; their formation resulting from decomposing deep-buried organic materials in Earth’s crust takes millions of years – this overview serves only to give a basic introduction.
  • Chemical Composition of Natural Gas, Methane is the main constituent of natural gas. Composed of four hydrogen and one carbon atom, methane composes 70 to 90% of natural gas’s composition; other hydrocarbons like ethane and propane as well as nonhydrocarbon nitrogen dioxide can also be present in smaller amounts.
  • At high temperatures and pressures, natural gas is produced through the breakdown of organic material such as dead animals and plants, stored in porous rocks such as limestone, sandstone or shale reservoirs and can be extracted via drilling techniques such as horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
  • Natural Gas Reserves, Natural gas reserves represent the estimated volume of gas that can be economically recovered, both onshore and off. Major natural gas-producing regions include the United States, Russia, and Iran with Canada China Canada Qatar also producing large volumes.
  • Gases tend to be colorless and odorless. A mercaptan odorant can add an identifiable aroma reminiscent of “rotten eggs”, helping detect leaks and improve safety by dispersing and rising rather than pooling at ground level. This scent provides the potential to detect leaks as it helps ensure detection is quick.
  • Gas is widely recognized for being an energy source that produces heat when burned; natural gas energy content can vary based on composition; one cubic foot contains roughly 1,000 BTUs.
  • Natural gas has many uses; from heating homes, businesses, and industries to space heating, cooking, and water heating. Furthermore, gas can also be used as the energy source in both large power plants as well as smaller combined heat-and-power (CHP) systems; additionally, it may even be utilized to produce chemicals and fertilizers.
  • Natural gas use produces less greenhouse emissions than coal and oil combustion but still releases significant levels of carbon dioxide into the environment. Methane gas can act as an especially potent greenhouse gas; leakage during production, transportation, or processing could exacerbate climate change further still. Natural gas plants emit significantly fewer sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions compared with coal-fired facilities.
  • Storage and Transportation of Natural Gas, Natural gas can be transported via pipelines that form an extensive network. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), can also be shipped using tanker vessels or cryogenic containers; LNG provides easier long-distance transportation and storage solutions.
  • Natural gas can be extremely hazardous, so proper installation, maintenance, and ventilation procedures must be implemented at all times to safeguard its use.

Importance of understanding the differences between the two

Understanding the distinctions between natural gas and propane for various reasons is imperative.

  1. Propane has distinctive safety concerns compared to natural gas, making handling it safely more straightforward for users. Proper storage practices and leak detection techniques should help avoid accidents while guaranteeing user well-being.
  2. Propane or natural gas appliances can work seamlessly together; users who understand these differences can select appliances compatible with either source. Any mismatched pairing can result in inefficiency and damage to appliances as well as safety risks.
  3. Propane has distinct energy content, efficiency ratings, and costs than natural gas; these differences allow users to make an informed decision when selecting fuel for cooking or heating applications, including utility costs reduction as well as optimal energy usage.
  4. Infrastructure and availability, Propane and natural gas availability may depend upon where one life or does business, making assessing their costs and feasibility harder than necessary. Individuals or companies can compare distribution networks and infrastructure needs between both fuels, enabling users to make an informed decision based on fuel reliability in the area they’re located in.
  5. Propane has different impacts than natural gas on the environment, which allows users to make eco-conscious choices when selecting fuel types. Understanding emissions, carbon footprints and regulations associated with each fuel helps businesses and individuals reduce their impactful footprint and support sustainability initiatives.
  6. Prices can differ based on regional and market influences, and users can make better-informed decisions and budget more efficiently by understanding these price variations, their causes and long-term trends.
  7. Flexible and Portable, Natural gas and propane both offer different degrees of portability and flexibility, helping users select the appropriate fuel type for different uses. Propane’s portability may make it an excellent option in remote or off-grid locations while natural gas’s wide availability via pipeline may make it more suitable in cities.

Gaining knowledge about the differences between propane and natural gas will enable individuals and businesses to make more informed decisions regarding fuel selection, use, safety, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impacts. Armed with this information you can ensure optimal utilization, cost efficiency, and safety as well as meet both personal goals and business requirements more accurately.

Composition and Sources Between Propane and Natural Gas

The composition and Sources Between Propane and Natural Gas are given here:

Propane Composition:

Propane’s chemical formula is C3H8 and comprises eight hydrogen and three carbon atoms. Under normal atmospheric pressure conditions, propane exists as an odorless, colorless and colorless liquid gas; when stored or transported, however, however, compressed versions exist that compress into solid form for easy transportation or storage.

Composition of natural gas:

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, consisting of four hydrogen and one carbon atoms. However, natural gas may also contain smaller quantities of hydrocarbons like butane, ethane, or propane depending on its source location and production process. The composition can also differ based on temperature variations between regions or sources of emission.

Sources of Propane:

Both natural gas and crude oil can be used to produce propane. It’s often produced as an unwanted by-product from natural gas industry operations when methane stream is separated out and collected separately for fractionation purposes – heated crude oil/gas is then separated according to boiling point in order to obtain propane as its component parts separate out into its respective categories.

Gas Natural Sources:

Natural gas is produced through the decomposition process of organic matter buried deep within Earth’s crust for millions of years, usually found in porous rocks such as shale or sandstone, onshore and offshore throughout much of its production zone, including Russia, Iran, Canada China Canada Qatar as major producers.

Propane can be produced by processing natural gas; however, these terms are frequently used interchangeably to refer to various fuels with distinct characteristics, applications, and infrastructure requirements.

Table Difference:

Inspact Propane Natural Gas
Composition Liquefied Petroleum Gas Primarily Methane
Source Natural Gas Processing Underground Reservoirs
State Compressed Liquid Gaseous
Energy Content Higher Lower
Efficiency More efficient for heating Less efficient for heating
Storage Pressurized Tanks Pipelines or LNG
Transportation Tanks or cylinders Pipelines or LNG
Environmental Impact Lower emissions Lower emissions
Safety Highly flammable Flammable
Cost Subject to fluctuations Subject to fluctuations
Availability Widespread, limited in remote areas Widespread, proximity to pipelines
Applications Residential and commercial heating, cooking, power generation Residential and commercial heating, cooking, power generation

Physical Properties

At normal atmospheric pressure and room temperature (roughly 25degC), propane exists as a liquid at room temperature. To compress it further into liquid form, cool or apply pressure below -42degC; though typically stored and shipped as liquid form.

Propane has both a neutral appearance and scent; however, to increase safety measures it may be scented with an ethyl-mercaptan odorant to give the scent of rotten egg and detect leakage more readily.

Propane weighs more than air, meaning its leak tends to settle on areas with low elevations and collect. At Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP), its gaseous density measures 1.88kg/m3, or approximately 0.117lb/ft3. Meanwhile, liquid propane density at -42degC measures 493kg/m3.

Gaseous Substances and Their Physical Properties: 

At normal atmospheric pressures, natural gas exists both as an airborne and liquid gas form. Gaseous natural gas exists throughout its storage, transport and use processes.

Natural gas, like propane, is both colorless and odorless; to differentiate the two forms of energy by adding an odorant (typically mercaptan), making leak detection simpler.

Natural gas density typically ranges between 0.68 kg/m3 (0.0425 lb/ft3) in STP environments and can disperse and rise during any gas leak, dispersing over an extended period. It will generally disperse rapidly.

Though propane and natural gases possess similar physical characteristics when in their gaseous states, there may be differences in terms of density or odorant levels – all critical properties when handling them safely.

Energy Efficiency and Contents of Products

Propane Energy Content: Propane is an extremely high energy density fuel and its energy content can typically be measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). A gallon (3.8 liters) typically holds 91,000 BTUs of energy content based on composition and quality; these values may fluctuate accordingly.

Gaseous Energy Content:

  1. Natural gas’s energy density can be measured using British Thermal Units per Cubic Foot or Meter; typically one cubic foot contains around 1,000 BTUs of energy; this figure depends upon its composition as well as whether there are additional hydrocarbons present.
  2. Energy Efficiency Propane and natural gases have long been celebrated for their high level of efficiency when used for power or heating needs, making them reliable energy resources that provide consistent power or heating needs. Their efficiency may depend on the technology or equipment specifics used, however, overall these appliances tend to provide reliable heating or cooking with additional energy-saving functions like storage.
  3. Energy efficiency can also be affected by factors like appliance condition and design, installation and maintenance practices, as well as optimal usage practices and energy-saving appliances. Optimizing energy use further by selecting energy-saving models may further increase its performance.

Comparing Efficiency:

  1. It is crucial to compare energy efficiency between propane and natural gases, taking into account various appliances used and technologies employed. Both fuels can achieve similar efficiencies when utilized with appropriate appliances; their exact energy performance depends upon your specific application and equipment needs.
  2. Your appliances’ energy efficiency could also depend on their fuel source of choice – with certain models optimized specifically for natural gas or propane use.
  3. Propane and natural gases offer reliable energy solutions suitable for residential, commercial, and industrial uses – they’re energy-dense yet cost-effective options that offer peace of mind when making decisions for these purposes.

Storage and Transportation 

Propane and natural gases differ considerably when it comes to their physical properties, thus leading to unique storage and transport considerations for each gas type.

Storage and Transport of Propane:

Propane gas can be stored either in pressurized cylinders or tanks that contain liquid propane at an elevated pressure, usually made of steel with gauges and safety valves installed for safety and convenience. Size options range from portable cylinders for portable uses up to large tanks used for industrial, residential or commercial needs.

Transport of Propane:

Propane comes in both compressed and liquid forms for ease of transportation, commonly seen with small portable cylinders used to transport propane for camping, grilling and other outdoor activities. Larger quantities can be moved via railcar or tanker trucks while Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) may even be utilized internationally via ocean-going vessels.

Proper storage, handling, and transport of propane are essential to its safekeeping. In order to minimize leaks and ensure adequate ventilation of this essential resource, adherence to safety regulations and guidelines must be observed at all times. Furthermore, regular inspection of storage tanks and transport equipment must take place.

Storage and Transportation of Natural Gas:

Natural gas is typically stored and transported in gaseous form for storage and transport purposes. Most often it’s kept underground in storage systems like depleted reservoirs of gas, salt caves or aquifers to help balance demand with supply during different seasons – although temporary solutions such as holders or pressure vessels may also be utilized temporarily aboveground for such needs.

Transport of Natural Gas:

Pipelines provide the primary means by which natural gas is transported, from transmission and distribution, all the way to consumer use. Pipes transport gas directly from producers through pipelines that transport to consumers including residential, industrial, and commercial users as well as long-distance and national boundary pipelines. Liquefied natural gases (LNG) may also be used as means for long-distance shipping of gas by heating it down to very low temperatures so as to liquefy and store easily over long distances.

Safety Measures for Natural Gas Transportation:

Safety measures are taken for transporting natural gas primarily centered around pipeline integrity and maintenance. In order to provide safe, dependable natural gas delivery services, pipeline operators adhere to stringent inspection and regulation protocols; leak detection systems, emergency plans, and routine maintenance programs may also be implemented to lower risks and avoid accidents; construction, operation, and maintenance protocols also cover gas storage tanks.

Propane and natural gases vary considerably when it comes to their storage and transport infrastructure, depending on factors like location, regulations, and the size of an operation. It’s essential that businesses understand each fuel’s specific requirements for efficient and safe handling.

Environmental Effects

Natural gas and propane each have unique environmental repercussions; when considering them for evaluation of their impact on the environment:

  1. Propane emits less greenhouse gas emissions than coal and oil combined, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide emissions, with combustion producing reduced particulate matter that contributes to better air quality.
  2. Propane’s high efficiency can significantly cut energy usage. Propane appliances like water heaters and furnaces can be utilized effectively to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Propane gas can be highly flammable and pose severe safety concerns. While leakage of propane gas may not pose major hazards due to its physical properties, any leakages that do occur could pose localized pollution or safety concerns that should be dealt with immediately in order to keep our environment as safe as possible.
  4. Natural Gas Delivers Lower Emissions Than Fossils, Natural gas combustion typically results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than most fossil fuels, with methane being its main component releasing greenhouse gases; its emission can, however, be limited using proper extraction, transport and use practices; methane leaks may increase such emissions significantly.
  5.  Natural gas appliances can be highly energy-efficient. Today’s modern models reduce both wasteful energy use and carbon emissions significantly, as it’s used in appliances like combined heat and electricity systems and condensing heaters that use it efficiently.
  6. Methane leakage in natural gas distribution and production is of great concern, given its strong greenhouse effects over 20 years compared to CO2. Reducing emissions across all segments of supply is integral in order to mitigate its negative environmental impact while contributing towards low-carbon energy transformation strategies.
  7. Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking can be detrimental to the environment. By injecting chemicals, water, and sand underground to access natural gas deposits for extraction through hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, toxic materials may seep into groundwater supplies causing contamination as well as disrupted habitats that release methane emissions into the air. Failing proper management could result in water contamination as well as methane emission which is detrimental for all concerned.

propane and natural gases produce lower carbon dioxide emissions than most fossil fuels; nevertheless, they contribute significantly to emissions overall. Their environmental impact can be reduced through efficient appliances, adhering to strict rules regarding methane emissions monitoring, as well as transitioning gradually toward lower-carbon and renewable sources of energy sources.

Residential and Commercial Applications

Waste gasses such as natural gas and propane can be utilized both residentially and commercially, making both sources incredibly useful resources. Here are the primary applications of both sources in residential settings.

  • Gas and propane fuels can be utilized to effectively heat homes during colder seasons. From powering boilers, furnaces, radiant heating systems and radiant heaters – gas and propane provide warmth during this cold time of year.
  • Gas and propane appliances in the home, such as stoves, grills, and ovens are two popular choices for cooking appliances such as stoves. Their precise temperature controls and quick heat up times make these convenient options for daily meals at home.
  • Propane or natural gas water heaters are suitable for residential water heating needs, offering a constant source of hot water that is useful in bathing, dish-washing and other household tasks. Tankless technology water heaters have also proven themselves efficient at quickly providing hot water when required.
  •  Fireplaces and space heaters that operate off propane or natural gas provide additional sources of heating for certain rooms in your home, making for an alternative or supplement heat source that you might consider installing in certain spaces.
  • Propane gas can be an economical and efficient source of electricity in residential environments, helping power generators use propane during power outages to provide essential systems and appliances with electricity to remain functional.
  • Natural gas and propane fuels are frequently utilized for commercial heating applications like warehouses, offices, and retail stores. Their versatile nature enables furnaces, boilers, and radiant heating systems to run effectively at an economic price point. They’re cost-efficient heating options.
  •  Commercial kitchens, hotels, and restaurants rely heavily on natural and propane gas-powered cooking appliances such as stoves and ovens for precise temperature regulation and fast response times needed in food service preparation. These sources offer efficient power to support their operations.
  • Commercial water heaters found in hotels, gymnasiums, hospitals, and factories often utilize propane or natural gas-fuelled water heating systems to deliver hot clean water for various applications such as laundry and showering as well as industrial processes.
  • Gas-fired natural gas turbines or combined heat and powers (CHPs), often known as combined heat and powers systems (CHPS), are increasingly utilized as commercial electricity sources. These systems produce electricity while making use of the heat produced for other purposes – increasing efficiency while conserving resources.
  • Natural and propane gases are widely utilized in industrial processes such as melting, drying, curing, and sterilization. Furthermore, these heating gases find applications across industries including manufacturing, agriculture, and pharmaceutical production among others.

Note that propane and natural gases vary across regions and can be utilized differently, depending on local regulations, infrastructure needs, fuel type availability and regulations. When considering using these types of gases for commercial or residential applications it is wise to consult local codes.

Safety Considerations

Naturally, due to the highly-flammable properties of propane and natural gases, safety considerations are of utmost importance in their use or handling. Here are the essential safety guidelines and best practices when handling such substances.

  •  Propane or natural gas equipment and systems should always be installed according to local and manufacturer’s recommendations in order to avoid gas leakage and malfunction of appliances due to incorrect installation. If not performed properly, leaks and malfunctioning devices could occur as a result.
  • Regular inspection for leaks should be a top priority. Both propane and natural gases in their natural state are odorless; an odorant (typically ethyl mercaptan) may be added in order to detect them more easily. Should any signs of gas leakage or smell it appear in an area you should evacuate it immediately without delay while protecting open flames and electrical switches as soon as possible before notifying either your gas company or emergency services immediately.
  • Propane or natural gas appliances must be ventilated correctly when being used indoors, to facilitate the safe release of carbon monoxide and other combustion products and maintain air quality. Check that all vents, chimneys, and flues are unobstructed and working efficiently to ensure safety for you and others in the building.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors Are Essential in Commercial and Residential Spaces Where Propane or Natural Gas Is Being Used Carbon monoxide gas can be produced through incomplete combustion, but detectors can alert users immediately should dangerous levels appear so they may take immediate steps against any risk that might exist.
  • Natural and propane gases are both highly combustible substances, so the equipment used with either should be protected from ignition sources like flames. Fire extinguishers and alarm systems must also be installed and maintained according to local guidelines and regulations for fire safety purposes.
  • Regular inspection and maintenance will help to ensure that your propane or natural gas systems and appliances remain in top working order without leakage, operating efficiently and quickly detecting potential safety concerns quickly and mitigating them efficiently. Hiring professional maintenance teams for these tasks may save time in their repair.
  • Education and training on natural gas and propane should be mandatory for anyone working with either product. Students should learn their properties, how to recognize leakage signs, emergency protocols, and shut-off procedures as part of this training. Be certain to adhere to all manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation and maintenance of your system, especially regarding fuel storage, use, and upkeep. It’s vital that these directives be observed strictly.

Consult regional safety regulations, guidelines, and requirements specific to your region before handling propane or natural gas safely. As safety practices may differ depending on where you reside. It’s a good idea to speak to certified professionals regarding any questions regarding the handling of either gas source in order to stay on top of its safe handling practices and use. If any complications arise while doing this work on your own, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the supplier of either gas.

Cost and Availability

Both natural gas and propane costs and availability can be affected by various factors, as noted here. Below is an outline of some considerations related to both fuels:


  • Propane costs vary widely by region and are dependent upon various factors including supply and demand (since propane often results from crude oil refinement) as well as seasonal fluctuations. Delivery fees, taxes, and storage charges also have an effect. You should compare propane costs from different providers; long-term contracts could provide better rates.
  • Propane can be found nearly everywhere; its use is especially prevalent in suburban and rural regions where it serves both commercial and residential needs. Suppliers provide regular delivery service or on demand when needed by customers – though due to limited availability in remote or isolated regions, delivery costs and logistics may increase accordingly.
  •  Natural gas costs can vary significantly due to varying supply and demand factors as well as production, exploration, development, and infrastructure expenses. Commodity trading dictates what price natural gas should fetch in different regions; residential customers and commercial properties often receive their natural gas supplies via local utilities who usually charge usage charges, monthly fees, or distribution costs when providing these services.
  • Natural gas availability tends to be greater in areas with established distribution networks, due to pipeline infrastructure being closer. Cost and availability could also be affected in distant locations by their absence.

Comparing propane prices and natural gas availability requires several key considerations:

  • Natural gas may be more cost-effective in certain locations due to its larger production scale, existing infrastructure, and lower distribution fees.
  • Propane fuel storage solutions may be ideal in areas without access to natural gas pipelines or for uses requiring portable storage like camping and off-grid living.
  • Geography, local energy regulations, and market dynamics all play an integral role in the availability and price of both fuels.
  • Consult local energy companies, propane providers, and utility companies in order to ascertain the availability and costs of natural gas and propane in your area. It is crucial that when selecting fuel it be done considering long-term needs as well as associated costs when making decisions regarding selection.


In the end the two natural gas sources, natural gas and propane are both excellent energy sources with a variety of advantages and applications. The higher energy density of propane and its versatility make it an ideal alternative for use off grid as well as transportation. Natural gas, thanks to its low carbon footprint and wide availability, is a trusted option for those who are connected.