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Difference Between Propane and Butane

Propane vs Butane

The terms propane and butane are very common nowadays, especially because they are used for both industrial and household purposes. Stoves, ovens, heaters, and car engines are run either by propane or butane. Propane and butane are both gases which can be utilized to heat fuel. Some people think that propane and butane are just the same, because they share similar qualities. However, they have some differences which may spell advantage or disadvantage depending on how they would be used.

Before expounding on the differences, it’s important to get to know the similarities between these two gases. Propane and butane are extracted from petroleum, either in oil or natural gas form. Both of them can be used to fuel vehicles and heat stoves. Both of them can be combusted to produce similar results, with carbon dioxide, water, carbon monoxide, and soot as by-products. Their similarities end there, however. In terms of molecular structure, the two gases differ from each other. Butane is considered as a four carbon alkane consisting of ten hydrogen atoms and four carbon atoms. On the other hand, propane is only a three carbon alkane made up of eight hydrogen atoms and three carbon atoms. In terms of usage, propane is the more popular among the two, and is used to keep houses warm.

Propane can also be used as fuel in portable lamps or heaters. In fact, propane can even serve as vehicle fuel, as long as it is mixed with substances such as propylene, butylenes, and butane. When propane is mixed with these substances, it is termed as LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas. LPGs are stored in tanks and connected to stoves, heaters, and car engines to provide heat and power. Sometimes, ethanethiol, another substance, is mixed with propane in order to give the gas some odor. Propane leaks are hard to detect because the gas is odorless, thus, mixing ethanethiol can help people locate gas leaks quickly by just tracing the source of the scent.

Although butane is not as popular as propane, it is still utilized by many products as an alternative fuel source. Aside from serving as fuel for cigarette lighters and stoves, butane can also be integrated as a propellant for aerosol sprays. In terms of cost, butane is actually cheaper than propane. However, butane has a big disadvantage as a fuel source, because not many devices can be outfitted with butane tanks. Propane tanks, on the other hand, can be easily integrated into any device which requires fuel or heat. Another advantage of propane over butane is that it has a low boiling point, and can be stored in tanks at higher pressure. This renders propane as the top choice for those who venture into hostile environments. People who go on hiking or mountain-climbing are usually equipped with propane tanks to serve as their fuel for cooking food. They do not use butane, which as a high building point and cannot adapt well to freezing temperatures.

Summary

1. Both propane and butane can be used as fuel for heating equipment and vehicle engines.

2. Propane and butane share similarities because they both come from petroleum. The by-products they produce when combusted are also similar: carbon dioxide, water, carbon monoxide, and soot.

3. Propane is more widely used than butane. Most heating equipment and engines can be outfitted with propane tanks.

4. Butane is cheaper than propane, but not likely to be compatible with common heating equipment or engines.

5. Propane has a low boiling point as compared to butane. Also, propane can be stored in high-pressure tanks, making it the ideal choice for those who venture into hostile environments.


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