According to surveys, consumers look to propane as their home heating fuel of choice because they trust in its reliability. An always-available, plentiful supply on hand right on their own property is a definite draw.
For natural gas customers, this level of security is not the norm. Events like the last week of January’s polar vortex, have put a real damper on consumers’ confidence in natural gas. The demand for all heating fuels went through the roof when the Arctic air took over the Midwest.
A fire in Michigan in one of the compressor stations caused the issue to become even more serious. The stations, which are facilities located along natural gas pipelines and exist to compress gas to a specific temperature, allowing the gas to continue traveling along the pipeline until it reaches its intended destination.
The fire was handled quickly and without any reported injuries, but the gas flow out of the station was shut off. The utility tried to meet demand by directing the natural gas supply out of reserve storage areas. This was just the beginning of a brewing crisis.
The gas utility asked customers to lower their heat in order to avoid a dire natural gas shortage. Some work shifts at manufacturing plants with high natural gas usage were canceled, including a Minnesota gas utility, when temperatures dropped to nearly -30° F.
At one point, the governor of Michigan and the gas utility both alerted the public via TV, radio and Facebook. They enacted automated emergency phone calls to all state residents, including non-natural-gas customers, requesting that residents reduce their energy usage.
Another large, state utility made a similar request regarding electricity. The system’s connection to energy grids in other states and Canada were cause for concern.
The natural gas shortage itself was over when the extreme cold subsided, but the situation was a reminder of the advantages of propane – particularly with regard to supply.
The methods for processing and transporting propane give it a real edge over natural gas. Liquid petroleum gas (LPG)—compressed propane—is stored inside large tanks until the local propane company delivers it to a home or business.
The liquid propane becomes gas before exiting the tank. Slowly and safely, it’s released through a valve and guarantees that customers will not lose their supply. In contrast, if an underground natural gas pipeline is damaged or has an issue, customers may lose their supply while they wait for repairs to be completed.
Some characteristics of natural gas—especially in terms of its advantages—are similar to those of propane. When you think about the fact that natural gas is the leading home heating source in much of the United States, this is worth noting.
Here’s a list of some of the similar advantages of these two fuels:
With propane, there are a few additional advantages.
Natural gas is not an option for homes that don’t have gas pipelines available in the area. However, propane can work for customers in each of the United States’ 435 congressional districts!*
Propane’s major advantage is that it can be stored on-site. This allows for the customer’s maximum peace of mind and security. Plans, including automatic delivery and prebuy, created to suit your needs allow propane suppliers to guarantee that you will have clean and dependable propane on hand.
When highly trained professionals using regulated techniques and equipment, and with the regulation of federal, state and local authorities, propane compression is easy. On the other hand, gas pipeline problems can end with tragic results, like last summer’s explosions in Massachusetts.
A propane line can be fed in through a number of different entry points for most households, there just needs to be a nearby tank. There are requirements about a propane tank’s distance from the home, but they are not too stringent. This may not be the case when it comes to natural gas lines.
In its original form, propane is not a greenhouse gas. Its low carbon content makes propane considered “green.” Leaking methane, however, from underground natural gas pipelines is cause for environmental concern.
Propane does not ignite when it’s combined with air until the ignition source reaches a minimum of 920° F due to its much smaller than natural gas range of flammability—the span between the minimum and maximum burn temperatures.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of propane, read more here.
*Source: National Propane Gas Association.