Home Podcasts THMG032 – Propane, Part I

THMG032 – Propane, Part I


In this episode, Bob and Mike discuss propane – and start off the topic with a bang!

Complete Show Notes

3:45 Liquefied Petroleum (LP) Overview

  • LP stands for liquefied petroleum – NOT liquefied propane
  • Consists of a blend of three major chemicals – things like propane, dimethyl methane, propyl hydride, propylene, butane, etc.
  • Different blends are used for different purposes – chemical combinations can be altered based on the purpose of the LP
  • Smell comes from chemicals placed in LP – LP has no smell by nature
  • One of the most common odorants added to LP is ethyl mercaptan – easily recognizable smell and blends into LP smoothly

7:00 All About LP Tanks

  • Tanks are generally white – white absorbs less heat than any other color; because propane expands and contracts a LOT, it’s important to keep the temperature as low as possible
  • Commonly laid horizontally, but some places have vertical tanks if they’re short on space
  • LP tanks have the iconic pressure bullet shape that’s long and rounded on each end
  • Commercial versions of LP tanks can hold from 12,000 to 120,000 gallons of water, or 10,800 to 96,000 gallons of propane
  • Propane can be used in many ways, including:
    • As a raw material to create other products
    • In power generators
    • In refrigeration (R290) – cold storage, A/C, heat pumps, water heaters, etc.
    • Commercially – both agricultural and industrial applications
    • Fill stations
  • Handling LP requires people to be manually connected or disconnected to a tank – and any time there’s that much human interaction, there’s a much higher potential for issues
  • High lows/forklifts are often used to move LP around – can be used indoors and outdoors

13:50 Hazmat Drill Nugget from HazSim

21:35 Motor Fuel Cylinders

  • Unlike other smaller tanks, these are designed (for the most part) to supply engines with liquid fuel – there are a few exceptions to this, and the valving will be marked
  • It’s important to know whether your LP is liquid or vapor in case you’re dealing with fire
  • Motor carrier tanks are designed to hold LP and are made from aluminum – in a fire, the metal can lose structural integrity before the PRD even begins to go off
  • It’s like a bleve, but not nearly as powerful because the pressure hasn’t built up enough – however, they’re still dangerous because we often use PRD to give us an idea of what’s happening in the tank
  • Motor fuel cylinders have pressure relief devices set at 375 psi
  • Service valve
    • What actually supplies the machine
    • Liquid flows through this line if the machine being used requires it
    • Has a knob where it can be turned on and off
    • Protected by a special cap and accessed from the top portion of the tank
  • Filler valve
    • Used to fill the cylinder when it’s empty
    • Has a connection point with a pin in the middle
    • Accessed from the side of the tank, even though the valve is at the top
  • Multivalve
    • One valve with multiple jobs
    • Combines the service valve, filler valve, PRV, and fixed level gauge into one piece (only missing the percentage gauge)
  • These tanks have percentage gauges – remember that the pressure in the tank should allow you to maintain a similar psi throughout operations
  • The only way to gauge how full the tank might be is to measure the liquid space, so the gauge is attached to a float inside the tank
  • The fixed liquid level gauge is a dip tube inside the tank that’s connected to a hole we see outside the tank – when filling the tank, this lets you stop when the liquid comes out (and there’s still 20% head space for safety)

28:45 Uses for LP

  • Equipment – LP is a popular option for indoor equipment because it doesn’t give off the fumes and chemicals that a gas-based engine does (i.e. forklifts)
  • Heaters – many heaters use propane; some of the most common hang from the ceiling and blow down
  • Electrical production – many stand-by generators rely on propane to run
  • Residential bulk storage for heating and cooking
  • BBQ-style tanks – small, portable tanks that come in three sizes (20-, 30-, and 40-gallon)
  • Camping fuel – 1-pound disposable tanks that use a pin system with no valve
    • These can be troublesome because they’re tossed about and carelessly handled
    • Plus, people try to refill them, which destroys the threads or the pin system – issues with overfilling and over-pressurizing, too

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