Saturday, August 21, 2010


There are many Survivalists who take for granted or simply don’t know the facts about propane. They think it is an excellent Survival fuel choice for heating and cooking and don’t have to worry about an abundant supply of foreign oil or be affected by a ‘Peak Oil’ melt down. There are a number of common misunderstandings about propane including where it comes from and how long it can be stored?

Where does Propane come from?
Propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8) and is sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas or LPG. Propane is produced from both natural gas processing and crude oil refining in roughly equal amounts. It is nontoxic, colorless and virtually odorless. As with natural gas, a strong identifying odor is added so the gas can be readily detected.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) consists mainly of propane, propylene, butane, and butylene in various mixtures. However, for all fuels in the United States, the mixture is mainly propane.

Chemical Properties: LPG, like natural gas and unlike gasoline, is a simple mixture of hydrocarbons, mainly propane/propylene (C3S) and butane/butylene (C4S).

The most important statement in the second sentence and is the one that shocks most people. Propane is produced only from OIL or NATURAL GAS! Propane does not come from drilling wells in the ground and pumping it out. It only comes from refining oil or natural gas. Bottom line; if there is no oil or natural gas available, there is no propane!

What is the Shelf-Life of Propane?
Propane has an indefinite shelf-life. It will last and be good to use literally forever. The only long term storage issue propane has is the container it’s stored in. Most all tanks are made from steel with some smaller RV tanks made from aluminum and lately some are now being made from a translucent fiber glass resin compound and they’re called ‘Clear-View’ which allows you to see the liquid propane level inside. As we know steel rusts and as the tank begins to rust it can cause a pin hole and the propane will leak out. Proper tank maintenance is needed and will allow many years of safe storage.

What is the Life of a Propane Tank?
Cylinders (tanks) are subject to recertification (also known as requalification) twelve years from their date of manufacture and every five years after that. For example, a cylinder manufactured in January of 2000 will have to be recertified in January of 2012 meaning if you take your bottle to the propane company in April of 2012 to be refilled, it will have to be re-qualified by authorized personnel before it can be filled. The tanks have the date of manufactured stamped on the protective top collar.

Painting Propane Tanks?
Propane tanks, like ASME stationary LP Gas tanks, must be painted a reflective color to avoid overpressure situations caused by the sun beating down on them and overheating the Propane inside.

How should smaller Propane tanks be stored?
Propane tanks should be stored outside. Do not store any propane tanks in the garage or any other indoor areas at any time, even during the winter months. If the tanks may be subjected to excessive heat, like from direct sunlight or desert high temperatures the tanks should only be filled to 80 percent of the tank's capacity. This is to allow for some liquid propane expansion that might occur during hot days.

Propane is stored under high pressure!
ASME propane tanks are built to 250# working pressure. Under normal circumstances, the vapor pressure at 100ºF is 172 psi. Propane is a gas that when compressed turns into a liquid for storage and transport. That’s why you can hear it slosh around inside the tank when you move it. A pressure regulator must always be used with propane as it reduces the tank pressure from approximately 172 PSI to an appliance working pressure of around 10-12 PSI then fed to the appliances, lanterns, etc for burning.

(Source: The above information is from propane tank manufacturers)


  1. Good info. I did know that propane was a manufactured gas and have planned accordingly. Slowly phasing it out. Have work arounds for the few remaining items that use that fuel.

  2. i happened across your blog througfh the survivalist blog. im glad i did. i suscribed. you have some very good info here. thanks brad

  3. Hi Brad,
    Thanks for stopping by! You’ve probably noticed I’m not a daily poster mostly because my life’s not that interesting but I do post about what I actually do myself and feel are important needs of a self-reliant person and have them here for all to review and use what makes sense in their lives. Being a frugal (cheap) person and in product development, I tend to test and verify what I do or buy so it’s repeatable and dependable, then others don’t have to waste their money on the way to self-reliance and independence. If you ever have any thoughts or questions just drop an e-mail to me, Mike at

    I several friends who are owner operators and am a fan of truckers as their lives are far more difficult than it appears. Today’s operating costs are astronomical and sometimes can’t see how the average OO can keep moving.

    Be safe out there,


  5. Anon, you are free to prepare as you see appropriate. Propane is a very comfortable way to live but there is absolutely no guarantee that it will be available or more than likely unaffordable in the near future as propane is a derivative of oil. In other words the price and availability is purely based on oil; no oil, no propane!

    Wood is a sound way to heat and cook with and should be in everyone’s back-up plans. Wood is available to harvest until all the trees are gone and when oil or propane is no longer affordable, I see wood as the only fuel alternative to heat and cook with.


  6. I keep 125 gallons of propane on hand. I can rum my main cooking stove for 4 years so for me it is a perfect short term (3 year) solution. In a 3 to 4 year period I can cut enough wood to take over the cooking and canning functions that my stove currently provides. I also keep a rotating 10 gals of gasoline which equal 6 months of potable water.

  7. Larry,
    Sounds like you have it covered, nice job!
    I’m guessing the gasoline is to run a generator to pump 6 months of water?

  8. Hey Guys,
    I went with a propane generator (6000w) and I'm in the process of aquiring 100lb tanks for emergency power. My plan is to run aux power for up to one hour a day, roughly how long will a 100lb bottle last me? and should the bottles have a ridgid cover while being stored outside, as for a heat shield against the sun?
    Thanx Bill

  9. Hi Bill,

    Having trouble logging onto my own blogger account, but here’s your answer.

    You should be able to look up the fuel consumption of your generator to get a close approximation of usage. Or for a more exact number put the tank on a bathroom scale and run the generator for an hour under he planned load and note the pounds used per hour or convert it to gallons. 4.2 lbs equals one gallon. A 100 lb tank holds 23 gallons.

    Using a Generac 6kw generator for the data it is as follows:
    ½ load will consume 0.8 gallons per hour. A 100 lb tank will last 28 hours.
    Full load will consume 1.3 gallons per hour. A 100 lb tank will last 17 hours.

    Any reason why you didn’t choose diesel?

    Hope this helps.

  10. Six years ago I changed from home heating oil to propane when the price on a gallon of oil went to 4.25. I bought a 1000 gallon propane tank, new furnace and a whole house backup generator which uses 36 gallons of propane every 24 hours. I live in central southern michigan and after last winter I realized that had I had to use the generator the two times Michigan had major power outages I would have come close to running out of propane. With that in mind I just ordered a 500 gallon propane tank to add to my original tank. Not sure if I can take another winter like we just experienced!

    1. Wow what a spot you're in. The costs are so high for propane. Maybe you could rethink the propane generator for a diesel like a 7000 watt that uses only 1 quart per hour (6 gallons in 24 hours). If your house is all electric maybe a camp stove for cooking while the smaller generator takes care of running the heat.
      You need to look at "Off-Road" diesel as there are no road taxes on it so it is cheaper. Check out this web site for current pricing
      CURRENT PRICES - 06/09/2014
      Heating Oil: $3.089
      Kerosene: $3.659
      Gas Regular: $3.579
      Off-Road Diesel: $3.159
      Propane BASE Price 150g And over: $1.579


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