Difference between propane, natural gas, and butane

For most people propane, butane, and natural gas are all are forms of energy which is used to heat homes or cook. However, there is a significant chemical difference between all of them.

When crude oil is refined, it releases multiple substances, including propane, diesel, kerosene, butane, and natural gas among others. The main difference is the way that they are produced. This leads to different characteristics for the gasses as well. Let’s study propane, natural gas, and butane.


Difference between propane, natural gas, and butane

To understand the difference between these gasses, we have to take a look at the production process. They all stem from crude oil getting refined.

1/ Let’s take a look at how propane and butane are made. When the crude oil is processed under heat and pressure, multiple components are produced. Some modern refineries process 800K to 900K barrels of crude oil every day. When the crude oil is distilled at 350 degrees Celsius, fuel oil and lubricating oils are generated. At 250 degrees Celsius, the crude oil releases diesel and at a little lower temperature, kerosene. At 120 degrees, naptha comes out, which is used in many chemicals. And then gasoline/petroleum comes out. At around 50 Degree Celsius, refinery gas is extracted and propane and butane is formed using that. The residue bitumen is used to tar the roads.

Propane is used in the chemical industry to make plastics and other materials. Propane autogas is used as a fuel for buses, forklifts, other heavy-duty engineering machinery, farm irrigation engines, fleet vehicles, and trucks. Even hot air balloons use propane as their fuel. It is also used in places that don’t have access to natural gas lines. It is also used in RVs and camping to cooking food. Some barbeques also use this.

Butane is used as fuel for portable stoves and cigarette lighters. It is used as a propellant in aerosols, which is a heating fuel. Butane is present in your refrigerators as a refrigerant. It has many other industrial uses.

2/ Natural gas needs less processing and comes free when companies drill for oil. Some steps are used to make it markable but it doesn’t come from heating up crude oil. For this reason, it is often seen as a cleaner type of energy. The composition is also different as it contains other elements than propane and butane.

Natural gas is often used for water heaters or heating. A complex network of pipes transports this gas to the house of people. These pipes are generally painted yellow to indicate that they contain natural gas.

Butane and propane are part of a group of gasses that are called LPG. That is because both gasses have similar characteristics.

What is the difference between propane and butane?

Propane and butane are two different types of the same gases that can be used as fuel. Both of these gases are odorless and colorless, making them a good choice for cooking and heating your home. While both of these gases can be used for the same purpose, there are some subtle differences between the two. This article explains the difference between propane and butane, their uses, and the pros and cons of each.

What are propane and butane?

Both propane and butane are gases that are Tears off at 30degrees Celsius and can easily be ignited with a match or cigarette lighter. They are both colorless and odorless, making them a good choice for cooking and heating your home. They can be used for this same purpose whether you are a homeowner or a commercial business.

They are quite similar in composition, butane just has one carbon element more than propane.

Differences between propane and butane

The main difference between propane and butane is their volume. One cubic foot of propane has a volume of 3.75 gallons of butane 0.5 gallons. This means that propane is much less dense than butane, making it easier to store and transfer.

Propane also has a higher boiling point than butane does. This means that when propane is heated, it becomes a much hotter gas that can burn with a bright flame. Butane, on the other hand, does not become as hot when it is heated.

Butane is generally cheaper than propane. Butane is less common than propane though, which makes it more difficult to come by in some areas. There are also fewer devices that use butane. Butane is more volatile than propane, meaning that it can become a dangerous gas to transport in the open air.

Similarities between propane and butane: What is LPG?

The full form of LPG is Liquefied Petroleum Gas. LPG is obtained during the refining process of crude oil to petroleum, and then petroleum to LPG. Even wet natural gas is used to manufacture LPG.

Through the absorption process, LPG is extracted from natural gas streams. The recovered product is later treated and carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and water (H2O) are removed. Through the distillation process, the lighter fractions and impurities are removed from LPG. The original product, which is recovered after refining petroleum or natural gas has a low boiling point.

The finished product contains hydrocarbons, primarily propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10). Then the finished product is filled into cylinders and transported to various LPG warehouses. In some countries, it is transported through pipelines and it reaches households directly. Even sea tankers, railways, road transport, and barges contain huge barrels of LPG and transport it to different parts of the globe.

Apart from cooking gas, LPG is used as an engine fuel for backup generators. In some countries, it is also used in water heaters for heating homes. The pressure in which LPG is filled into domestic cylinders is quite low. It is highly combustible and its energy content is similar to petrol.

What is the difference between natural gas and LPG?

Natural gas is also extracted while refining crude oil and it primarily contains methane. LPG as we discussed earlier primarily contains propane and butane. LPG normally is transported through cylinders and natural gas through pipelines to end customers.

Both are highly combustible, however, LPG produces more carbon dioxide (CO2) while burning compared to natural gas. Both are used as cooking gas and in various industrial combustion units.

Natural gas is lighter than air, however, LPG is heavier than air. This makes LPG more dangerous when there is a leak in a house. It can fill up a room and remove the room more easily. For this reason, the tanks are often stored outside. This has to happen carefully as they can explode when exposed to fire. This can result in a lot of damage.

Natural gas can burn and explode too though. For this reason, a smell is added to the gasses. This makes it easier to detect leaks. Plumbers can help to find and fix leaks. They have special equipment to do this. These gasses are often not under a lot of pressure and can generally be stopped by placing something over the leak. Only professionals should do this though. Check your local code to see what is needed. Sometimes the installation needs to be recertified.

The calorific value of LPG is higher than natural gas. It means that a lesser volume of LPG can burn for longer durations when the burner dispenses the same amount of gas.


The bottom line is that propane, butane, and natural gas are all extracted from crude oil, which is a fossil fuel. Natural gas takes a higher temperature to produce. It is often considered a s a cleaner fuel than propane and butane. Propane and butane are quite similar and part of the LPG group.