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LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) can be stored in either a cylinder (also called gas bottles) or a tank and is the most popular alternative fuel for home heating and hot water in Ireland.
This is due to the spread of our population and the fact that with many of the smaller villages, stand-alone developments or houses it is not financially feasible to connect to the existing gas network because of the distances and cost involved.
LPG prices and government subsidies and less fluctuation in the market mean that it is also a cheaper alternative to petrol or diesel-fired generators, and even to using petrol in your car.
Butane and propane are both types of LPG. While both are derived from petroleum, nowadays more and more BioLPG is being sourced from alternative waste and renewable resources. Both gases are compressed and stored in a liquid form (LPG) in either gas cylinders or tanks, for transport and use, doing so takes up much less space.
Butane is made by processing natural gas and is a highly flammable hydrocarbon. Petroleum is separated into oil and gas and the oil removed. Next, the water is removed via using particles for absorption and a glycol solution.
It has been in use for quite a while, with refillable lighters using butane having been around for approximately 100 years. Butane can achieve an extremely high temperature when burned, up to 1700 degrees, which makes it ideal for industrial and commercial uses such as in torches used to cut glass and metal sheets.
In residential use, butane is often the LPG of choice for refillable lighters, and outdoor cooking and heaters, as well as even in portable hair straighteners and hot brushes!
Propane is made by processing natural gas and refrigerating it to separate the propane from other gases and byproducts. It can also be extracted from crude oil via distillation. Propane is commonly used for heating, cooking and hot water. It is also used as a refrigerant and even to fuel hot air balloons!
The differences between propane and butane are very slight, and while they can mainly be used interchangeably, there are some differences. Propane has a boiling temperature of -42ºC while butane boils at -2ºC.
This means that propane can be more suitable for outdoor use in very cold climates, such as in Canada. Propane also exerts more pressure on a tank when stored as LPG, making butane a safer option for indoor use.
Basically, propane is ideal for BBQs, camping and outdoor heating residential uses, while butane has the edge when it comes to home heating and hot water inside your home.
Gas cylinders also tend to be colour coded so you can quickly know which type of LPG they contain and what to use it for. For example, Calor Gas tends has red cylinders for propane LPG and blue cylinders for butane LPG.
LPG in Ireland is used regularly in both the home and in industries. Industrial applications of it can be:
In addition to many more uses. In the residential arena, it’s applications are a bit more limited but no less important and it can be used:
Another less well-known use of LPG is to fuel both commercial and residential vehicles. When LPG is used this way it is referred to as Autogas.
Autogas is available at approximately 1,400 refilling stations in Ireland and is the third most popular automotive fuel worldwide. It tends to be much cheaper than traditional fuels for vehicles, such as petrol or gas, and also produces fewer carbon emissions.
New LPG cars are difficult to get in Ireland but the majority of cars can be retrofit to run on Autogas. If you’d like to learn more about Autogas and the savings you could make, check out our article on Autogas in Ireland.
For regular residential use such as heating your home and hot water, the smaller gas cylinders won’t be enough. You’ll need to either use several large cylinders or the handier option, install an LPG gas tank on your property.
While some people are concerned about the visual aspect of a large gas tank on their property, there is the option of burying the tank underground or housing it in a shed. With new technology such as sensors which detect when LPG levels are low and automatically schedule a delivery, you need never worry about running out.
To find out more about LPG tanks and whether they’re a good fit for your home, we recommend the guide to LPG tanks in Ireland.
LPG runs cleaner than petrol and diesel and emits fewer particles. There are also larger stockpiles of LPG and there is less volatility in the market in terms of both pricing and availability. LPG is seen as a somewhat sustainable energy option but isn’t completely clean, nor renewable.
BioLPG, on the other hand, is both a renewable energy source and a “clean” source. It is produced through processing vegetable oils and waste products and then combining them with hydrogen. BioLPG is an exciting development in the search for clean renewable energy and is also set to be price-competitive due to the cheaper pricing of the components needed to produce it.
Currently, Calor Gas is the only BioLPG supplier in Ireland.
In Ireland, there are two main LPG suppliers, Calor Gas and Flogas. Calor gas deals with LPG for both residential and business purposes, while Flogas supplies LPG, piped natural gas, and electricity. We’d recommend checking out what each company offers before deciding which one would be the right fit for you.Compare Calor Gas and Flogas