Some people wonder what the difference between renewable and nonrenewable gases is, especially LPG, which we commonly refer to as propane. In this blog post, we are going to solve your doubts. So, is LPG gas renewable or nonrenewable?
LPG gas is currently a non-renewable resource. For it to be useful, it needs to be extracted and stored. As a result, it can have significant impacts on the environment, including a rise in global greenhouse emissions. However, current research developments have shown a way to produce renewable propane using bacteria.
In the rest of the post, we will give you an in-depth answer for why is LPG gas currently a non-renewable source and we will also explain the promising research discoveries that could help change that. Let’s start with this last promising part.
LPG Gases Renewability – New developments that could change the industry
LPG gases haven’t been, until now, renewable. However, it has been discovered that propane can be made renewable with bacteria and sugar. To do this, scientists needed to engineer E. coli bacteria. They did this by adding new proteins. This changed the way that E. coli was growing. This resulted in a reaction that produced butyric acid. This acid is a precursor to propane.
By adding a few more proteins, they were able to convert the butyric acid to propane. As a result, the E. coli could take the sunlight energy and convert it into propane.
However, there is a drawback to this process. While promising, it’s still in the early stages of testing. As a result, the amount of propane being produced is tiny. It will take many more years of research and development before this kind of operation can become commercially viable.
So, for now, we are stuck with the traditional LPG gas. Let’s look into it a bit more to understand why it is not a renewable source.
LPG Gases – Explanation
LPG gas is a mixture of flammable hydrocarbon gases. LPG gases burn clean and don’t produce soot. They are contained in pressurized steel containers or vessels for transportation and safe handling.
LPG gas is heavier than natural gas. LPG gases can be dangerous when mishandled, and if an ignition source is present can cause an explosion. LPG gas has several purposes and uses in our everyday life. What are the different kinds of LPG gases? What are its uses? and how is it extracted?
LPG Gases and Their Everyday Use
We use LPG gases in our everyday life for several things. In fact, a lot of our conveniences and workplaces would be affected if we didn’t have gases like propane.
Propane is the most common of LPG gases and is used for a lot of different things such as,
- Heating the water in our houses
Propane is odorless, non-toxic, and has no color. Whenever you take a hot shower, cook a meal on the stove or BBQ grill, and drive a forklift at work, you are using propane to do so. Propane is also used for other vehicles like buses, irrigation engines, and fleet vehicles.
Butane is very similar to propane but has a higher boiling point and a lower pressure at the same temperature when compared to propane.
Butane often comes in a smaller tank or vessel and is commonly used with,
- Bottles used for travel grills
- Portable soldering irons
Butane and propane are very similar but still differ widely depending on its intended use, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Isobutane’s main use is for an additive to gasoline, but also aerosol cans. Isobutane and butane are also very similar in their molecule formula, but their molecule shapes are different, this shape difference makes isobutane far more superior to butane. Isobutane is also highly more expensive than butane.
How Is LPG Extracted?
To get a better idea of why LPG is a non-renewable resource, we need to understand how it is extracted. First, a site will be identified. Underground scans and tests will confirm the presence of gas. Then, the well will be dug. In most cases, it will need to be around 1,000 feet beneath sea level. This is where the LPG is trapped.
Once the drill is ready, the extraction process can begin. Chemicals will be pumped into the Earth. This is a process called fracking, and it will release the LPG. Then, the LPG will travel up the pipe where it will be cooled. At cold temperatures, the gas turns to a liquid, making it easier to store.
Once all the gas has been extracted, the pipe is removed and the well is covered. Like other non-renewable resources, once the gas is gone, it’s gone. Because of this, we will eventually run out of LPG.
LPG Gases and The Environment
We have discussed LPG gases, but what about their effects on the planet? Are they harmful? If so, what are the alternatives?
LPG gases such as propane are clean-burning fuels, but they still emit harmful waste into the air including; sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, greenhouse gas, methane, and non-methane overall organic carbon.
Despite this, they are still preferable to other types of fuel, like oil or coal. Because of this, if all vehicles went from using conventional fuels to LPG gases like propane, greenhouse gas emissions would reduce by 11 percent.
What are the health effects of LPG?
Propane is very controlled in our houses and workplaces, but what if we are exposed to large or small amounts of it? If exposed to high amounts of propane we are looking at some serious health issues including; cardiac arrest, unconsciousness, or seizures. Even low amounts have risks and can damage the central nervous system, lungs, and eyes.
Propane vapor is not toxic but replaces oxygen in the air making it very difficult to breathe and may lead to suffocation.
What are the issues with the extraction of LPG?
One of the biggest issues with the extraction of LNG is the fracking process. This results in pressured chemicals being sent into the Earth. This can cause a range of environmental concerns. First, fracking chemicals might get into the groundwater. This can contaminate it with harmful chemicals, making it unsafe to drink.
Fracking might cause air pollution and can expose workers to potentially harmful chemicals. It can also release methane, which speeds up climate change.
What Are The Alternatives To LPG?
While LPG might be cleaner to burn than other fossil fuels, it still produces several harmful chemicals. It’s also non-renewable and the extraction process has significant environmental problems. But what are the renewable alternatives to LPG?
There are a few potential options to explore. First, biomass might be a more renewable way to make fuels. These can also be used in cars and other vehicles.
Biomass is made from crops, like corn or wheat. It might also be made from waste products, like garbage. This organic matter is then converted into fuel. However, compared to LPG it is labor-intensive and has much higher prices. Also, biomass requires farmland to produce.
In other cases, LPG will be used for heating houses and cooking. In this case, solar can be a good alternative. A solar hot water system on the roof can be used to provide a reliable source of hot water. Also, if using electric appliances, solar can be used for cooking.
Once installed, solar systems tend to last for a long time, while you’ll need to constantly replace LPG. Because of this, solar might prove cheaper over the long-term.
However, if the sun isn’t shining, there might not be any electricity. This can be solved by adding a battery, to store power. Also, multiple people might not be able to use hot water at the same time in a solar hot water system, as the tank needs to re-fill. LPG systems don’t tend to have these problems.
If LPG is being used to power gas cookers and torches, there aren’t any renewable alternatives available yet. The nearest option might be to use biofuel, like wood. This will also provide heat and light. However, some campsites have banned this type of fuel, due to bushfire risks.
Though burning wood will release emissions, it’s a lot greener than LPG, when you consider the extraction process involved in the extraction process.
And with this, we have arrived at the end of our blog post. In this post, we explained why LPG gas is currently a non-renewable option, together with a brief definition of what an LPG gas is. We have also given you some indication of renewable alternatives to LPG gas that are currently available. Finally, we have explained a recent discovery that could make LPG gas renewable.