Where Does Propane Come From?

Propane distribution diagram

Consider the sausage on your breakfast plate. Do you know where it comes from? If you’re feeling particularly quick-witted you might answer, “from the grocery store,” but prior to putting it into your cart at the grocery store, do you know where it came from? Maybe this video will help clear it up:

Okay, all fun and games aside, that savory accompaniment to your morning eggs and toast is among the many things in our everyday lives whose source doesn’t get much consideration. And since we’re talking about a hearty breakfast, have you ever wondered where the propane used to cook your sausage comes from?

While you’re looking out the window at your propane tank and considering another quick-witted answer, let’s take a look at the journey propane takes in order to prepare that savory sausage.

Making Propane

Propane is a by-product of two different processes – petroleum refining and natural gas processing. Of the propane used by homes and businesses in the U.S., 55% comes from natural gas processing and 45% from petroleum processing.  Propane naturally occurs as a gas at regular atmospheric pressure, but once subjected to a moderate amount of pressure becomes a liquid. It is in this liquefied form that propane is transported and stored.

Transporting Propane

Liquid propane is stable and easily transported from the processing facilities in a number of ways. Over 70,000 miles of pipeline deliver propane to various terminals and facilities around the country, where it is then transferred to various transportation sources, including barges, rail cars, and tanker trucks. These varied methods serve to deliver bulk propane to wholesale and retail suppliers, who in turn make them available for their customers.

Delivering Propane

You’re perhaps most familiar with the small white propane tank attached to your barbecue grill or the larger tanker truck that comes to fill your backyard tank. Both the small tank and the fill truck get their propane from the supplier’s large (30,000 gallon) storage tank, and are delivered to retailers for resale or to customers with whom the supplier has a contract. Suppliers also provide larger, transportable tanks for commercial purposes, such as festival food booths or construction sites.

So, how about that sausage?

You might not realize it, but the propane used to power your kitchen range makes a long journey from its source to your home. When you consider the trek propane makes from the refinery its distribution points and beyond, it makes that sausage sizzle just a little bit more deliciously in the pan.