Environmental Benefits

Propane is clean, available, affordable and versatile.  Many proposals for fighting climate change and reducing the environmental impact of energy use will have to wait for new technologies to be perfected, however, propane produced right here in Canada can make major and immediate contributions using today’s technology. The propane industry has a role to play in the clean energy mix and is committed to maximizing its value to Canadians over the long term. Propane is an energy solution for today and tomorrow.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Propane, with its tiny carbon footprint and high efficiency, can play a major role in fighting climate change. Burning most fuels used in the world today, from coal to wood, oil, gasoline and natural gas, produces various kinds of carbon that contribute to global warming as GHG’s. Propane has a lower carbon content than gasoline, diesel, kerosene and ethanol:

Although natural gas (consisting primarily of methane) generates fewer CO2 emissions per BTU than propane when burned, methane is a direct greenhouse gas when released into the air. One kilogram of methane released into the atmosphere produces the same effect on climate change as 25 kilograms of carbon dioxide! Propane, on the other hand, is not a greenhouse gas when released. The difference is in how quickly propane, compared to natural gas, can be removed from the air by natural oxidation or precipitation - propane is removed from the atmosphere faster than it takes for it to have an impact on the climate.

It has long been known that propane emits less than half the greenhouse gas emissions, kilowatt for kilowatt, than coal-fired power plants, but there are many other applications in which propane outperforms other energy sources:

  • In residential and commercial applications, studies have found that propane models emit:
    • 52% lower GHG emissions than electric water heaters.
    • 38% fewer GHGs than fuel oil furnaces.
    • Half the carbon dioxide emissions of a charcoal barbecues.
  • In on & off-road vehicle applications:
    • Propane vehicles emit up to 26% fewer GHGs than gasoline vehicles.
    • Propane-fuelled school buses produce 17% lower GHG emissions than gasoline-fuelled buses.
    • Propane-fuelled forklifts emit 19% fewer GHG emissions than gasoline-fuelled forklifts.
    • Ground service equipment fuelled by propane emit 33% fewer GHGs than gasoline-fuelled equipment.
  • In agricultural applications:
    • Propane-fuelled irrigation engines produce 24% lower GHG emissions than gasoline-fuelled irrigation engines.

Pollution & Toxic Substances

Our health and that of our planet is worsened by inefficient and dirty fuel sources that contribute to asthma, cancer, heart disease, acid rain and other serious problems.

According to Environment Canada, studies show there are more than 5,000 premature deaths a year in Canada that can be attributed to air pollution. In Ontario alone, during an average year, exposure to air pollution results in an estimated 60,000 emergency room visits and 17,000 hospital admissions.

Propane stands above most fuels and rivals as being one of the cleanest:

  • It is non-toxic, lead-free, and has extremely low levels of sulphur – a contributor to acid rain.
  • It is only liquid while under pressure in its storage tank, if it is released, propane becomes a vapour and dissipates quickly into the atmosphere and will not contaminate soil or water. While propane vapour is heavier than air and can settle in low-lying areas or closed spaces, even a small amount of air movement is enough to disperse the vapours.
  • It is clean-burning: propane emits virtually no soot and low carbon monoxide, hydrogen and oxides of nitrogen, which are the basic precursors of ground-level ozone, or smog.

Criteria Air Contaminants

Criteria Air Contaminants (CAC) are emissions of various air pollutants that affect our health and contribute to air pollution problems such as ground level ozone, haze, and acid rain. CAC are tracked by Environment Canada to measure the effectiveness of emission reduction programs and to supporting scientific research.

Criteria Air Contaminants include:

  • Sulphur Oxides (SOx);
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx);
  • Particulate Matter (PM);
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC);
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO); and,
  • Ammonia (NH3).

In a study published by the World LP Gas Association, diesel vehicles produced 30 times more Particulate Matter than propane powered vehicles and recent vehicle testing performed by Natural Resources Canada on a Roush CleanTech propane vehicle reported up to 60% less Carbon Monoxide (CO) compared to a gasoline vehicles and 20% less nitrogen oxide (NOx). The vehicle tested by Natural Resources Canada also meets the SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) Standards, a U.S. classification for vehicles that produce minimal air pollution, typically 90% less than an equivalent ordinary full gasoline vehicle.

To read the technical sheet for the Roush CleanTech propane vehicle click here.

Air Toxics

Motor vehicle exhaust is a major source of toxic substances in our air. Both gasoline and diesel fuel release toxins when they are burned, even during refuelling. Propane is non-toxic when inhaled – however, in the absence of oxygen, it poses an asphyxiation risk.

The US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act defines “toxic air pollutants” as the aggregate motor vehicle emissions of the following:

  • Benzene
  • 1,3 Butadiene
  • Polycyclic organic matter (POM)
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Formaldehyde

Exposure to these substances have been known to cause many of the following adverse effects – allergies; asthma; eye, ear, nose throat, skin and respiratory tract irritation; and potentially even cancer.

A study published by the World LP Gas Association on the air toxics emitted by different fuels during the well-to-wheels fuel cycle, shows the lower levels of these air pollutants produced by propane over both gasoline and diesel:

Toxic Substances Emitted by Fuel Type

Milligrams of toxics/mile

Fuel

1,3 Butadiene

Formaldehyde

Benzene

Acetaldehyde

Conventional Gasoline

0.57

2.00

7.67

0.61

Diesel

0.58

1.65

4.72

0.56

Propane

0.11

1.68

0.63

0.43

 

Chemicals

Chemicals are often used to control weeds, bacteria, viruses, and insects but can be harmful to soil and groundwater, and can lead to chemical-resistant strains. Propane-fuelled equipment can use heat to control unwanted pests in a safe and environmentally-friendly way:

  • Propane flame can be used in poultry houses to sanitize house floors, eliminating dangerous microbes and bacteria, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
  • Propane-powered thermal remediation can be used as a chemical-free way to control bedbug infestations.
  • Propane-powered steam weed control technology can control weeds without spraying chemicals which is hazardous to water and soil, or mechanical cultivation which can damage crop roots.
  • Propane orchard heaters are a clean option compared to diesel heaters – if the diesel spills it can pose a risk to the surrounding soil and water.

To learn more about propane heat technology, please see the Propane Education & Research Council website at www.agpropane.com    

Transportation

Transportation is one of largest sources of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, which makes it important to reduce our vehicle emissions.  With the advantage of propane’s clean-burning properties and a range superior to other alternative fuels, no other transportation fuel is as ready and able to assist in meeting the challenge of addressing climate change and air quality concerns in Canada.

Propane is abundant in Canada, with infrastructure already in place, and the ability to quickly and cost-effectively install additional infrastructure as needed to service specific fleets. Propane vehicles are already serving a broad variety of purposes, from taxis to delivery and service vehicles, and companies that make the switch are saving money, as well as helping to save the environment.

There are more than 17 million propane-fuelled vehicles in operation around the world today – a number that is growing every year. In Canada, propane is the third most common fuel and the most common alternative fuel for transportation – there are approximately 40,000 vehicles on the road and over 2,000 fuel outlets across the country. That's not surprising, given the environmental advantages of propane vehicles:

  • Propane vehicles have a lower carbon footprint than gasoline;
    • Up to 26% less Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
      • 12% less Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
      • 20% less Nitrogen oxide (Nox)
  • Propane vehicles emit fewer Criteria Air Contaminants than gasoline and diesel;
    • Up to 60% less Carbon Monoxide (CO) compared to gasoline.
    • Diesel-fuelled vehicles emit up to 30 times more Particulate Matter (PM) than Propane vehicles
  • Propane vehicles emit significantly less harmful toxic substances than gasoline
    • 20-90% less Benzene, Acetaldehyde, Formaldehyde, and 1,3-Butadiene
  • Lower maintenance costs than gasoline and diesel
    • Propane burns cleaner, experiences significantly less carbon build-up, and has the potential for increased engine life

Buses

Children travelling inside a diesel-powered school bus may be exposed to as much as four times the level of toxic diesel exhaust as someone driving in a car ahead of it.  Releasing fewer harmful pollutants makes propane not only a cleaner vehicle fuel but also a healthier one. School bus fleets converted to propane from diesel emit significantly less fine particulate matter into the atmosphere and protect the health of the children who use them.

Check out these Case Studies by the U.S. Propane Education and Research Council (PERC):

Forklifts

Propane-powered forklifts are one example of indoor vehicles that take advantage of the environmental benefits of propane. Propane is a clean-burning, non-toxic fuel that can safely be used indoors, with proper ventilation, and can produce 19% lower GHG emissions than gasoline-fuelled forklifts.

Check out this Case Study by the U.S. Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) – Propane Powers Overnite's Forklift Fleet

Airport Ground Service Equipment

Airports across North America are turning to propane to fuel their vehicles and conform to allowable levels of air pollution. Vehicles range from fire and rescue trucks to runway sweepers and hotel shuttles. Using propane to fuel these fleets enables airports to expand their facility and service, while meeting their environmental requirements. A U.S. study has shown that ground service equipment fuelled by propane emits 33% fewer GHGs than gasoline-fuelled equipment.

Rebates & Incentives

Looking for propane rebates or incentives?

Environment Canada provides a “Green Incentives & Rebates Across Canada” database available on its website, searchable by region and program type: http://www.ec.gc.ca/financement-funding/default.asp?lang=En&n=A730CEF3-1

Thank you to the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) and the World LP Gas Association for contributions to this page.