Differences Between Propane, Butane & Natural Gases

Written by chris rowling
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Differences Between Propane, Butane & Natural Gases
Propane and butane are commonly used as camping fuel (PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

When carbon-based fuels are removed from the ground, there are several different products that can be extracted and sold separately. Crude oil is fractionated to make petroleum, kerosene and diesel; natural gas goes through a similar process to separate the use layers. The three main components of gas are propane, butane and natural gas.


Propane is a gas created as a byproduct of refining natural gas. It is colourless, odourless and extremely flammable. When compressed, it can be made into a liquid. Chemically propane is a hydrocarbon with three carbon atoms.


Like propane, butane is colourless, odourless, flammable and can be liquefied. The only chemical difference between them is that butane has four carbon atoms.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is comprised mainly of methane, and is usually found in the same places as other carbon-based fuels such as oil and coal. When it is refined, it is left as almost exclusively methane with the other products, including propane and butane, stripped out.


Propane and butane are used in many of the same areas, the most common of which are camping stoves. Propane is also now being used as an industrial power source, while butane is used as a propellant in aerosol cans and for lighter fuel. Propane and butane are also mixed together for camping gas and vehicle fuel. When this happens, it is called liquid propane gas. Natural gas is used in a variety of areas, most commonly electricity generation. It is also pumped directly into the home to power gas cookers. It is also being more commonly used to power vehicles.

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