Learn all about LPG and how it behaves

Explore the characteristics of butane and propane gas and be prepared in the unlikely event of a fire

LPG characteristics and fire control

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Incidents involving LPG are extremely rare, but we've put together some information here for you on its properties, along with what to do in the unlikely event of a fire.

Characteristics of LPG

Butane and propane share the following properties:

  • They are vapours at atmospheric temperature and pressure, but are normally stored in their liquid state in steel containers of various shapes and sizes. All LPG storage containers, whether static or mobile, are typically 87% liquid; the remaining 13% vapour allows for expansion
  • LPG, whether in liquid or vapour state, contains no toxic components and is therefore not poisonous. The vapour is, however, slightly anaesthetic when high concentrations are inhaled over a considerable length of time
  • LPG has a high calorific value compared with natural gas
  • The products of LPG combustion are similar to those from natural gas, i.e. carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapour
  • Liquid LPG is half the weight of water, volume for volume; it will therefore lie on top of water like oil and petrol
  • Butane vapour is twice the weight of air and propane vapour is one and a half times, volume for volume; LPG vapour will therefore sink to the lowest point and may remain for some time unless efforts are made to disperse it
  • It is possible to store a potentially large volume of LPG vapour in liquid form, in a relatively small container
  • LPG acts as a refrigerant and contains an odourant. Leaks may be detected by signs of cooling at the leak area and by smell, amongst other evidence

Fire control

It’s difficult to have a single procedure that should be followed if LPG containers, bulk tanks or tankers are involved in an accident or fire. However, there are a few general emergency procedures which may be of help in deciding a plan of action; these vary according to whether there is leakage with or without fire.

For further advice, please download the PDF LPG Characteristics and Fire Control.

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