What Is Renewable Propane Gas Made From?
A Clean-Burning, Non-Fossil Fuel Is On the Way
Propane gas is becoming increasingly popular for its energy efficiency and the many amenities it provides. The advent of renewable propane gas can not only help meet rising demand, but it also gives us a dependable, secure domestically made energy source.
While it is not in common use yet, renewable propane gas has positioned itself to be a major part of the clean fuel conversation in the years ahead.
Since it is molecularly identical to propane, there will be no need to replace or alter existing propane appliances and equipment. As usage of renewable propane increases, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, making a big difference in the battle to mitigate the effects of climate change.
So how is it made? While conventional propane is a coproduct of crude oil and natural gas extraction, renewable propane is a non-fossil fuel produced at biofuel facilities from renewable biomass-based feedstocks.
Reducing Landfill Waste
Many of these feedstocks are what most people would consider waste products. For example, production of renewable propane diverts used cooking oil and meat fats from languishing in landfills. In 2018, in conjunction with biofuel production, renewable propane production used the following as feedstocks:
- More than 7.5 billion pounds of soybean oil
- Over 2 billion pounds of corn oil
- 1.7 billion pounds of yellow grease
- 618 million pounds of white grease
That’s a lot of waste being put to good use! Here’s a closer look at some of the common feedstocks used in the production of renewable propane gas.
- Used cooking oils, animal fats and grease can all be utilized for clean, renewable energy. These waste products from restaurants all contribute to the production of biofuel.
- Municipal waste like paper, plastic and other products provides a valuable resource to produce renewable propane and other renewable fuels. This production chain diverts billions of pounds of waste from landfills every year. Plus, recent research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has resulted in a process for recycling plastic waste on a molecular level. And its end-product is propane!
- Dead trees and woody biomass represent wildfire hazards, but disposing of large forest waste products can be challenging. Agricultural waste like leaves and stalks serve little purpose for farmers. The good news is that researchers have made fantastic strides in extracting the compounds to generate renewable fuel from these feedstocks.
- Soybean oil and inedible corn oil are classic biofuel feedstocks. Both significantly contribute to renewable propane production and support American farmers in the process, all without sacrificing the food supply.
- There are some lesser-known agricultural resources with potential in the renewable propane production pipeline. One promising resource is camelina sativa, which is similar to canola. Camelina sativa grows in otherwise fallow land, doesn’t need much water, matures quickly and is resistant to pests. Growing camelina requires few resources and doesn’t displace food crops — and it’s another effective feedstock.
Achieving Negative Carbon Intensity
Current research could bring us to a place where renewable propane produces net-negative carbon emissions. One of the most promising ways for reaching this goal is with dimethyl ether (DME). Researchers can now synthesize this biogas from animal waste. This prevents the release of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the product can be blended with propane.
Renewable Propane Production
The 200,000 tons of American renewable propane currently made is only about 0.1% of total propane production. The good news is that there is tremendous potential for growth as more resources are dedicated to renewable propane production. Also, since renewable propane is a coproduct of biofuel, they will scale up together.
Read more about renewable propane gas.