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Propane Tank History

Propane tanks, sometimes called barbecue tanks, have been around since the 1930s. Propane itself was discovered to be a volatile burning chemical useful for fuel in 1910, discovered by Dr. Walter O. Snelling when he worked for the United States Bureau of Mines.

Along with other physicists, Dr. Snelling learned how to make liquid propane useful in the production of gasoline, and it was around the same time that is was discovered that propane was an acceptable alternative to other fuel sources when stored in a metal tank. Propane comes from combining natural gas with refined petroleum. It is overwhelmingly cheap compared with other energy sources.

People started making liquid propane out of the substance, and by the 1920’s, production soared. It was transported on trains, and it’s application varied from being used from cooking to powering vehicles.

It is still vast in abundance and application today. Some train engines use it, it is still used for cooking, and many other motor vehicles have harnessed its power. It is very likely that the barbecue grill on your back porch runs on a tank of liquid propane. Propane lanterns, made by Coleman, for one, are very popular with the campers and outdoor adventurers. They have been used in this capacity for decades.

Most commercially available propane is mixed with a certain concentration of other chemicals, such as butane. You will see it transported now on trucks along the highways and interstates of the United States.

Propane is sometimes used to power refrigeration units as an alternative to electricity. It is in the gasoline that fuels our cars more and more these days as well. It also has plenty of industrial applications. Forklifts often run on propane instead of batteries.

Propane is also used to form the base for other chemicals and solvents because of its potency and properties. It has been used in times of war. Weapons such as flamethrowers have used and still use propane.

Propane has had a huge impact on popular culture, too, in part because of its popularity with barbecue connoisseurs. For example, the television show “King of the Hill” features the character Hank Hill, who works as a propane salesman. Also, Hollywood productions use propane as an every day resource for the pyrotechnics and special effects we see in movies and television today. Many experts in the field of pyrotechnics are extremely knowledgeable about propane and its combustible properties.

Hot air balloons use propane to lift them high off the ground, and it is generally regarded as very safe when used correctly.

There are some risks, however. The density of propane means that it is heavier than air. If you have a gas lantern stored in the attic or basement of your house, and it strikes a leak, it can explode if it comes into contact with another flammable source. That is something to be mindful of when storing your propane or propane powered items.

Most propane sold in America is domestic, so when you use propane as an energy source, even for a backyard picnic, you are truly buying American. Perhaps that is why there is this fascination in American popular culture with propane, as it is truly the American way. It is patriotic, even, and no doubt the hot dogs you buy at the ball park this summer will come from a grill powered by our friend, propane.

Nothing beats propane, really. It is one of our natural resources, and it is helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the discovery of propane. Let’s help support our economy by finding ways to make the most of this type of energy.

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