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Propane Statistics and Facts 2024

propane statistics

Here are some of the top propane statistics for 2024:

  • In 2023, the global propane market size was $91.6 billion and is anticipated to grow to $117.2 billion by 2031.
  • In 2022-2023, the US averaged 986,000 barrels of propane per day for heating during the winter, the lowest amount on record since 2010.
  • As of January 2024, 4.9% of US households use propane as their primary heating fuel.10 years ago, just a tad more — 5% of U.S. households — used propane as their primary heating fuel.
  • 11.9 million households use propane for water or space heating, with 5.8 million using it primarily for space heating.
  • In September 2023, the U.S. exported $1.68 billion-worth of propane gas. From January through September 2023, the U.S. exported a little over $15 billion-worth of propane gas.

Propane, a cousin to natural gas, holds a modest yet crucial role in America’s energy landscape. Since its initial production in 1912, propane has diversified its applications across residential, industrial, and agricultural settings. Known commonly as “bottled gas,” this colorless hydrocarbon, with the molecular formula C3H8, demonstrates versatility in its physical state. Under standard room temperature and atmospheric pressure, propane exists as a gas. However, when contained and pressurized between 100-200 psi in tanks, it transitions into a liquid state due to the increased pressure, a form popularly referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP). Though naturally odorless, propane is purposely imbued with a strong-smelling odorant to make leak detection straightforward and enhance safety measures.

Read on to see some critical propane statistics, such as propane production, consumption, and trends in the propane industry.

Propane statistics: Production, processing, and transportation

Petroleum refineries and natural gas processing facilities are the primary sources of propane production. In refineries, propane is obtained by heating crude oil to high temperatures and then distilling it to separate various components based on their boiling points. Similarly, in natural gas processing plants, propane is separated from other hydrocarbons through a series of processes including cooling and condensation. Once produced, propane is liquefied for efficient transportation. This liquefied propane is then moved through pipelines to central distribution centers, where it’s stored in vast steel cylinders and tanks, ready for further distribution.

The logistics of transporting propane from these central distribution centers to various end points involves a multi-modal system. Depending on the geographic location and accessibility, propane is shipped using trains, trucks, barges, or ships to reach “bulk plants” or retail distribution points. These bulk plants serve as regional hubs where propane is stored before being delivered to residential, commercial, or industrial end users. The transportation and storage of propane in its liquid form is crucial for maintaining its high energy content in a compact volume, facilitating its distribution and use across wide areas efficiently.

A notable feature of propane is its high energy content, with one gallon of liquefied propane gas delivering approximately 84,250 British thermal units (Btu) of energy. This high energy density makes propane an efficient fuel choice for heating, cooking, and as an alternative fuel for vehicles among other applications. The versatility and energy efficiency of propane, combined with its relatively easy storage and transport, underscore its value as a widely used fuel. Moreover, advancements in propane production and distribution technologies continue to enhance its safety, environmental compatibility, and cost-effectiveness, contributing to its growing popularity in both developed and developing markets.

propane production
propane production

Propane statistics: Consumption

The pandemic produced a rise in consumption of propane, which in turn induced a rise in price. Combined with the high inflation rates of 2021-2022, the uptick in propane prices that persisted throughout 2022 and 2023 eventually began to affect consumption. As a result of this, demand began to fall and this produced a surplus, with propane inventories reaching 102.2 million barrels as of September 2023; a month later, propane inventories rose to 102.4 million barrels by the end of the week October 20, 2023.

Since the propane winter season — which runs from October 2023 through March 2024 — has been relatively mild, domestic consumption of propane has hit a low not seen since 2010. The International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighted in its first-quarter report on the gas market that anticipated growth in gas demand is likely to be seen primarily in rapidly expanding Asian Pacific regions, as well as in African and Middle Eastern countries rich in gas resources. Nonetheless, this report pointed out that the rise in demand in significant markets within Asia and Europe is expected to face constraints due to a modest increase in global LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) supply, projected at a mere 3.5% growth.

The IEA’s projection for 2024 comes with a notable degree of uncertainty, described as “unusually wide.” The report underscores several factors that could undermine the forecast, including possible delays in the launch of new liquefaction facilities, ongoing geopolitical tensions, challenges with feed gas for existing projects, and risks associated with LNG transport. These elements are seen as potential drivers for market instability, suggesting that the interplay between rising demand and constrained supply could lead to significant price swings over the course of the year.

Propane statistics: Industrial use

Propane plays a significant role in the industrial sector, with a substantial portion, almost 50%, being utilized in the production of plastics. This versatile gas serves as a critical component in the manufacturing process of various plastic products, contributing significantly to the plastic industry’s output. Beyond plastic production, propane’s applications extend to several other industrial uses. It is widely employed as a fuel for operating machinery, demonstrating its versatility in the industrial landscape. The gas is especially beneficial for tasks that require high heat, such as metal cutting, making it a valuable resource in metalworking and related industries.

Moreover, propane is instrumental in the generation of process heat, a fundamental requirement in numerous manufacturing and processing activities. Its use is not confined to these areas; propane is also a key ingredient in the production of several other materials. For instance, it is used in creating aerosol propellants, which are essential in the packaging of products like sprays and foams. Additionally, propane is a vital component in the manufacture of solvents, which are crucial in various cleaning and thinning applications. Another significant use of propane is in the synthesis of synthetic vulcanized rubber, an important material in the automotive and manufacturing industries, showcasing the gas’s broad spectrum of industrial applications.

According to the latest data from PERC, the industrial sector accounted for approximately 606.2 million gallons of propane sold in 2022. That represents 6% of the national total of 9.84 billion gallons of propane sold in 2022.

Propane statistics: Agricultural use

Propane is a key energy source for agricultural heating needs, especially in regions like the Midwest where winter temperatures can plummet, posing a threat to livestock health. Farms commonly utilize propane to warm buildings housing animals and for horticultural purposes, mirroring its residential use for home heating. The warmth provided by propane is crucial for periods of critical animal husbandry, such as during pig farrowing seasons, and is essential in commercial greenhouses to maintain temperatures conducive to plant growth. Additionally, propane aids in dehumidifying greenhouse environments, helping to prevent plant diseases and enhance crop quality.

In the realm of agricultural irrigation, propane-powered engines are highly valued across the U.S., from the central valley of California to the citrus groves of Florida. These propane irrigation engines are preferred by many farmers for their efficiency and cost-effectiveness, offering a significant performance advantage and fuel savings compared to diesel engines. Moreover, propane engines boast cleaner emissions, bypassing the need for the exhaust fluids required by newer diesel engines to meet environmental standards, thus providing a greener irrigation solution that aligns with environmental regulations.

Grain drying is another critical application of propane in agriculture, with approximately 80% of grain dryers operating on propane. This preference is due to propane’s high energy output, reliability, and the efficiency of modern propane-powered dryers, which can be up to 50% more efficient than older models. This efficiency translates into faster, more economical drying processes that protect crops from spoilage. Additionally, propane is utilized in organic farming for flame weed control, offering an effective, chemical-free method to manage weeds by directly applying intense heat. Beyond crop management, propane-powered wind machines protect sensitive crops like grapevines and fruit trees from frost damage by circulating warmer air, demonstrating propane’s role as a versatile, environmentally friendly solution in various agricultural applications. For those in farming, ranching, or viticulture, exploring propane’s benefits could significantly enhance operational efficiency and sustainability.

Propane statistics: Household use

According to the latest Census Bureau data, a little over 6.1 million households in the U.S. rely on propane gas as their house heat fuel, equivalent to about 4.9% of all households in the country. In comparison, the most common house heat fuel in the U.S. is utility gas: Over 59.2 million households — equal to 47.1% of all households — use utility gas for their home heating needs.

House Heating FuelNew England DivisionMiddle Atlantic DivisionEast North Central DivisionWest North Central DivisionSouth Atlantic DivisionEast South Central DivisionWest South Central DivisionMountain DivisionPacific Division
Utility gas2,425,2039,812,88613,110,6615,082,8506,295,3982,367,3515,588,2325,371,6089,962,461
Bottled, tank, or LP gas479,360773,1051,391,380896,764918,542446,342528,825450,094630,798
Fuel oil, kerosene, etc.1,929,0072,253,068176,67150,717431,05023,85915,30125,134167,336
Coal or coke4,17956,3939,8561,4537,9752,1042,2283,9713,086
Solar energy13,75124,5219,0776,40474,6753,49430,58566,802194,339
Other fuel71,954162,914127,01366,89649,58413,52036,23448,93481,723
No fuel used39,049191,764115,80255,012346,59747,84196,98764,819689,774
Utility gas39.6%59.2%68.1%57.4%23.7%30.2%35.6%54.6%52.1%
Bottled, tank, or LP gas7.8%4.7%7.2%10.1%3.5%5.7%3.4%4.6%3.3%
Fuel oil, kerosene, etc.31.5%13.6%0.9%0.6%1.6%0.3%0.1%0.3%0.9%
Coal or coke0.1%0.3%0.1%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
Solar energy0.2%0.1%0.0%0.1%0.3%0.0%0.2%0.7%1.0%
Other fuel1.2%1.0%0.7%0.8%0.2%0.2%0.2%0.5%0.4%
No fuel used0.6%1.2%0.6%0.6%1.3%0.6%0.6%0.7%3.6%

Propane statistics: Transportation use

Propane, recognized as an alternative fuel by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, is also known by names such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane autogas. PERC reports that the U.S. has around 60,000 on-road vehicles powered by propane with approved fuel systems, commonly utilized in fleets like school buses, shuttle services, and law enforcement vehicles. Worldwide, the consumption of autogas reached 27.1 million tons as of 2019.

Vehicles powered by propane can be acquired directly from manufacturers or through aftermarket conversions, with options available for both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, including specialized engines prepared by manufacturers for easy conversion to propane use.

Propane-powered vehicles come in two main varieties: dedicated and bi-fuel. Dedicated models operate exclusively on propane, whereas bi-fuel models can switch between propane and gasoline, offering the convenience of choice between fuels and potentially extending the vehicle’s driving range beyond that of single-fuel vehicles. While propane carries less energy per gallon than gasoline, resulting in slightly reduced fuel efficiency, its higher octane rating (104–112 versus 87–92 for gasoline) can lead to better performance, especially in engines designed to capitalize on this attribute. Additionally, propane’s clean-burning properties not only contribute to lower maintenance costs for vehicles but also support longer engine lifespans. Moreover, propane’s efficacy in colder climates, due to its gaseous state during combustion, helps eliminate the cold-start problems often faced by diesel vehicles.

Some utilities use propane to fuel backup electrical generators when the demand for electricity is very high, or if there is a disruption in the supply of other energy sources. However, most electric power plants do not use much propane fuel, because it costs less to produce electricity from other energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas, coal or uranium.

Propane statistics: U.S. propane supply trends

Over the next ten years, it’s anticipated that the production of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) in the United States will see a significant rise. This growth, estimated at an increase of 4.2 million barrels per day, is largely expected to be fueled by the ongoing development of tight oil and shale gas, particularly in the Permian and Appalachian Basins. Despite a notable drop in NGL refinery output due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s projected that U.S. NGL refinery production will recover to pre-pandemic levels and that propane production from refineries will stabilize.

In terms of regional production within the U.S., every Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) except for PADD 5, which covers the West Coast, is forecasted to experience growth in propane production. This indicates a reduction in petroleum activities in that region. From 2021 to 2030, the total domestic field production of propane is expected to increase by 340 thousand barrels per day, with PADD 3, in particular, seeing the most significant growth of 125 thousand barrels per day during the decade.

On the export front, the U.S. is projected to ramp up its propane exports to 3.3 million barrels per day by 2030, marking a 50% increase from 2.2 million barrels per day in 2021. PADD 3 is anticipated to continue leading in export activities, contributing 2.4 million barrels per day to the total exports by 2030. Meanwhile, the U.S. will also see a gradual increase in propane imports, expected to reach 115.1 thousand barrels per day by 2030, with almost half of these imports coming into PADD 2, primarily from Canada. Notably, PADD 3 is set to maintain a strong position as a net exporter, with virtually no propane imports forecasted for this region.

Propane statistics: Global propane industry

The U.S. is consistently, year after year, one of the top exporters of propane gas in the world (usually, second only to one of the oil-exporting countries of the Middle East, such as Qatar). In terms of trade value, according to the latest data, America’s exports of liquefied propane for the month of September 2023 were worth $1.68 billion. From January through September 2023, the U.S. exported over $15 billion-worth of propane.

America’s main destination for its propane exports is Japan. For the month of September 2023 alone, America exported nearly $463.2 million-worth of propane to Japan. On an annual basis, the U.S. exported approximately $5.31 billion-worth of liquefied propane to Japan. Behind Japan, Mexico is America’s No. 2 main destination for propane, with U.S. propane exports to Mexico valued at $2.69 billion annually. America’s No. 3 top destination for propane exports is China, with the U.S. exporting an estimated $2.26 billion-worth of propane to China.

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