Renewable Propane is Part of the Green Energy Revolution

June 29, 2021 ____ Agricultural, Safety, Propane Answers

Any time you can stretch a little more use out of something is a win. Making soil from composted table scraps. Using coffee grounds as a skin scrub. And luckily, the fuel industry has found a way to make propane from sustainable sources in addition to traditional fossil fuels.

Solar power and wind power may first spring to mind, but fuels that have long been thought of as unsustainable have been entering the arena.

Renewable propane (also known as biopropane) is created from a blend of sustainable materials and waste residues – think farm waste, cooking oil, and the fat from meats. If these things exist anyway, why not process them into something else useful? The energy industry has found a way to do just that.
Very often, renewable propane is the co-product of biodiesel production, which goes through a similar process to be made. It’s very much a two-birds-one stone scenario, with very little going to waste.

The process of doing this is called hydrogenolysis. It’s a process in which feedstocks – that’s what the base ingredients for propane production are called – are combined with hydrogen, and then purified for safe use. What would otherwise be wasted can be given a second life as a renewable energy source, fueling and heating our homes, businesses, and vehicles.

The way this is different than the process of traditional propane is that it’s made from naturally occurring materials, as opposed to traditionally produced propane, which is a byproduct of natural gas manufacturing. (Crude oil is also a source, but it’s being phased out.)

It’s worth noting that in all iterations, propane is still a by-product, whether from sustainable materials or gas. That’s one of the reasons it’s considered a green fuel. No matter what, propane is always created by taking what would otherwise be waste and making use of it.

So how much of all propane is renewable, at this point? It is a small, but growing, subset.

There are specifically renewable plants in operation around the world, with more currently under production. In Europe, the Neste Corporation is producing biopropane as a co-product of renewable biodiesel, both for use in transportation.

In the United States, the energy company Phillips 66 is converting a California oil refinery into a renewable fuel plant, which will produce renewable propane and renewable biodiesel, among other things.

Then there’s the Renewable Energy Group plant in Geismar, Louisiana, a 75-million-gallon renewable refinery. There’s also AltAir in Paramount, California, which produces not only biopropane, but commercial-grade, sustainable jet fuel.

There are signs that these new, renewable fuels could make very real environmental changes. Propane already has the advantage of being a clean-burning fuel, releasing very little carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

Combining that with sustainability creates massive potential for cleaner air, and people are taking notice. The vehicle industry has recently certified new technology for low nitrogen oxide heavy-duty engines, made to use with propane.

New resources are constantly developing. The industry is exploring all sorts of energy resources and making alternative fuels and green power a priority, and renewable propane is being recognized as an excellent way for us to reduce landfill waste as well as carbon output.

It’s just another way that the energy industry is evolving and helping to create a cleaner, greener world.

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