Just about everyone knows that they may someday need extra gasoline. If you’ve ever stored gas for any length of time then you know it degrades and goes bad after a while. You may even know there are some additives to extend the shelf life of your gas. So, what about propane? Storing it is a great idea, but how and for how long are always the issue.
Does propane go bad? Sadly, yes, almost anything goes bad eventually. However, propane is one of the most stable and storage-friendly fuels. It will keep for ten to thirty years, which makes it ideal for emergency preparedness purposes.
The additives that are labeled for LPG work with propane because LPG is propane. However, unlike gasoline additives that extend the shelf life, most propane additives actually work on the engine itself. For example, Amazon sells a product Resurs Fleet to help restore the metal inside your engines. While you do add it to the propane, it’s not going to change your fuel. Instead, it will help protect and restore worn metal parts inside the engine to keep things running smoothly. So while it’s an excellent additive for engines, it won’t make your already long-lasting propane last any longer.
Propane & Propane Accessories
Unless you’re Hank Hill, you probably don’t realize quite how versatile propane can be. When stored as colorless, odorless pressurized liquid C3H8 (propane) can be used to run your whole house. It goes without saying that you need to convert traditional systems to use a new fuel source. For example, you could install a tankless propane water heater (found on Amazon) for a shower. Unfortunately, you can’t simply plug a propane tank into a tank that uses another type of gas.
Pretty much anything that requires energy can run off of a converted propane source. For some excellent examples, you need to look no further than an RV. From the stove, heaters, or even portable generator (easily found on Amazon) a typical travel RV uses a refillable propane tank as its fuel source.
While it’s always up to you how you want to handle your prepping, converting things over to long storing propane is a fantastic way to assure your survival. You can run a car, a lawnmower, or even a generator off of propane. Making conversions is something most tool savvy DIYers can do. If you’re not so tool savvy, this is a great time to get started. You can bet that there won’t be a repairman coming when society breaks down.
Before the world ends, YouTube is a preppers’ best friend. You can find tutorials and assistance on a multitude of topics, including how to do propane conversions on engines and even your clothes dryer. I suggest picking up a kit rather than hunting for individual parts unless you are a master builder with a whole lot of experience. It’s just faster and easier to check compatibility and get your systems converted this way.
What’s the Difference
If propane is a gas and so is propane and natural gas, then what’s the big difference? Well, for one thing, natural gas is made up of several gasses including propane and gasoline for cars, but mostly it’s just methane. The refinement process for ‘Natural Gas’ primarily consists of cleaning it before use. Yes, that’s it. Clean, mix, sell. Propane, on the other hand, is a hydrocarbon. It’s produced as a result of the refinement process from natural gas.
Like propane, gasoline for cars and fuel for jets are different parts of what we draw from the earth as crude oil. A barrel of this crude oil is refined into several different fuels.
- Gasoline- Most of a barrel of crude oil will become gasoline for cars. Almost half of the barrel turns into what we pump into our vehicles at a gas station.
- Ultra-Low-Sulfur Distillate- You probably know what this is by it’s shorter name Diesel fuel. It is mostly used for running large vehicles like the semi-trucks that ship our food and fuel all over the world.
- Jet Fuel- This one is pretty self-explanatory. Jet fuel makes jets fly.
- Residual Fuel Oil and Heating Oil- These make up less than three gallons of the forty-two-gallon barrel.
- “Other Products”- About six gallons of each barrel falls into the ‘other’ category. These may become products such as waxes and asphalt.
- Hydrocarbon Gas Liquids (Propane etc.)- This makes up only about two gallons of each barrel and has to be refined and separated, cleaned and packed in appropriate containers before it comes to you.
Natural gas is a versatile substance. Propane, like many of the derivatives of a barrel of crude, is a great way to make sure you don’t freeze in winter or go without things you need, like cooked food and hot showers when TEOTWAKI happens.
Part of good prepping has always been sustainability. It doesn’t do you much good to make it through an immediate threat if your long term plans don’t let you continue to survive. When you choose your fuels for long term storage, the impact they have on you and the environment around you should be part of your checklist. For example, you can live in a forest and plan to cut wood, but eventually, it’s going to be a long walk to the nearest stand of trees you can use.
Propane isn’t as renewable as trees, nor as bad about polluting the air you need as gasoline. That’s an important consideration since the Amazon rainforest is burning while I write this, and that means less air for all of us in the near future. Luckily, propane is a mostly clean-burning fuel because it has a substantially lower amount of carbon than most, but it’s not perfect.
Propane Burning Byproducts
The bad news is that propane isn’t totally clean burning. It does have some chemical side effects as it burns.
- Carbon monoxide
- Greenhouse gas
- Non-methane overall organic carbon
- Nitrous oxide
- Nitrogen oxides
- Particulate matter
- Sulfur dioxide
The good news, on the other hand, is that regardless of its byproducts, propane is still superior to gasoline or diesel. You can even use it to run a cleaner-burning vehicle if you do the proper conversions first.
“Argonne National Laboratory has estimated that converting a vehicle from using conventional fuels to propane could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 10 percent.”
From the Seattle PI website.
Storing propane is a very straightforward proposition. It doesn’t require any additives or rotation. All you’ll need to buy are tanks designed for propane storage. (Click Here for more details). You’ll want propane tanks because they have the necessary attachments to run a proper hose to your home systems.
OSHA regulations are a good place to start. While they are designed for the workplace, they give you a good idea for basic storage safety. Generally, you’ll want them outdoors anywhere under a hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. OSHA suggests (requires) not-in-use containers to be twenty feet from a building and under a protective roof.
Additionally, OSHA requires businesses to use a chain to secure each cylinder from falling. This is a practical consideration given the high pressure inside the tanks. The last thing you want is a slow leak or worse and exploding tank. This is doubly true for emergency prep if you have more than one container stored, as you should.
As with all preps, you need to do routine maintenance on propane tanks. I don’t mean you need to fix them yourself. Instead, make certain you check on them at least once every season. Look for leaks or signs of wear and tear. Look for any signs of rust and make sure they’re secure wherever you have them.
Equally important, you should always check the expiration dates. We all know that lots of things, propane included, can last longer than the expiration date on the tag. However, you should rotate your supplies according to the labels for the best results.
Using good common sense is one of the primary skills you need for proper preparedness. If you don’t keep your preps in shape and make sure they haven’t gone off, you’ll find yourself without things you need when the SHTF. A smartphone calendar can be your best friend when it comes to reminding you to check your equipment. If you have concerns about things like the government tracking your activities, feel free to put it in code. As long as you remember what it means, it doesn’t matter whether the reminder says “Buy new bike tires,” or “Host a dinner party for the neighbors,” instead of “Check expiration dates on all prep gear or long term storage.”
Eggs in a Basket
For new preppers, it’s essential to keep in mind that you never want all your eggs in one basket. That means having a home bug-in prep and a bug-out location. It means having a bug-out vehicle and a bicycle. In this case, it also means having more than one source of fuel for emergencies. You may need to keep several conversion kits and the necessary tools on hand to make sure you can survive until your long term sustainability is assured.
Make no mistake; you do need a long term sustainable living solution. That should be the goal that your preps take you toward when you implement them. For many, that means something like farming on a remote piece of land if the world falls apart, but you have to decide what it means for you. Some people prefer an underground emergency bunker with a lifetime supply of freeze-dried meals. Regardless, you should be thinking about how to survive your whole life if things fall apart tomorrow.
Fuels To Store
The first question is always, “how much do I need?” Before people begin looking at where and why to store fuel, they always ask this, and there’s no single answer. Instead, you should be asking what you are preparing for. Do you know how many people you will need to support with your preps? How long before you can achieve sustainability if ever?
Finding the calculations on how much of each fuel each person will use each year is easy. Don’t forget to add in any pets or livestock you plan to keep. The question is how many people and for what duration you plan to survive. Once the math is done, then you can look at what works best for your situation. Propane is a given, but what else should you store?
Fuel For the Fire
- Gasoline and Diesel- If you’re not converting vehicles you’ll need gas. You can use additives to store gas for about a year. Always use a well-ventilated area away from your home and rotate your supply out well before the maximum storage date.
- Charcoal- Coal isn’t something we think about too often in the USA because we don’t use it much unless we’re barbecuing. Never the less, some bags of charcoal stored off the floor in a dry area that’s free from sparks is a great backup cooking and heating solution.
- Wood- Building a fire can undoubtedly save your duff in a pinch. Make sure you have adequate ventilation if you plan to burn indoors and stack the wood neatly. Keep logs off the ground and under a protective shelter, like a tarp to prevent rain and snow from making your wood too wet to burn.
- Butane- Another relatively long-lived gas butane lasts around five to seven years so a camp stove and some butane cans can save your bacon when the SHTF.
- Kerosene- This ‘lamp oil’ can work in a pinch, but since it only lasts about three to six months, you might want to look at better alternatives.
- Mixing Oil- If you plan to use a lot of gas-powered tools, you’ll probably need some mixing oil. Check with the manufacturer for the rotation schedule.
- Alcohol- No, I don’t mean the type you drink. Rubbing alcohol is an accelerant that has a long storage life as long as it’s properly sealed.
Keep in mind, each state and county has different laws on how much fuel you can legally store. Unfortunately, there’s no unified resource for how much they allow by state so you’ll have to check your local requirements and cap. An excellent place to start looking is the EPA website. They have regulations on things like underground tanks because they regulate anything that impacts the environment. Propane and other fuels are absolutely on that list.
There’s no such thing as a perfect prep, but propane is a darn good option. While it may not be quite as efficient as some other fuels because of it’s lower BTU, propane is incredibly stable and doesn’t degrade anywhere near as fast. Assuming you have proper storage, it will be around for heating your home, cooking your meals and whatever else you need for the next decade or more. That’s a pretty good deal where emergency preparedness is concerned.
Always store your fuels safely away from your home. After all, fires happen, and you don’t want to burn down your home and all your preparedness supplies with it.