Propane Industry Leads the Way in Green Innovation

Written on: April 18, 2023

From landfill plastic to agricultural waste, renewable fuel is coming from unexpected places.

green energy innovations united states Tucker Perkins of the Propane Education & Research Center (PERC) has said that “the path to a low-carbon future is paved with innovation.”

The propane industry truly embodies this sentiment. Propane has always been a low-emissions home fuel. Still, the industry is continually looking for innovative ways to lower propane carbon intensity (CI) and power high-efficiency propane-fired equipment using renewable resources.

Here are a few of the most exciting outside-the-box initiatives that are expanding the possibilities for renewable propane gas (rPG) and other innovative blends.

Turning plastic into propane

Plastic use has quadrupled in the last three decades, and there currently aren’t many good options for dealing with plastic waste. In landfills, it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Some plastic is recycled, but the recycled products it produces aren’t the same quality.

A 2022 MIT study has created a process for recycling plastic waste on a molecular level. And its end-product is propane!

The process that MIT developed uses hydrogen gas to break down chemical bonds. Hydrogenolysis can happen at relatively low temperatures, and the MIT team also incorporated a cobalt-based catalyst, which results in an even cleaner process. In the end, they produce 80 percent propane gas that can be used in propane systems, vehicles and appliances.

The team has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to scale up this technology. It has the strong potential to reduce this country’s pervasive plastic waste problem and produce clean propane gas in the process!

A path to net-negative CI with rDME

Renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl-ether (rDME) comes from a range of existing sources, including animal, agricultural and municipal waste. This product has similar properties to liquified petroleum gases (LPG) like propane and butane. Like propane, rDME can be transported and stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders and tanks.

As you can imagine, there is tremendous potential for rDME to act as a renewable alternative to conventional propane. Indeed, it has the potential to reduce propane’s CI to net-negative intensity!

The World LPG Association is performing technical and safety assessments on the blending of rDME and conventional propane. The goal is to identify the best renewable blend ratio that can be used in propane-fired equipment without modifications. Soon, recommended blends will enter a trial phase in advance of a robust rollout that will considerably reduce your home or business’s CI.

PERC’s Research Roadmap points to a greener tomorrow

Responding to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s call for “big, bold, clean energy projects” to combat the harmful impacts of climate change and promote environmental justice, PERC has laid out a roadmap of promising propane innovations. These initiatives include:

With innovative programs like those listed above, the propane industry is at the forefront of decarbonization efforts . Products like renewable propane and rDME are on their way to meaningfully reducing the environmental impact of American homes, businesses and vehicles.

Want to learn more about any of these innovations? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information.