Energy & Technology

LPG: Is the gas heavier or lighter than air?


Many people think that lpg / gas is lighter than air, but this isn’t always the case. Which do you think is heavier? Gas or Air? First we need to acknowledge that the gas referred to in the question you have asked is Liquified Petroleum Gas. Now let us begin by defining some terms.

What is Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG)?

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a colourless, odourless liquid which is made up of a mixture of hydrocarbons. The most commonly used hydrocarbon in LPG is propane (C3H8), and LPG contains other hydrocarbons such as butane (C4H10) and isobutane (C4H10) as well. LPG has a wide range of uses which include heating, cooking, hot water and refrigeration, and it is also commonly used in vehicles as a fuel for engines.

How is LPG made?

LP Gas is made through the fractional distillation of crude oil or natural gas. In the fractional distillation process, the components of the crude oil are separated from each other based on their boiling points. Propane is one of the components which is extracted from crude oil during the fractional distillation process and combined with small amounts of other substances such as butane to produce LPG. This process takes place in large industrial plants and the extracted LPG is stored in tanks until it is needed.

So is gas lighter than air? We’ll find out soon enough.


What is Air?

Air is a naturally occurring mixture of gases found in the atmosphere. The air we breathe consists of approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.03% argon and a small amount of other gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. The oxygen in the air we breathe is important as it allows us to carry out a number of essential functions such as breathing, breaking down food into energy, and producing new blood cells. Let’s now compare LPG to air and see how they stack up against each other in terms of density.

What is the Specific Gravity of Air?

This is actually a very simple question. The specific gravity of air is gotten from the ratio of the densities of air and water. i.e (1.024 / 998.2) = 1.03 × 10-3

What is the Specific Gravity of Liquified Petroleum Gas?

Liquified petroleum gas has a density of 1.898 kg/m3 at a temperature of 15oC or 1.1162 lb/ft3. However, when the temperature is increased, the density of the liquefied petroleum gas decreases compared to the density of air as the molecules in the liquefied petroleum gas start to spread out more and this is indicated by a lower mass-to-volume ratio. The Specific gravity of LPG is greater than 0.495 at which means that it has a greater mass-to-volume ratio than air and this means that it is heavier than air.

Is gas lighter than air?

Well, as this article has explained gas is, in fact, heavier than air. This means that in a situation where there is a gas leak (lpg leak), it is expected that the gas will most likely find its way to low spots below air.

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