The short answer is, yes, propane explosions are possible. However, they are not common.
What is Propane?
Propane is a combustible material created from natural gas processing and oil refining over long periods. The naturally occurring gas includes eight hydrogen atoms and three carbon atoms. The combustibility of propane makes it a very versatile product. It can be used for many different reasons, such as central heating, barbecue grills, engine fuels, and torches.
Unfortunately, propane’s combustibility is also the reason why it can be dangerous and cause an explosion. Accidents related to propane explosions can be divided into two groups. The first category actually has very little to do with the propane tank itself. Instead, the propane gas explosion results from the propane leaking because a tank was left open, and the gas supply is ignited from exposure to flames or high temperatures. This is usually the cause of gas grill tank explosions.
On rare occasions, propane tank explosions can occur from the pressure of the propane tank reaching higher than the pressure that the tank can safely vent, causing the tank to burst open. This kind of explosion is called a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE).
Safety Features Already in Place
- Built-in Relief Valves – Most propane tanks come with a relief valve which acts as the primary method of defense for any explosions. If the tank’s pressure reaches higher than a specific point, the relief valve will open automatically. This lets the gas vent and reduces the pressure. That is why direct exposure to pressure or extremely high temperatures are needed to even cause a BLEVE. Still, it is important to practice safe handling and storage techniques from your end to prevent any explosions.
Can Propane Tanks Explode in the Sun?
Yes, they can. On a warm summer day, temperatures can rise quickly. As the propane tank gets hotter, the pressure inside the tank will increase. Although portable propane tanks are equipped with safety relief valves designed to release pressure build-up, the smartest place to store a tank is out of direct sunlight. The safest place to store a propane tank is outdoors, in the shade, and in cool temperatures.
Safety Tips to Minimize the Risk of an Explosion
- The best way to prevent a BLEVE is by always making sure that the propane tank is closed when you are not using it. You will also want to check the connections and hoses for any leaks routinely.
- Make sure to watch over your gas grills if you are letting them heat up.
- Do not ever store propane tanks near any open flames to avoid both large and small propane tank explosions.
- Do not store a propane tank right next to a tank that is being used – If other tanks are stored nearby, high temperatures can cause bleeder valves to open, which can expand a fire, causing a chain reaction.
- Follow OSHA requirements – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines require a chemical to be mixed with propane (propane has no odor) so that users will smell a scent that resembles a “rotten egg” if a leak happens. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the smell just in case of an emergency.
Although propane-based explosions are rare, it is nothing to take lightly. An explosion can cause serious injury or even death to those who come in contact with it.
What To Do If You Smell Gas?
If you smell gas coming from your propane tank, you should take the following steps.
- If there are no sparks or flames, you can pull out all the smoking material and any other open flames.
- Turn the main gas supply off (if it is safe to do so).
- Leave the location immediately and report the leak to your propane retailer.
- Get your system checked by a professional before reattempting to use your propane tank again.
Great Valley Propane Emergency Services
Your safety is our top priority. Great Valley Propane offers excellent emergency service if you smell gas or are in other danger.
If you need new propane for your home, we are here to help. Great Valley Propane offers high-quality propane tanks in durable containers with built-in safety features. Our team of experts is extremely knowledgeable and will take the utmost safety precautions in any services we provide for you and your family.
Don’t wait another minute. Give us a call today at 610-251-2203 or schedule an appointment online to get your propane delivered to your home!