PERC study coincides with emissions debate

November 1, 2007 By    

Propane is clean – and now it’s also green. That’s the message from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) after releasing its study in September on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

 On-Site Carbon Emissions for Various Fuels
On-Site Carbon Emissions for Various Fuels

With the debate on global warming and climate change heating up and policymakers considering how to address the issue, PERC is using its study to promote propane as the clean fuel of choice and an option to help reduce GHG emissions.

“It’s a hot topic right now,” says Gregory Kerr, PERC’s director of research and development, on GHG emissions.

PERC approved $35,000 for the study at its April meeting in Atlanta, allowing Energetics Inc. of Washington, D.C. to conduct “Propane Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Comparative Analysis.”

Kerr says the study was done to confirm PERC’s belief that propane ranked ahead of most competing fuels in GHG emissions.

Total Carbon Emissions for Various Fuels
Total Carbon Emissions for Various Fuels

“It also gives us data we can use and the NPGA [National Propane Gas Association] can use when talking to legislators and different government agencies,” he adds.

While greenhouse gases keep the earth at a comfortable temperature, high concentrations affect the global climate system, leading to climate change.

According to the study, propane produces fewer GHG emissions than many competing fuels. At the point of use, propane has a lower carbon content than ethanol, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oil and ranks only behind natural gas with on-site carbon emissions. Propane also remains a viable option when upstream emissions – the process from production to consumption by the end user – are considered.

The study notes that while natural gas generates fewer carbon dioxide emissions per Btu than propane, it produces a global warming effect 25 times that of carbon dioxide because it is chemically stable when released into the air. Propane vapor is removed from the atmosphere too quickly to impact the global climate.

Propane was compared against competing fuels in seven market segments – distributed generation, forklifts, irrigation pumps, light-duty trucks, medium-duty engines, residential space heating and residential water heating. Energy consumption rates, emissions factors and equipment efficiencies were analyzed to estimate the GHG emissions associated with the use of each fuel. Results were particularly noteworthy for residential space and water heating and light-duty trucks, according to PERC.

“We stacked up well against most fuels and applications,” Kerr says. “We did better than renewable fuel ethanol with the light-duty truck, and we were lowest in space heating and pretty much with residential hot water heating. We were also 10 percent better than diesel with irrigation pumps and better in some of the distributed generation applications.”

With the study in hand, PERC now plans to spread the word that propane can help lower carbon emissions. PERC officials met with NPGA officials, Kerr says, and NPGA had requested several hundred copies of the study to use in dealings with government agencies and Congress.

“It’s certainly something we’ll rely on when trying to make our case,” says Michael G. Troop, vice president, Legislative Affairs for NPGA. “As best as I know, it’s the only thing out there that focuses on propane. It certainly would be nice to have others simply because PERC represents the industry, and there’s always somebody who’s going to question the report done by the industry for the industry.

“But it’s a legitimate and defensible deal,” he adds. “It’s something we’re going to have to use as we try to make our case to Congress and this thing goes through the legislative process.”

To obtain a copy of the study, contact Kerr at or visit

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