Keep up on the latest steam plant conversation
    from the experts at IB&M.

Propane fuel system – is it right for your facility?

Manufacturing and operational processes require continual operation – many companies rely heavily if not solely on natural gas. However, when natural gas is discontinued because of unplanned conditions like extreme cold weather or natural disasters like major storms and floods, having a proper stand-by system in place and ready for service is critical.

Why propane?

Vaporized, air-mixed propane has the same heat value as natural gas and can be interjected into the fuel supply on the fly without changeover or downtime. Anything in the plant running on natural gas can run on propane without adjustment in most cases. Generally speaking, propane is readily available and good for long term storage despite temperature variances. With a stand-by propane fuel system in place, customers can switch to a curtailed rate (interruptible) fuel with their local supply and save throughout the year as opposed to paying a premium to protect against emergency situations (pay firm gas rates throughout the year – local supply charges more to guarantee service). Are you paying high firm rates for continual supply of natural gas?

When evaluating a propane fuel system for stand-by operation, there are several factors you’ll need to consider, such as:

  • What is the natural gas pressure at your facility?
  • What is required generated stand-by gas capacity in BTUs/Hr?
  • What is the required fuel storage capacity?
  • What insurance codes (FM, NFPA 58, etc.) are required at your facility?
  • What other equipment like fork lifts and bottle stations will require propane?
  • Do you need redundancy, such as a duplex pump system or plant air for high pressure systems?

Proper installation is also dependent on location/site and power requirements, including:

  • Size and quantity of storage tanks
  • Distance to plant tie-in
  • Proximity to other structures
  • Ground Conditions, access & traffic
  • Plant voltage & amperage required for pumps, compressors, etc.
  • Power responsibility – plant or sub-contractor

It pays to have expert guidance by an experienced propane system installer with solid engineering capabilities. One that can help you properly forecast process requirements and expansion to ensure you are fully covered when the time comes to flip the switch.

And if you do have a backup propane fuel system in place, is it properly maintained and sized for your output needs over time? Keep in mind it is important to maintain adequate pressures during max load – companies often discover too late that their stand-by units are either inoperable or ineffective (clogged nozzles, fuel lines or poor burner efficiency) because of dormancy or undersized due to expansion.
A well maintained stand-by propane system can mean the difference between unplanned shutdown and smooth operation when you need it most.


Not any article