May 29, 2017

Propane for Fuel Storage

Propane for Fuel Stroage

Energy is one of the five basic human needs. We use it to cook, to see and for power, among other things. For many reasons, propane is my fuel of choice to store and use if/when the grid goes down for any length of time.

Propane does not go bad like some of the other fuels and has an indefinite shelf life. There are multiple storage sizes; the 1lb, the popular 20lb and even some 200lb tanks that are available at various hardware stores. Many use propane for their primary fuel source and have the much larger tanks that are filled only once or twice a year. Before you decide to store larger tanks of propane, you should check local laws.

I’m sure this is not the case everywhere, but where I live there are two propane companies within walking distance, and a couple more within twenty miles. That’s not counting all of the self-serve propane stations scattered at various gas stations and other businesses. A note about these self-serve stations; they are much more expensive here than taking the tank to a company to have it refilled. They are, however, a good way to trade in your older tank for a new one.

This is one of the major reasons I decided to go with propane. There is just so much you can do with it. There are camp lights, camp stoves, grills, portable heaters, generators and even some appliances that can run on propane. Here are some instructions on filling the smaller 1lb tanks from a 20lb tank.


As stated, there are some generators that run on propane and some can also be retro-fitted to accept propane as a fuel source. I have heard that generators will use more propane than gas. If that’s true, in my opinion, the point is negated because of how much easier it is to store large amounts of propane versus gasoline. I checked on the conversion for our generator and was told I needed to send them the carburetor, that they would modify it and send it back for $150.

Final Thoughts

I personally believe that if we were to see a prolonged grid down event, propane would be available longer than gasoline. The main reason for this is that gas would be used to run most generators and to fuel vehicles (if they’re running). In suburbia, people generally only use propane for their grills and usually have just the one tank.

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  1. dirty harry says:

    if SHTF time do not cook out doors , food cooking will tell everyone for miles , FOOD and people will KILL YOU , find a way to cook indoor and vent, like very early morning or late night, and always be well armed , yes I stock up on propane and stock up on the small cans and have a camping stove (small) to use indoors,and .have the extra stuff you would use for camping lamp oils, MATCHES (never have enough) candles you get the point.

    • Chris Ray says:

      If there is a total melt-down, worst case scenario than yes, you are correct. But for the vast majority of situation cooking outdoors for a while is going to be perfectly safe.

  2. I have several different types of stoves for cooking. I also have a grill with 4 propane tanks not enough I know but I plan on using the grill just for baking bread, cookies, cake. I have done all of those things on the grill already and I swear those cookies tasted better on the grill then the oven. Then I will use my other stoves for regular cooking. I am thankful to live in the country where no one can smell it but the cats. Hopefully if there is an EMP attack and vehicles aren’t working, that will keep people in the city. Maybe I am dreaming. Wish I had a crystal ball to see what is going to happen and what type of crazy people we need to protect ourselves from.

  3. I also store propane for the reasons Chris states: indefinite shelf life and utility. Generators burn through propane quickly but stoves, lighting, and heaters all use it. Your entire house can run off propane.

    For an extended grid down situation: I think that diesel (bio-diesel) is a good fuel for equipment and vehicles. You can’t replace propane (propane plants are hard to grow! 😉 So, propane is a limited resource. However, you can grow plants and produce bio-diesel.

    Therefore, my plan calls for the storage of propane but learning the skills necessary to make bio-diesel.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Good point, but the gear to make bio-diesel is WAY out of my price range. Propane is a limited resource, but I still think its the best option for most. For diesel storage you would need Pri-D for long term storage. That just made me think of a question, I wonder if Pri-D works with bio-diesel? My guess is that it would.

  4. Drumsdaddy says:


    While propane is a hotter fuel than natural gas and more portable there are a few safety concerns to be aware of.

    1. propane is heavier than air. If you have a leak it will travel across the floor instead of rising like natural gas. Motors, pilot lights, and anything that can spark an ignition at ground floor is a concern.

    2. the ignition range of propane is 2% – 10% while natural gas is 4.5% to 14.5%

    3. if the cylinder is damaged don’t reuse. Mark it bad with the valve open after the propane is relieved.

    4. a propane orifice is smaller than a natural gas orifice.

    5. a propane appliance regulator usually is set at 10″ water column pressure compared to natural gas at 3.5″ – 7″ water column pressure.

    There’s a lot more to talk about but these are some of my concerns.

    Be Safe!

    The Gasman

    • Chris Ray says:

      I trust your information on this. Can natural gas be stored?

      My home uses natural gas, and from my research there is only a small chance it will stop flowing. However if it does, or we need to bug out, I want to be able to heat and cook in the trailer. Is there a better option than propane?

      Another question while I have your attention. I read one time about someone repurposing an old damaged 20lb propane tank. They opened the valve and stuck the tank under water to fill it up and remove any remaining propane. Would that work and is it safe?

      • Natural gas can more-or-less be stored … see “Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)”.
        However, as far as I’m aware from my research online – I’m no expert in this matter – there is no practical way to D-I-Y LNG from regular line pressure natural gas.

        Repurposing an old propane tank:
        I’ve used the mentioned method … it works. However, I made sure to rinse the tank three times to be sure it was safe. It would probably work somewhat better if the valve was removed entirely prior to filling with water.
        I had to do a bit of welding on the lid of a big old propane tank for a friend once. We made sure the tank had been well-rinsed and well-vented for a couple months before I even thought about doing the welding.

        FWIW – I have a main natural gas line running under my front field. I have some concerns about natural gas continuing to flow after a disaster – particularly an earthquake or a grid-down event.
        I’ve decided to go with propane as a back-up.

      • The Gasman says:


        There are bottles for natural gas. You have to fill them at a natural gas distribution pump (like a gasoline station). About 4,000 psi in each bottle. However…local codes won’t allow you to store that much inside a structure. If everything goes down then codes won’t matter. The propane bottles won’t be able to handle pressures like that. You have to have special high pressure bottle(s) and they have to be hydro tested every 12 years…I think. Depending on what appliances you use, you may have to get several to meet your needs. I’m been in the natural gas side for 40 years and Missouri is just starting to get natural gas stations set up for natural gas vehicles.

        I would caution you on reusing a propane bottle. Unless they are within their certification testing I wouldn’t trust it. Same goes for acetylene/oxygen bottles.
        If you filled it with water…how would you know if there’s any moisture left inside and would moisture inhibit the proper burning of the propane?

        Since I deal with natural gas everyday I’m not too sure about the propane industry standards. I’ll check my NFPA 56 book on propane and see what they have to say.

        • Chris Ray says:

          Good to know. I know of a few places that refill propane, I’ll have to look to see if there are any that do natural gas.

          About filling the tank with water, the purpose was to ensure there was no propane left in it, so the tank could be repurposed. One idea I saw was turning it into a large bell.

          • We use them with old well bladder tanks to build smokers. The propane tanks make an excellent fire box w/ a door welded on the top/side. Perfect for our family, and the bladder tank fits our thanksgiving turkey, among other things.

          • Interesting, thanks for sharing.

  5. Excellent info, as always!

  6. Don’t forget to store useful accessories to the propane tanks; like 6 or 8 foot hoses.
    Or the adapter trees with provide additional attachment points for hoses. I have one with 3 points on the side and one on the top. Fits on the 20# tank and lets me run a stove or two and still have a light attached to the top.

  7. Here in Florida we have the mission ministry, Echo Farm. They provide seeds to many third world nations. They have a very good tour of the facilities where they try many possible solutions to areas with no electricity any time. They have goats that provide manure. The manure is put into a couple of 55 gal drums made into a methane digester. This goes into a propane single burner. Works fine and requires no storage. plans are on the site.

  8. Thanks Chris. I needed to be reminded of the need for long-term fuel. Will u also write an article about kerosene? or something comparing propane, kerosene & wood?

    • Chris Ray says:

      Sure Red. Let me know if this answers you’re questions.

      • Yes Chris, thanks again. We have a small amount of propane & kerosene. It seems to me that no matter how much kerosene, nat gas, or propane one has, in a grid-down scene, one is eventually going to run out. There are a lot of woods/trees in our area, & can go the woods just a qtr mile away at the edge of town. But transporting it would be a challenge without a vehicle (use a cart, or wheelbarrow or other method). So I wonder if we’d be best planning on using a couple different fuels, although that means additional setups?

  9. Chris,

    I have been doing a bit of preparedness for a while. I have some old propane tanks that are now almost 15 years old. I understand the propane will last forever, but what about the **seals** on the tanks? They were bought brand new, and have never been opened or used. I also have some of those one pounders you buy at camping stores (at least I think they are called one pounders – whatever they are, they are the common ones at WalMart, sports stores, etc.). My question is again about the seal on them. They are stored in the garage where it gets cold in the winter (we are in the Chicago area). Thanks!

    • Chris Ray says:

      To be honest I am not sure. My guess is that they would be ok, but like I said, its a guess.

      If anyone else knows please chime in.

  10. Is there any problem with storing the small green propane camp fuel cylinders in the garage where it gets pretty warm (sometimes well above 100″) in the summer?

  11. The Gasman Speaks says:

    The Gasman Speaks:


    I looked in NFPA 58 Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code book and what is written on the reuse of cylinders is wordy. Bottom line is this…if the cylinder is in good condition, no dents, corrosion, safety devices missing then it can be refilled UNLESS it states on the cylinder “single usage, non-refillable, non returnable”.

    Cylinders built after 1998 have built in safety relief devices and should never be altered or removed. Heat as in summer time shouldn’t bother the cylinders. Personally I would put them in a shed. If the gas pressure should relieve it would be outdoors.

    According to NFPA 58 you can bury a propane tank, not the BBQ tank type. Check local codes for this. If you are on propane and want to be stealth then bury it.

    Bottom line, if in doubt of the condition of the propane tank…throw it out.

    About LNG (liquefied natural gas), it’s not available for residential use.

    I know this sounds terrible, but if an earthquake should occur and natural gas pipelines rupture I’d rather have it ignite than to spew natural gas in the area. I know where the gas is going on fire. Most transmission pipelines are not odorized…they don’t have to be according to DOT pipeline. If you can’t smell it, how do you avoid it? Gas distribution companies have to odorize per DOT Pipeline.

    I hope this helps.

    Any questions, just ask!

    Be safe!

    • Thanks, Gasman! What about the **seals** on the tanks. I have three RV size propane cannisters, and a bunch of one pounders that Coleman makes. Everything seems in good order, but are there rubber gasket/seals that will eventually give out? I store them in the garage, in the Chicago area, but would dump them if there is a danger with leaks.

      I was told by one mfr that a little paint flaking on the one pound cylinders is fine. Some of those from 1998 show that, so I have kept them. No “rotten egg” smells so far!

      • The Gasman Speaks says:

        The Gasman Speaks:


        On the RV containers make sure there’s no pitting of the metal surface, dents, or have been through a fire. Look at the bottom of the container. Mud, snow, water can accumulate there and start the pitting/rusting of the container. Most people ignore the bottom of the tanks. Anything above like I described I would get rid of it and start over.

        On the one pounders, make up a soap solution and grab a paint brush and soap the top of the container where it attaches to the appliance and see if any bubbles grow. That would indicate that the seal is bad and it’s time to get rid of it. Soapy water will find leaks on gas lines, tires, air compressor lines, etc.

        I would take the container(s) to a Haz-Mat recycling center and let them dispose of it properly. It’s not worth a fire/explosion or getting injured.

        Hope this helps.

        Be safe!

    • Chris Ray says:

      Great info, thank you.

      I’m with you, catching fire would be safer for anyone living nearby. Maybe safer isn’t the right word, but at least they would be able to see the danger.

  12. I wouldn’t mind converting my kitchen stove to propane as opposed to natural gas. As it stands, we are totally grid-dependent except for our wood stove.

    I grew up in a house with propane heaters and kitchen stove that ran off of propane as well. (Heaters and stoves today are much more efficient than the ones we had when I was a kid.)

    With propane, you are still dependent to a degree but there is no meter that can be shut off by a company. Once you pay for what’s in the huge tank in your back yard, it’s yours. Usually there is a yearly rental fee on the tank and you rent from the same company you get gas from as they typically won’t fill a tank that belongs to another company.

    Or you can buy a tank (or tanks) and choose the company that has the best price each time you fill up or top off. I have seen tanks up to 500 gallons in yards but I’m sure even larger ones are available or you could purchase multiple tanks.

    Local propane providers would also most likely be easier to deal with or barter with in a partial grid-down situation than a huge natural gas company that is miles and miles away and who sees you as just an account number. Based on my experience, local propane delivery people often live in the communities they service, which could only be a plus (if you’re on good terms with them).

    • Chris Ray says:

      You make some good points for using local propane companies.

      I am sure there is a regulation somewhere restricting the size and quantity of propane tanks.

    • Rob –
      Assuming you’re in a position to do so … seek out older stoves / ovens. Quite a few of the older models were easily converted with a kit – kits were usually available at the hardware store.
      You might get extremely lucky to find a unit (or units) that have both a Natural Gas or Propane setting.

      When I was remodelling the kitchen in our mobile home, my wife was extremely fortunate to find – and buy – the dual option appliances in an old (1968 vintage) mobile home. (Cost us $300 for the entire mobile home – got more than that when we scrapped it.) The stove and oven units work flawlessly.

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