Propane vs Butane: Similarities and Differences

Liquified petroleum gas, or LPG, is produced during oil refining or extracted during natural gas production. Over 292 million metric tons are produced annually for worldwide use. As a clean-burning gas, it is mainly used for heating and cooking commercially and residentially.

LPG is supplied in two main forms: Propane and Butane. While both are used as heating fuels and power appliances, they have dissimilar properties. Let’s discover the differences between propane and butane.


Propane, chemical name C3H8, is a fuel derived from fossil fuels. Its uses are prevalent in many applications, including:

  • Cooking 
  • Heating
  • Vehicle fuel
  • Furnaces
  • BBQing
  • Space heaters

Propane is compressed into a liquid and stored under pressure in tanks to make it easy to transport and use. You have probably seen large propane tanks outside buildings. There are various propane tank sizes. Sometimes, they may be larger, torpedo-style tanks mounted on concrete pads for fuelling larger buildings and homes. It is also commonly used for grilling with standard 20lb refillable tanks, but you can get smaller ones for camping, which are disposable.


Butane, a chemical called C4H10, is non-toxic LPG and a clean burning fuel. It is removed from natural gas production and sold separately as an independent fuel. Still, it is often mixed with propane for camping fuel, ideal under pressure at colder temperatures. Butane has a higher boiling point than propane, so it is better used as an outdoor fuel for appliances like single-burner cooking stoves and portable gas heaters. 

Butane is stored under pressure in tanks in liquid form and typically found in smaller containers for camping and hiking. As a result, it is portable and reliable when needed. You can find it as the main component of light fluid in:

  • Cigarette lighters
  • Butane torches
  • Aerosol cans

Butane is also used as a refrigerant in its purest form. It has largely replaced halomethane in air conditioning systems, freezers and refrigerators.


We all love BBQ, and people have been outdoor cooking since the dawn of humankind. While propane and butane are used for grilling, propane is more common. This is because almost every home has a grill in the backyard, designed to house a standard, refillable propane bottle in its design. Propane is easy to use as you connect the fuel line and BBQ. Taste is also a factor, as propane is odourless and tasteless. 

Butane is another excellent BBQ fuel sold in smaller bottles for camping use. Butane is energy efficient, with around 12% more energy than propane, using the same volume of gas consumed. It also burns cleaner than propane and is cheaper to purchase. Some people find that BBQing with butane can leave a slight taste of gas in the food, and this is a turn-off for enjoying your outdoor feast. While butane works well in summer, winter conditions mean fuel won’t flow.


Both fuels are used for heating and torching, but their burning temperature is different:

  • Propane – maximum temperature of 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Butane – maximum temperature of 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

A propane torch is designed with a small, curved torch head, so it gives a more concentrated flame. A butane torch has a straight open head to provide a full flame that emits low and high temperatures. Whereas a butane torch is used for soldering, a propane torch is for welding.

Heating systems utilize both fuels, but they have their advantages and weaknesses. Butane is better for indoor heating as it has a lower boiling point. Propane works well outside and is better suited to outdoor storage, although it is equally suitable for indoor heating. Propane also produces more heat than butane, making it an ideal choice for high heat output. It is more widely available, and this drives down the cost.

Other Uses of Propane & Butane

There are other uses of propane and butane. For instance, gas ranges use propane for commercial kitchens and portable butane heaters to warm up food at events. Likewise, hot air balloons use propane to heat the air inside to lift it. Kitchen Torches are butane-fuelled and essential appliances for chefs. Buses in many cities use propane and diesel to power their fleet.

This is the battle between propane vs. butane. Honestly, there are more similarities than differences. Both are efficient and clean energy-producing fuel widely used worldwide. Harness the power of LPG in your life, whether grilling in the backyard, camping with your family or taking public transit. Enjoy this powerful fossil fuel.

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