Can butane be used in LP system?


Capt. Mike

Moderator
Transferred from Archives.

Can butane be substituted for propane?

Dru Pearson (WandererNC@aol.com), 2/13/00 (1:07 PM)

I have an '85 Vanagon Westfalia which I plan to camp in throughout Mexico. In my Mexican camping book, it says that propane is difficult to find, but butane is plentiful.

Does anyone know if the two are interchangeable? Can I use butane in Mexico and propane when I return to the US without doing damage? Are there any special safety precautions to take with butane?

Thanks for any help you can give.

Dru Pearson

Capt. Mike (capt.mike@mindspring.com), 2/15/00 (7:51 AM)

NO! But don't take my word for it -- it's been years since I saw that caution on an old stove. It's my understanding that they require different regulators and seals.

But I'd stop by your LNG distributor and ask (note I didn't say dealer -- the guy that pumps it at your local 7-11). I've found these pros more than helpful about working on these old Westy systems or with questions. LNG, LPG (Westy) and Butane are similar in that they are liquified fuels, and may be adaptable, but I'd check first. I do know they have different flash and liquification points, and thus may have different pressure characteristics.

I'd also check your sources about LPG being scarce in Mexico. Are these the same folks that said they couldn't find it in Canada? Where every other station has an LP pump? It may be they market differently, but I've found lesser developed countries -- haven't been to Mexico but been to 54 others -- or remote areas actually use MORE LP because of poor electrical distribution, especially for LP fridges & freezers. As little LP as a Westy uses -- I get 3-4 weeks from a Vanagon tank -- you might want to consider a disposable cartridge T in; probably get a week out of one of them and they're available at every hardware store for torches. Ask that same LPG distributor.

How about posting the answer when you do check? I'd be especially interested in LNG, since it's becoming a major energy source and is plentiful.

Capt. Mike

Dru (WandererNC@aol.com), 3/28/00 (8:04 PM)

Captain Mike asked me to post the answer when I had it, and since I ALWAYS follow his advice, here it is. Butane can be substituted for propane but under such special circumstances that I'm not sure it would ever be worth the effort.

The tank has to be properly emptied, certain valves replaced, butane can ONLY be used in a warm climate (read tropical), and it's dangerous to go back and forth between butane and propane.

In other words, it's probably wise to stick to propane!

Dru Pearson
 

vintagerider

New member
Propape is a linear alkane, three carbon atoms in a chain, molecularly bonded with hydrogen. C3-H8. Butane, on the other hand, has one extra carbon and two more hydrogen , C4-H10. This makes for a lower vapor pressure. In cooler climates it doesn't want to vaporize, so it justs sits there in the bottle as a liquid. All of these fuels are pumped in under pressure and evaporate(vaporized) so you can burn them as a gas. LNG is liquified natural gas. It's mostly a mixture of ethane (2 carbons) and methane (one carbon). It requires greater pressure to liquify than the others, but vaporizes easily in any climate. All gas heating equiptment needs to have the proper regulator and orifice for the type of gas being used. The energy contained in a liquified gallon of hydro-carbon fuel will varry with each fuel. Your heating/cooking apparatus needs to meter the fuel properly to insure the correct amount of fuel and air is present at the burner. The differnt vapor pressures of the fuels also account for the different types of tanks required. Gasoline for instance, is normally a liquid, and is not pressurized in the tank (octane=8carbons. CNG or LNG requires a heavier tank than does propane owing to its higer vapor pressure. from highest vapor pressure to lowest, here are the alkane fuels: Hydrogen, methane, c1-H3; ethane,(nat gas, swamp gas is methane+ ethane) C2-H6; propane, C3-H8; butane, C4-H10, then your liquid fuels (liquid at room temp), alcohols, Kerosene, gasoline and diesel.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Thanks for a very informative post!

Key statements to the original question on, "Can one switch to butane in the Westy?:

All gas heating equiptment needs to have the proper regulator and orifice for the type of gas being used.

Your heating/cooking apparatus needs to meter the fuel properly to insure the correct amount of fuel and air is present at the burner.

The differnt vapor pressures of the fuels also account for the different types of tanks required.

As I read vintagerider's post, he's saying, "No" and giving the technical reasons why behind it.
 

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