Propane is a commonly used fuel that is vital to many operations and industries. Typically, propane is stored in tanks designed specifically for the purpose of holding the fuel in its liquid state. Whenever a particular tank is low, you are often left with two choices: you can purchase a new, full tank or have an existing tank refilled. If you choose the former, all you need to do is make the purchase. If you decide on the latter course, then various propane transfer tools are required.
The use of tools for a propane transfer are common, as the need to perform the transfer is high based on the amount used within the country. However, the process is full of safety risks even when the right propane transfer tools are in place. Typically, this means it is a job best left to professionals. To help you better understand the procedures and tools required for a propane transfer, here is a simplified introduction.
Tanks for Transportation and Storage
There is a significant amount of regulation governing the storage and transportations. Approved tanks used for propane transfers must meet specific standards regarding how they are constructed, to ensure the liquid propane is managed safely. This includes the large tanks on trucks that are used to transport the fuel from one location to another, a tank that is highly regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The largest tank most consumers encounter is the supply tank. This is one of many critical tools for the propane transfer process. Often, these tanks are very large in size, with many holding amounts of up to 1,000 gallons of liquid propane. Since propane is highly flammable, having a defect in a tank of this size can be catastrophic. Large tanks are fitted with various tools for a propane transfer, including internal excess flow valves and manual or emergency shutoff valves. These ensure that if the flow or pressure exceeds certain limits, immediate action can be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
The next tank is generally much smaller and is designed for use by the customer. This can include fairly large tanks designed to provide propane for industrial or household applications, as well as smaller ones used for activities like providing fuel to a propane barbecue grill.
Additional Tools for a Propane Transfer
To send propane from one of the above-mentioned storage tanks to a receiving tank, multiple tools are involved.
First, designated lines from the supply tank are connected to a pump. The pump helps draw the fuel from the storage tank towards the receiving tanks. Before the propane reaches the pump, it passes through a strainer to remove any impurities that could result in damage to the pump or any additional tools used for a propane transfer.
Once the propane reaches the pump, it can either proceed to a meter or cycle back through the return pipe. The return sends the propane back into the storage tank while functioning as a bypass. The hydrostatic relief valve is also located on the return to ensure the hydrostatic pressure is properly managed.
If the propane is going to be dispensed into a tank for consumer use, it will be sent towards a flowmeter. The flowmeter measures the amount of fuel being sent towards the valve that dispenses the propane into the receiving tank. This meter helps ensure that only the required amount of propane is dispensed, while also allowing the amount dispensed to be measured for the purpose of properly billing the consumer.
Similar to the flowmeters used at traditional gas pumps or by utilities (like a residential gas meter), a flowmeter used as a tool for a propane transfer, when properly calibrated, can accurately read the amount of propane that has left the supply tanks and been deposited into the receiving tank. These readings allow the dispensing company, such as a gas station that also manages propane sales, to charge based on the exact amount provided. It also gives them a measurement to determine how much propane remains in the storage tank after multiple sales.
The hose end valve that the propane passes through before being sent into the receiving tank has a quick-acting valve designed to limit the risk of spills. Since you can’t see into a propane tank, these are often fitted with the same technology that prevents a person from over-dispensing gasoline into their car. Once the valve is triggered, it can close fast enough to prevent an overflow.
Safety and Local Regulations
It is important to understand that there are numerous laws regarding how can facilitate propane transfers. In this regard, it is often illegal to attempt to perform the action on your own unless you have the proper equipment and any required training. The exact nature of the laws and regulations governing the use of tools for a propane transfer can vary by location, so it is important to education yourself prior to attempting the activity.
The reason for the strict laws and regulations is the inherent risk in handling propane. Propane is highly flammable both in liquid and gas form. Failing to properly maintain the tools for a propane transfer including the tanks, lines, and valves can result in spills or leaks. Even the smallest catalyst, such as a spark, can ignite the propane. If a leak is present, the fire could proceed from the surface or spill, back through the lines, and into the tanks. If a tank were to ignite internally, there is a high risk of an explosion.
In its natural state, propane has no odor. However, many companies add a chemical called mercaptan or methanethiol, which causes the characteristic rotten egg smell most commonly associated with natural gas leaks. This helps users to identify potential leaks before they have the chance to ignite,e as well as prior to any negative health effects. The inhalation of propane gas can deprive the body of oxygen. Initially, exposure may produce subtle systems, like a headache and nausea. However, if exposure continues, it can lead to vomiting, convulsions, or death.
If you do not have the necessary training or experience to use the tools for a propane transfer, it is best to seek assistance from a skilled professional.