Date: January, 2001
Used with care, propane is a safe and convenient fuel. Propane gas is not toxic and produces very few harmful emissions when burned properly. When propane burns in a properly maintained and adjusted burner, it produces carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapour and heat. It is, indeed, the "green fuel" of choice in Nova Scotia with over 60,000 permanent propane installations and countless propane fuelled barbecues in this province .
Propane is a very convenient fuel to use as it is transported and stored in a dense liquid state at high pressures (100 psi) and used as a low pressure (6 oz. of pressure) gas. One cubic metre of propane liquid produces 270 cubic metres of gas. Because of these low utilisation pressures, it is very ease to check for leaking fittings. One simply brushes a soapy water solution on all fittings. The one that bubbles is the one that is leaking.
Propane, in its natural state, is a colourless odourless gas and is odorised at the refinery. The ethyl mercaptan which is added gives the propane a very strong boiling cabbage/ burnt garlic smell which is detectable long before concentrations become dangerous.
An important thing to remember is that propane vapour is heavier than air and therefore, if a leak should occur, the invisible vapour will "pool" in low-lying areas. This is one of the main reasons that it is imperative that propane cylinders and tanks be used and stored outdoors only. Clause 18.104.22.168 of the Propane Installation Code (a national standard of Canada) states that "A cylinder which contains propane liquid, or vapour, shall not be stored or used inside any structure". Remember that a cylinder which seems empty is still full of propane vapour and still presents a hazard if it should leak.
The installation and maintenance of propane appliances and equipment is critical to the safe enjoyment of propane. Provincial law requires that any person who installs, services, repairs or maintains propane appliances or equipment must be the holder of a valid annual certificate issued by the Office of the Fire Marshal. This ensures that only properly trained personnel install and service propane equipment. Each propane installation should be inspected and serviced at least every two (2) years.This is the greatest safety feature that we can build into our propane systems.
The most familiar propane appliance is the lowly barbecue. Propane barbecues are becoming a year-round source of tasty meals. They are easy to handle, easy to control and come in all shapes and sizes. The taste of the food cooked on a propane barbecue is just as good as that cooked on a charcoal barbecue but without the slow-lighting charcoal and messy lighter fluid.
While propane barbecues are fast, clean and convenient, they do require some maintenance and a few basic precautions. A little extra care and these few simple precautions should ensure the safe and enjoyable operation of your barbecue.
Propane Leak (smell of gas around the barbecue)
Have a happy and safe barbecue season.
Dale C. Stewart
Chief Gas Inspector
NS Office of the Fire Marshal