LPG: the origin of an alternative fuel

GLP: el origen de un combustible alternativo

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is an alternative fuel which, under normal conditions of temperature and pressure,is in a gaseous state. Generally, it is stored in a liquid state by subjecting it to moderate pressures or lowering its temperature.

LPG, also known as autogas, comes from two sources. 60% of its production results from the extraction of oil and natural gas from the earth. The remaining 40% comes from refining crude oil from oil wells. Before autogas had a commercial use,  it was destroyed because it was considered a useless product; wasting its powerful potential as an energy source.

LPG origin

The origin of LPG is relatively recent. In the early years of the 20th century, Walter Snelling was hired by the Ford Motor Company to find out why gasoline evaporates so easily in the Ford Model T. In 1911, the American chemist demonstrated that the volatilization was caused by the propane and butane present in it.  That is why he developed a way to separate the gases from the gasoline. Through this process, these gases could liquefy at reasonable pressures and evaporated again when the pressure reduced. From this discovery arose Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a fuel with the consistency of a liquid and the profits of a gas.

In 1932 the first NAFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standard for LPG was approved. In the middle of this decade, it was imported to France thanks to a large oil company. In 1938, a gas distribution Company built the first bottling plant in Italy. Due to the Second World War all these initiatives were suspended.

After the War the sector grew at the same time as the refineries did. In the early 1950s, several companies made bottles to store LPG. This is how it began to be marketed in Europe for domestic use. During this time the fisrt regional large-scale distributions of LPG were produced. From that moment, its use began to increase.

Regarding the use of AutoGas (LPG) in the automotive industry, Europe was the most advanced continent. In 1940 it began to be used as ecological fuel, being Italy the main consumer, followed by other countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. LPG sales in Europe went from 300,000 tons in 1950 to 3 million tons in 1960.

The 1973 oil crisis showed that the export of this alternative fuel could generate great economic benefits, so the oil industry began to built liquid recovery plants.

Production´s capacity was expanded from 1975 to 1985 in the Middle East. In addition, countries as Australia, Venezuela, Algeria, Indonesia and the North Sea emerged as new producers. The LPG market became global during this stage and its use became widespread all over the world.

LPG in the Spanish automotive industry

In Spain, the Ministry of Finance, through the 1960 Decree that lasted until 2003, granted an exclusive LPG percentage for taxi drivers of the National Association of Taxi Entrepreneurs.

The Commercial and Management Service of the National Association of Taxi Entrepreneurs imported bottled Autogas (LPG) from Italy for using it in Spanish taxis in the 1960s. From 1973 onwards, taxi drivers had a tank installed in the car that they could refuel in bulk. The incorporation of autogas meant for taxi drivers a saving of 40% in fuel, as well as all the benefits in engine maintenance, as no harmful particles are formed. Here you can see the advantages of LPG.

In 2003 it was authorized the conversión to LPG for all the cars and since then, the norms related to the use of LPG have been changing until they were unified with the european ones. From then on, the consumption of autogas (LPG) in Spain is on the rise in the sector of the transport of goods and people, not only for its undoubted ecological benefits but also for the savings it represents for users.

Today, many cars manufacturers are betting on LPG technology in their vehicles. For the goods and people transport sector it is a exciting opportunity to adapt to new environmental requirements. At BeGas we have developed the first 100% auto-gas engine for trucks and city buses. Our goal is to provide the sector with an effective and sustainable solution, taking advantage of all the benefits that this alternative fuel offers.