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Liquefied Petroleum Gas: What You May Not Know About This Life-Saver


Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and other hydrocarbon products continue to save lives and could save many more if made available to more people.

What Is Liquefied Petroleum Gas?

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) defines LPG as “…hydrocarbon gases, primarily propane … derived from crude oil refining or natural gas processing”. According to the European LPG Association (AEGPL) LPG has “literally thousands of uses in the home, in commercial business, in industry, on the farm and for transportation”.

Familiar to many campers who have used LPG products such as Coleman fluid for light and fuel, LPG is the primary fuel source for cooking, lighting, and heating in many parts of the world. Unfortunately not enough people have access to these lifesaving hydrocarbons.

Problems With Traditional Solid Fuel

According to the World LPG Association (WLPGA) “The survival of three billion people or close to half of the world’s population (41%) depends of cooking with polluting solid fuels (e.g. wood, dung, crop waste, coal and charcoal)”. Because primarily poor rural women and their children are therefore exposed to high levels of household air pollution as a result, many women and children die early deaths because they cannot access clean-burning LPG. The WLPGA says that in 2012 4.3 million premature deaths were attributed to exposure to this kind of pollution, equivalent to one person dying every eight minutes. 13%, or over 500,000, were children under five years of age.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease project (GBD), smoke from solid cookfuel is the fourth most important risk factor impacting global health, just below smoking and just above alcohol.

How LPG Can Help

According to a peer reviewed article in the International Forum for Respiratory Research journal Inhalation Toxicology, clean fuel stoves when fully adopted can dramatically reduce household air pollution and thereby eliminate between 600,000 and 1.8 million annual premature deaths. According to the World Bank LPG is currently the most viable fuel option for 15% of the world population that lacks electricity.

The WLPGA states than in the scenario in which 50% of people using solid fuels switch to using LPG Gas, total economic benefits amount to roughly US$90 billion.

LPG Benefits The Environment

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Encylopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), “The traditional biomass use as energy is leading to forest degradation, deforestation, decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, indoor air pollution and Green House Gas (GHG) emission.”

QUEST1 Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Satellite photos showing the border between the Dominican Republican and Haiti illustrate the profound environmental benefits of making LPG available to people previously dependent on solid biomass fuels. The Dominican Republic began a program to make LPG available to all consumers in the 1990s. The forested area of the Dominican Republic subsequently increased to 28.5% of the total land area of the country, compared to less than 3 percent in neighboring Haiti.

Why World Leaders Are Bringing LPG To People

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has created a goal of enabling the adoption of 100 million clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. Using a market based approach and led by global business, academic, government, and policy leaders, the Alliance estimates that achieving its goal will save 640,000 lives, including 170,000 children, 1.9 billion trees, and a 61% reduction in spending on fuel per household.

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi intends to vastly increase India’s forest cover while simultaneously increasing access to electricity and safe drinking water. According go My Gas India, only 20% of 840 million rural Indians now have access to LPG. Increasing rural Indian access to LPG will produce both health and environmental benefits.

Ghana’s Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur is crafting a national LPG policy with the goal of giving 50% of residents access to LPG.

Not only will increased global LPG access and use produce health, environmental and economic benefits, it also provides ample opportunity for global hydrocarbon producers and refiners to expand market share sustainably. Recognizing the importance of the market, the Bureau Veritas Inspectoract has recently increased its expansion of LPG Sampling and Analysis Capabilities in North America.

Your Turn

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Tom Morgan

Tom Morgan is an Analyst for Drillinginfo. He has 20 years of experience practicing law with a focus on advocating for public policy to advance energy security and private property rights. Tom received his law degrees from Georgetown University and American University law schools. He hosts the weekly Drillinginfo Energy Minute, and you can find and connect with him on LinkedIn as Tom Morgan.