Where Does Propane Come From?

A unique feature of propane is that it is not produced for its own sake, but is a by-product of two other processes, natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

Natural gas plant production of propane primarily involves extracting materials such as propane and butane from natural gas. Similarly, when oil refineries make major products such as motor gasoline and heating oil, some propane is produced as a by-product of those processes. It is important to understand that the by-product nature of propane production means that the volume made available from natural gas processing and oil refining cannot be adjusted when prices and/or demand for propane fluctuate.

In addition to these two processes, demand is met by imports of propane and by using stored inventories. Although imports provide the smallest (about 10 percent) component of U.S. propane supply, they are vital when consumption exceeds available domestic supplies of propane. Propane is imported by land (via pipeline and rail car from Canada) and by sea (in tankers from such countries as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Norway, and the United Kingdom).

  • By-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining
  • Production is not demand driven
  • High demand is met by imports & is time sensitive