What Is the Main Difference Between Natural Gas and Propane?

When we hear the word, Natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is a gas that occurs or found in nature in its original state. There are many gases found in nature such as oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from the combustion and burning of fuel.

Natural gas is highly flammable compounds consisting of hydrocarbons, largely methane and a host of others that occurs naturally and are associated with fossils and petroleum products. They are used as fuel for domestic or business use. They consist of large methane because it is the simplest form of hydrocarbon from which all others are derived.

The name natural gas to chemist immediately rings hydrocarbons. Hmm, what are hydrocarbons?

These are compounds formed when carbon and hydrogen come together. Carbon-hydrogen compound is also referred to as alkanes or the alkane family. Members of this group include methane, ethane (alcohol), propane, butane and other gases. These compounds are found largely in nature and the very popular or well-known hydrogen that is the main source of natural gas been methane.

Methane is a natural gas that is found deep underneath the earth surface, ocean floor and also produced by the decomposition of vegetable matter by anaerobic bacteria. It is also found in the dung of herbivorous animals that feed mainly on grass or have a large plant-based as their diet such as cow dung, horse, rodents, etc.

Methane is a one carbon element surrounded by four hydrogen molecule by a covalent bond. The bond between carbon-hydrogen is the main bond in organic products.

To fully understand the carbon-hydrogen bond, we have to know how they come together. Carbon has an atomic number of 14, that is, its molecular formula is 2, 8, and 4. Hydrogen, on the other hand, has an atomic number of 1. Since carbon needs four extra molecules in its outer shell to be stable, it can accommodate four hydrogen molecule. Hence, methane been the simplest form of natural gas in the alkane family have the formula CH4.

Propane, which is a derivative of methane, is a purer form of natural gas that is derived from oil and petroleum refining and natural gas processing.

Propane is three carbons and eight hydrogen compounds with its counterpart butane; they are used mostly as heating gas. They are used in cooking and usually are stored in metallic cylinders. Propane is also known as LPG, liquefied petroleum gas.

Propane is a cleaner, safer alternative source of fuel used in domestic habitats.


Though, natural gas and propane all occur in nature they have striking similarities such as they are colorless, odorless, highly volatile gases.

They both can deplete the oxygen level in a space where they are contained when they leak and as such have a high explosion rate.

The major differences between methane and propane are outline below so you can easily articulate them

  • Natural gas is light, sometimes light that air which propane is heavy
  • Natural gas easily dissipates in the surrounding air due to the lightness of propane does not. Hence, its high rate of explosion when leaking.
  • Natural gas is mostly in gaseous form and uncompressed while propane can be compressed and made into a liquid.
  • Propane has a high burn rate and produces high heat hence its good in cooking and heating.
  • Natural gases are a saving grace to humanity and the best form of alternative fuel to ease the stress on humanity.

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