The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Energy Density of Butane

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List of common conservation factors (Engineering conversion factors). IOR Energy.
Liquid Fuel MJ/litre Litre/Tonne GJ/tonne
LPG propane 25.3 1960 49.6
LPG butane 27.7 1750 49.1
LPG mixture 25.7 1928 49.6
27.7 MJ/L
Heat of Combustion of Fuels. WebMo.
Fuel PM3 DfH Mass %
n-C4H10 -121.9 0 -2881.9 -49.59 -28.26
28.26 MJ/L
Energy Data File: L3 Fuel Properties. New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development, January 2003.
  Table L.3: Petroleum Calorific Values (Gross)
BUTANE 0.572 11.00 4466.3 49.10 28.09
28.09 MJ/L
Energy densities (LHV) for fuels in liquid state [pdf]. Sandia National Laboratories. George Thomas, BES workshop May 13, 2003: 9. [bar graph] 27 MJ/L

Butane is a colorless, flammable hydrocarbon with an empirical formula C4H10. It has the odor of a natural gas, is extremely stable, has no corrosive action to metal, slightly soluble in water and readily soluble in alcohol, ether and chloroform. Butane is the fourth member of the alkane series (methane, ethane, propane, butane, …). Butane is found in natural gas, light fuel oil or by refining petroleum. Butane is a gas but is easily liquefied under pressure, which makes it easy to transport. The hazards of butane are that it has a dangerous fire and explosion risk.

Butane has two isomers. Normal butane is known as n-butane and isobutane is methyl-propane. Like other alkanes n-butane and isobutene are short to react. The isomers don't react with acids, bases and aqueous solutions. They also don't form ions. With aid from a catalyst, butane or a mixture of butane and propane can be oxidized by air under pressure to form methanol, acetic acid, acetone, and other organic compounds. Currently, this is not a major use for butane but it is said to be a promising technique for industrial synthesis.

Butane is typically used in the manufacture of aviation fuels and organic chemicals, as fuel for cigarette lighters and portable stoves, a raw material for synthetic rubber and high octane liquid fluids, manufacture of ethylene and solvent, propellant in aerosols, a calibration gas for temperature and pressure gauges and as a heating fuel. Butane is also added to gasoline in order to increase its volatility (evaporation rate) in cold climates. Recent concerns about the destruction of the ozone layer by freon gases has led to an increase use of isobutene gas in refrigerating systems.

Energy density is a physics term for the energy per unit volume of a medium. It is defined as joules per cubic meter or joules per kilogram. The energy density of butane is approximately 27.76 MJ/L.

Nicole Weathers -- 2004