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What is Butane?

Cigarette lighters with liquid butane.
Molecular structure of butane.
Butane is often combined with propane to form a product called liquid propane gas, which can be used in camping stoves.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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Butane is a gaseous component of natural gas, much like gasoline is a component of crude oil. While petroleum products like gasoline are refined, natural gas products are extracted. Butane can also be produced from crude oil, but in much smaller quantities. It is often added to regular gasoline to boost its performance without creating a highly volatile product. The gas is also used in refrigeration and heating systems, and as fuel for cigarette lighters.

The chemical formula for butane is C4H10, which means the molecule consists of four carbon atoms surrounded by ten hydrogen atoms to form a straight line. It looks a bit like a four-segment carbon caterpillar with ten hydrogen legs. This form is technically called n-butane, where the n stands for "normal." It has a relative called isobutane, which is used primarily as a replacement for the refrigerant freon in refrigerator systems.

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Butane is one of dozens of gases derived from raw natural gas. It is often combined with propane to form a product called liquid propane gas (LPG). This is the bottled gas sold for use in camping stoves and outdoor gas-powered grills. Propane may deliver more energy, but butane has a certain property that makes it ideal for containment: when compressed, it becomes a liquid very quickly. Once it is released into the air, however, it reacts with an ignition source to become a highly flammable gas. Unlike some other natural gas derivatives, the gas only releases carbon dioxide as a waste product, not carbon monoxide.

People can take a close look at a transparent cigarette lighter to see butane in its liquid state. Once the holder depresses a valve, the liquid loses its pressure and becomes gaseous again. The flame is similar to a burning candle, because butane is considered a "paraffin" gas. The liquid that remains in the lighter is slowly expelled, much like how the candle wick only draws enough liquid wax to maintain the flame.

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Discuss this Article

anon959108
Post 42

Do you know about some butane products like butadien and others?

anon339309
Post 41

@anon15698: This is a question I have been interested in for some time. If this were possible, it could change our whole energy picture into one that is sustainable. I don't know why some significant resources are not being utilized to find a positive answer to this idea.

anon320294
Post 40

We use butane for the gas stove and also for gas logs in the fireplace. Just recently, the fireplace started smoking and soot went all through the house. It is not easy to clean off. The entire ceiling will have to be painted. Now the stove is producing soot. What is going on? Have there been changes in the butane? The fireplace and logs have been cleaned. We can only use it turned on low. Turn it up and you can actually see smoke/soot coming out. It can't be good to breathe this stuff. Any help would be appreciated.

anon294463
Post 39

What is the lowest temperature at which butane can be used as a heating fuel?

anon290108
Post 38

When butane evaporates, does it leave anything behind? After heating it up at what point does it evaporate? Does the leftover residue contain any poisonous elements?

JohnR898
Post 35

"Butane...is often combined with propane to form a new product called LPG, or Liquid Propane Gas."

Butane is found in propane, but only to a certain extent. LPG is liquefied petroleum gas, not liquid propane gas, although a lot of people make that error. Butane is an LPG, as is propane.

anon150715
Post 33

What is the history of butane, especially in Texas?

anon70592
Post 31

in normal atmospheric pressure butane became liquid at about 0 (zero) celsius...

It is not safe to "ingest" or to "inhale" butane neither is handle it carelessly, that said it is safe enough to use as extraction medium.

anon47672
Post 25

how do you use it?

ghammers
Post 24

Natural gas, LPG and butane fuel/air ratios are different, in reply to LPG in household heaters.

anon43234
Post 22

whenever I am camping in cold weather I notice that my butane torches refuse to light. Question: at what temperature does butane evaporate?

anon38571
Post 21

What pressure is BTU?

anon31620
Post 20

How much is the average price in England?

anon30389
Post 19

At what temp. does Butane turn into a liquid?

anon29862
Post 18

Is hash oil derived with butane safe?

lizdiaz
Post 17

What is the size of a molecule of ethane?

What is the size of a molecule of butane?

anon29273
Post 16

At what temp. does butane turn into a liquid?

anon22949
Post 15

can butane evaporate? I have butane (kitchen) torch that was used only once. On the 2nd attempt to use the device, many months later, the torch no longer had any fuel in it. Where did it go?

anon22684
Post 14

what is the use of butane?

anon20514
Post 13

what is the ratio of liquid butane to butane gas at room temperature?

anon15698
Post 11

Can butane be synthesized from carbon dioxide and water, using heat, light or other radiation and a catalyst of some nature?

anon13207
Post 10

when i was a kid my dad had a refridg. unit on his truck trailer the the motor ran on butane. do they still make motors that run on butane?

anon12198
Post 9

Why are particular hydrocarbons produced in large quantities?

anon10870
Post 8

Can you tell me why it is unsafe to use LPG in household gas heaters? Is it because of its flammable nature or is it not safe to breathe? Thanks!

anon10401
Post 7

is it safe to take butane?

please comment back asap!!!

Moderator's reply: if you mean "take" as in "ingest," no, it's not safe.

anon9783
Post 6

what happens when liquid butane is mixed with melting ice?

anon9605
Post 5

Is butane the gas used in aerosols as insect killers?

anon8465
Post 4

is mixed c4 the same as crude c4?

odenwd1
Post 3

Do you have a table of elements for LPG's such as C3=propane, 4=butane?

jsk
Post 2

can i use a butane fire with LPG?

anon5954
Post 1

do you have more infomation about butane?

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