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Questions about propane

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  • Questions about propane

    I had an interesting conversation today with a engine builder that holds several North American records for building race engines.

    Bottom lines of what he said is the following:

    He can modify a stock automotive engine to run on propane, producing MORE horsepower than it did when running on gasoline for relatively little money.

    The engine burns so clean AND cool that even at 10,000 miles the oil still will not need to be changed and is still clean.

    One engine he did this on (1.7 litre V6 Ford) ran 400,000 miles without needing any engine work and only used two sets of spark plugs.

    And here is the biggie, that I have NOT researched...he says that there is enough propane in North America to run ALL automotive and truck engines at the current levels for hundreds of years.

    Has anyone done any research on this? pros and cons of propane?


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  • #2
    This sounds great
    I have read that Rudolph Diesel built his first diesel engine in 1897 and he was not far from getting this engine produced commercially. It was more powerfull and cheaper than steam engines. But then later he drowned in a sea voyage in mysterious circumstances. It is possible that he was killed by a man paid by oil industries, because they were afraid that Diesel could run his motor with alternate fuel. So there might be something to it

    I would like to hear more about this
    It's better to wear off by working than to rust by doing nothing.


    • #3
      That is interesting!

      Propane has about 33% higher hydrogen to carbon ratio than diesel which would explain the benefits for the engine.

      Just found this article on the possible production of biopropane
      Technology Review: A New Biofuel: Propane

      Though not sure about the ammount of propane your friend says is available. This site mentions that there were worries that there may be a shortage of propane.

      Apparently there is around 80 million barrels of propane strored in hollowed out salt caverns in the US and Canada.
      "Theory guides. Experiment decides."

      I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.
      Nikola Tesla


      • #4
        I have run a number of vehicles in the past with propane. The only draw backs that come to mind is location of fill stations and very cold weather. In Canada one can usually find propane filling stations quite easily, in the US one needs to research this as I've heard its not as popular there.
        In the winter, with the colder climates, added precautions need to be taken. I have gone to the extreme and wrapped the evaporator with a battery blanket to ensure cold morning starts(-35C) I believe the boiling point of propane is about -40C.
        As far as modifying a stock engine, pretty much any engine can be converted to run on propane. Today's stock engine how ever have a fairly low compression ratio's 8-9:1 to use with propane. They will still work, but comparing a stock engine with propane verses the same engine on gas, the propane engine will be down on power(10-15%). As your engine builder probably mentioned, one needs to bump the compression ratio to get the most of the 'propane' fuel. I have heard of guys going as high as 13-14:1 compression ratio for racing.
        My last truck, running on propane, was a 1987 Chev 1 ton, 454, 4 sp, 4x4, 44" tires, 8" lift, 4:56 gears, locked/spool. The engine was a stock smog type engine(8.5:1) with some mid '60's Big Block Closed Chamber heads, cam, roller rockers etc. The heads were effective in bumping up the compression. In order to get enough fuel to the engine, I had to install a custom built hi-flow propane mixer. One of the interesting facts I found out is I that I could use a single plane, high rise intake manifold with great results. Usually this type of manifold, on a gas only engine, is for high RPM use with very poor throttle reponse at low RPM's. With propane however, the fuel enters the engine as a vapour and mixes with the incoming air quickly. I'm always suprised at the throttle response this truck has. As I used to go out to the mountians quite a bit, propane was a very consistent fuel to run on the trails. On the very steep uphill trails, gas powered trucks will run out of fuel due to the angles and the floats in the carb fuel bowls where as propane never would. In the competiton Rock Crawling events, there is a number of the top teams using propane as thier fuel source.
        Fuel savings: You still basically burn the same amount of fuel per hour but the savings occurs because of the difference in price per Litre of gas compared to propane. Currently in Calgary, gas is about $1.25 per litre verses propane @ about $.58 per litre.
        It is amazing how clean the oil appears. I have found that over time the oil does thicken up but it always is clean looking.
        I don't know what you mean by the engine runs cool. I know that Propane burns hotter than gas because on the older engines it is very important to have the engine heads updated with the hardened valves and seats otherwise you'd be replacing the heads very soon.
        I've been rather long winded here, but I like propane. ..... Chet


        • #5
          Hank Hill is proud of you. What distance/capacity ratio with propane say with a V-6?


          • #6
            People have been doing this for some time. A buddy of mine works at a shop that converts engines to propane and natural gas. A lot of there work is converting generators to work off the fuel supply piped into the house/building. I don't know about the current supply of propane though. Next time I see him I'll ask if he knows where I can find out.