SurvivalBlog Resources: Liquid Fuels Storage and Transfer

Introductory Note: The following is the first of a series of articles by JWR that will profile some of the thousands of archived SurvivalBlog articles, grouped topically. Storing and transferring liquid fuels is topic that often comes up in conversations with my consulting clients and in letters from SurvivalBlog readers. There seems to be a lack of knowledge or misinformed voodoo out there in the general public about liquid fuel shelf life, flammability, containers, and how to transfer fuel when the power grids are down. But those questions have all been “asked and answered” in SurvivalBlog, over the course of the past 11 years. To begin, it is important to understand that the general rule about distilled oil products is: With the exception of LPG, the more highly refined the fraction, the shorter its shelf life. Let me back up for a moment, and describe how refining works: In its rudiments, at a refinery crude oil gets heated to around 700 degrees Fahrenheit and it transitions to a gas. These heated gasses are ported into the bottom of a distillation column (commonly called a crude tower) and as they move up the height of the column, they cool and at … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Propane As An Energy Source

A very interesting and informative article, but I’d like to add a couple things. Some 500 gallon propane tanks are fitted with what’s known as a “wet leg”. It is another valve situated on the top of the tank, in addition to the main valve. It’s plumbed to a pipe running to the bottom of the tank, with its purpose being refilling smaller tanks, like 20 lb portables. It requires a specially fitted hose, the shorter and larger diameter the better; 10 feet works well in 3/4” diameter. I mention a short length as disconnecting the hose from the bottle causes you to lose whatever propane was in the hose, and larger diameter to reduce the time required for filling. I purchased three used tanks from a propane supplier, with the specific requisite that at least one have a “wet leg”. It cost the same as the other used tanks. The hose, including already attached fittings cost $38. They are available; you just have to find them. Also, the “tare weight” of the bottle itself will be stamped on the valve guard/handle. Using a bathroom scale on a board, adding the tare weight to the desired amount of propane weight, … Continue reading

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Propane As An Energy Source- Part 2, by JB

Storage Tanks and Transfer of Propane (continued) Once the tank is full, the fill hose ball valve is closed (stopping flow into the tank), the tank bleeder is closed (if used), the pump is shut off, and then the tank valve closed, in that order. Double check that the hose and tank valves are closed. The small unloader valve between the hose ball valve and tank is opened to drain the liquid trapped between the two, so the hose adapter can be safely disconnected from the tank. Failing to bleed the liquid trapped between the tank and ball valve can cause injury as liquid can be vented towards your face when the tank adapter is unscrewed. Remember that liquid propane will freeze skin upon contact, so wear gloves and safety glasses. Please note: Not anyone and everyone should attempt to fill a cylinder without proper instruction and training. Improper actions could result in serious injury, death, or destruction of property. Beware that during the filling and disconnect process, propane vapors will be present on the ground around you. Be extra cautious to insure that there are no possible ignition sources nearby or downwind. This is a very real and dangerous … Continue reading

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Propane as an Energy Source- Part 1, by JB

Propane, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is an excellent energy source for several reasons. It stores easily and has a great shelf life. It’s portable and can be adapted for use in internal combustion engines. It can also be used as a refrigerant, and in some situations a viable weapon. Long after the grid goes kaput and gasoline has turned to varnish, propane will still be usable. Basics of Propane There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of full grill bottles stacked in exchange racks throughout the country. In addition, there’s a multitude of medium and high volume tanks scattered about where one can find propane. Super large tanks are used at industrial sites to supply large volumes of gas for manufacturing. Some municipalities use blended propane-air for large-scale distribution systems, which supply entire cities, and therefore require massive amounts of propane storage. With the right tools and the right knowledge, tapping into these resources in a TEOTWAWKI situation can be very advantageous. To understand the true benefits of using propane, we must know a few basic fundamentals about it. As with any flammable, explosive gas, it is very dangerous and will kill you if you don’t treat it … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

JWR & HJL: That was another great article [on Hurricane Matthew]! A suggested alternative that I have adopted is buying a turbo diesel automobile and truck.  The benefits are simple and yet many people still have not discovered the option. Here are a few:My VW tdi as an example gets about 43 miles per gallon, so with a 15 gallon fuel tank it achieves about 600 miles plus on a  tank, and by adding three NATO style 5 gal metal cans (15 gallons total) in the trunk I have a 1,200 hundred mile cruising range. That is hard to beat. Another advantage diesel in several scenarios I have been through was that diesel will still be available when regular gas is sold out.  In my own testing, diesel is not nearly as volatile as gasoline. Diesel stores for 3 to 4 years without stabilizers with no noticeable degrading (in my own experience and only use 55g al metal drums or 5 gal current NATO style gas cans). [JWR Adds: It stores even longer with an anti-microbial stabilizer such as PRI-D added.] You can buy diesel at the service stations and transport it in any type of container without violating any … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

Good Morning, SurvivalBloggers, SurvivalBlog recently had a very good list of hurricane preparation tips in Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned, written by a Florida resident. As a former 20+ year Florida resident I’d like to add to his excellent piece. In Florida, hurricanes are a way of life, and the period from June 1 to November 30 is known as “hurricane season.” The period from December 1 to May 31 is known as “not hurricane season.”  “Not hurricane season” is when one should be doing their preparation for the other six months. During “not hurricane season” one can find plywood on sale occasionally, generators are plentiful, frequently at reduced prices, and contractors and handymen are available. “Not hurricane season” is when one purchases plywood (tip: thicker is better), cuts it to fit windows and vulnerable doorways, drills mounting holes in it and labels each sheet as to which window or door it fits so installation can be done faster when a hurricane arrives during “hurricane season.” In short, anything non-perishable that one might need during “hurricane season” is procured and gotten ready during “not hurricane season.”  This includes laying out multiple travel plans to escape direct contact with a hurricane. As … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases

James, Hugh, Before someone gets hurt or blows themselves up, here are some more details on the gases in question. Natural gas is produced primarily from high pressure gas deposits deep within the earth, and to a lesser extent as a byproduct of oil production. Natural gas is what is provided to most homes that are connected to a gas main, served by a gas company. Natural gas is primarily Methane gas, with a formula of CH4, or one Carbon atom with four Hydrogen atoms. Methane has the disadvantage that it cannot be liquefied by compression. Natural gas must either be stored at high pressure (2000-3000 PSIG / 130 – 200 bar) for vehicle or other portable use. This is called CNG Compressed Natural Gas. Since methane is stored as a gas, the remaining volume in the cylinder can be determined by the pressure. To store massive amounts of natural gas, or to ship it across continents in ships, the gas can be liquefied by refrigeration, and low pressure. This is called LNG Liquefied Natural Gas. LNG is stored and transported at approximately (−260 °F /−162 °C) degrees and 4 psi / .25 bar maximum. The liquid can then be … Continue reading

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Two Letters Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases

HJL, I read the article on combustible gases. You have to be very careful with the cheap conversion kits to propane for generators; almost every one of the cheap ones do not have a device to cut off the propane if the engine stops. Like loss of spark or low oil, it will keep pouring propane into the Gen set. I have been a mechanic since 1967, and these cheap kits are very dangerous. I have seen several cause explosions. – B.L. o o o Sir, I just finished reading the post about different kinds of gas and saw some information I would like to correct: Natural gas at your home is in the 4-ounce pressure range not 7 pounds. Propane used in the same way is 7-ounces. Most propane is produced from the removal of natural gas not crude oil. Butane is also recovered in this same process. Butane has no vapor pressure below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why pure butane is no longer used for home use, as the tanks must be buried and that is not done today. The BTU of the gases is based on the number of carbon chains in the molecule. The orifice … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases

Dear Hugh, In response to D.H.’s questions on gas, I offer my thoughts. Generally, I would tell anyone to use the gas specifically recommended for the equipment they intend to use. Trying to keep it simple about the different gases, an explanation of the differences follows. The first difference between the gases is chemical makeup. Propane has three carbons atoms (and hydrogen atoms) in the molecule. Butane has four carbons, and so does its isomer iso-butane. Butane is arranged in a four carbon chain, while Iso-butane has a center carbon, with the other three carbons coming off like spokes, and they have different flash points. Natural gas is a combination of methane (one carbon) and many of these other gases. Propane, methane, and butane are all derived from natural gas through a process called fractional distillation that takes advantage of each chemical’s flash points to separate them and remove impurities. Natural gas is brought up from the earth in different ways, but it gets purified first before market. CNG is compressed natural gas, highly pressurized, and somewhat expensive to store. It is probably the least practical, because of the storage tank costs. Aside from chemical differences and molecular structural differences, … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gasses

HJL, The difference between CNG and piped-in gas to your home is simply pressure. The gas in my house is at 7 psi and if your thumb is big enough you can stop the flow. CNG could be as high as 3000 psi, and you find it in tanks for vehicles that burn natural gas and filling stations for natural gas burning vehicles. The difference between butane, propane, and natural gas is British Thermal Units (btu) generated by a cubic foot of each substance. From high school, a btu is the amount of energy it takes to raise one pound of water one degree Farenheit at one atmosphere of pressure. I know that propane generates 20% more heat when comparing the same quantity of that to natural gas. I’m not sure where butane falls in there. The difference in heat yield is dealt with by changing the orifice through which the substance travels to be burned. It is very dangerous to change gases and not change orifices. Butane always comes in a device with a tiny opening. I would infer that its yield is even higher than propane. You find it employed in handy small devices all the time. I … Continue reading

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Letter: Resilience

HJL: When I read PrepperDoc, I order the stuff with the grand idea of implementation. Well, my first success with all that equipment was to take apart my son’s silent “Monkey George” alarm clock and solder in a new motor. I paid attention to voltage and dimensions and ordered it online. Success is defined based on: It rings (quite loudly); It does not smoke; and My eight year old son is elated. Best of all I kept a promise to my son. Lastly, my confidence level improved. I am sure I will have an EMP-proof antenna installation in no time. The stray thought I have about prepping is that really you are trying to be in a position of staying out of lines so that you can live and be prosperous. The biggest line is for fuel in every news story. To store gasoline safely and securely I bought a vinyl chest from Sam’s that is intended to store pool side chair cushions during the off season, and I installed it 50 or so feet from the house. I built a deck style platform with dimensions slightly larger than the chest footprint out of PT 2X6, arranged the boards so … Continue reading

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Letter Re: Backup Electric Power Design Considerations, Expat and Other Thoughts

HJL: Welding cable is a fine way to cut amperage loss in your line. However, since it is intended by the manufacturer to be used for welding and not solar system, it is labeled for welding and not labeled for building installation. Code inspectors want to see a certain label. They will not accept deviation. After all, an abundance of engineering went into what is in that code. Welding cable use would make pulling a system when bugging out much easier. (I am assuming there are a range of “bugging out” versions with regard to situational haste.) Since you cannot defend a fixed position, my preps are done with an eye to rapid transportation. Supplies do not sit on shelves. They sit in bins, buckets, or ammunition cans that sit on shelves. The introduction to Enphase’s products is very enlightening. I encourage Expat to go read. I found the technological advances exciting. (The prospect of saving money does that to me.) An inverter that is smart enough to push power into my electrical system and cut my power bill is very advantageous. Shaving a kilowatt hour or two off my electric bill 10 hours a day would be very nice … Continue reading

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