Propane is a very versatile product. But unfortunately, propane can be fatal if mishandled. If you use propane tanks for cooking or heating, you’ve most likely wondered if the tanks can explode when dropped.
A propane tank can explode if dropped, but the likelihood of this happening is quite low. Several safety features are in place to prevent this from happening. As long as you properly maintain the tank, the risk of an explosion is minimal.
In this article, I’ll discuss what happens if you drop a propane tank, the likelihood of a propane tank exploding, and the explosive nature of propane. I’ll also talk about a propane tank’s safety features. Read on to find out more!
What Happens if You Drop a Propane Tank?
If you drop a propane tank, it’s unlikely to explode. There is a risk of explosion, as the tank is under a lot of pressure, and if it’s damaged, that pressure can be released suddenly. However, there are safety mechanisms in propane tanks preventing this, such as the safety relief valve.
If you drop the tank and it doesn’t explode, inspect it for any damage. If you see any damage, don’t use the tank.
How Likely Is a Propane Tank to Explode if Dropped?
A propane tank is unlikely to explode if it’s dropped thanks to its safety features. However, there is still a risk of an explosion if the tank is not properly maintained.
The pressure could build up if the pressure relief valve or rupture disc becomes damaged or blocked.
The most important safety feature in propane tanks is the pressure relief valve. When pressure accumulates inside the tank — whether because of a fire or an impact—the safety relief valve will open and let out gas. Once the tank reaches normal pressure again, the valve closes.
It’s important to note that a propane tank can become over-pressurized if exposed to heat. This can happen if the tank is left in direct sunlight or near a fire. If the temperature gets too high, the pressure inside the tank could build up and cause the tank to explode.
How Explosive Is Propane?
Propane is a highly explosive gas, but it can’t ignite on its own. It needs an external source. While propane is an explosive gas, it’s not as explosive as other gases like methane. This is because propane is heavier than air and tends to settle in low-lying areas.
If a propane tank is dropped or damaged, it can release the gas into the air. The gas can then ignite and cause an explosion.
The explosion of a propane tank occurs when the pressure inside the tank rises higher than the safety valve can release. The build-up of this pressure can cause the tank to burst open, thereby exploding. This explosion is commonly called Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE).
Other than BLEVE, here are other scenarios that can cause a propane tank to explode:
- If the tank is dropped from a height, the impact can cause the tank to rupture. This will release the gas inside. However, simply dropping a propane tank won’t cause it to explode. Instead, the tank has to be damaged in some way for the propane to leak out and come into contact with an ignition source.
- If the tank is exposed to high temperatures, the pressure inside can build up and cause the tank to explode.
In both cases, the tank can explode with enough force to cause serious damage or even death. Always make sure to handle propane tanks with care and follow safety instructions.
What Are the Safety Features of a Propane Tank?
Several safety features are built into a propane tank. These prevent the tank from exploding if it’s dropped.
The most important of these features is the pressure relief valve. This valve is designed to release pressure if it builds up too high inside the tank. This prevents the tank from becoming over-pressurized and exploding.
Another safety feature is the rupture or burst disc. A burst disc is a thin piece of metal. It’s designed to burst if the pressure inside the tank gets too high. This will release the pressure and prevent the tank from exploding.
These two safety features work together to keep the pressure inside the tank safe.
There is a possibility of the propane tank exploding when dropped. However, the tank would have to be dropped from a significant height or exposed to extreme temperatures.
Fortunately, propane tanks have safety features to reduce possible explosion risks. These include the burst disc and the pressure valve.
Given the likelihood of an explosion, it’s important to be careful when handling a propane tank. If you’re unsure how to inspect, move or store a propane tank safely and ask a professional for help.