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Old 03-10-2021, 14:08   #1
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Propane, the kiss of death

During my cruising I met a groupe on a sailboat that went to Acapulco. They had a small propane lantern on board, and stored the new canisters in the main cabin. The salt environment made the canisters leak, and Propane, being heavier than air, settled in the bilge, under the engine. When starting the engine, a spark ignited the propane and blew out the side of the hull. Needless to say, the boat sank rapidly.
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Old 03-10-2021, 14:11   #2
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

I think ignorance on how to store and handle propane...the kiss of death is a more appropriate title. I have a couple of those bottles that I do not use any more since my bbq taps into the main propane tanks. I have them as back up, but I think I am going to get rid of them after reading this.

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Old 03-10-2021, 14:12   #3
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Propane, stored and used improperly, is dangerous.
So is gasoline.
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Old 03-10-2021, 14:20   #4
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

I'm surprised that there's enough propane in one of those little bottles to "bl[ow] out the side of the hull" of a cruising sailboat. It would have to be very tightly confined to do that. Seems more likely to blow off the floorboards and perhaps start a fire.

Can you link to an accident report, or even a news story? It just seems ... odd.

Also seems odd to blame the salt environment. Sounds more like human error than a problem with propane or the bottles. Lots of things are dangerous if used or operated improperly.
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Old 03-10-2021, 14:29   #5
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

What is strange is that worldwide at this point most coastal cities have fleets of CNG vehicles of one sort or another yet this has not helped with establishing CNG refill stations for the regular people.
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Old 03-10-2021, 14:31   #6
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Propane has 50.3 MJ/kg
1lb would have 22.9 MJ
A stick of dynamite has about 1 MJ. more or less according to Wikipedia.
A very small amount of propane mixed in the air near the proper ratio will give a nice bang. It probably would be a low order detonation, but plenty to do a boat from the inside.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:29   #7
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
What is strange is that worldwide at this point most coastal cities have fleets of CNG vehicles of one sort or another yet this has not helped with establishing CNG refill stations for the regular people.
This is purely a hip shot statement. Finding CNG is a hundred times more difficult Than propane or camp gaz. In the Caribbean or any third world cruising venue it is non-existent. More than one cruiser has arrived in the Caribbean and had to rip out the CNG stuff for propane. One idiot arrived from the US expecting first world choices, CNG outboard, and had to pay third world prices for a new OB, gas tank and lines. Nobody was interested in his used powerless motor.

BTW, I assume the OP was talking about the small carbon steel throw away propane tanks. We have one carefully stored for the propane torch. I used to keep it in the propane locker but sea water from the locker vent made short work of it. Oil it and keep it clean and dry where it is not physically damaged. It gets looked at often enough. This is not ideal but it works.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:30   #8
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
I'm surprised that there's enough propane in one of those little bottles to "bl[ow] out the side of the hull" of a cruising sailboat. It would have to be very tightly confined to do that. Seems more likely to blow off the floorboards and perhaps start a fire.

Can you link to an accident report, or even a news story? It just seems ... odd.

Also seems odd to blame the salt environment. Sounds more like human error than a problem with propane or the bottles. Lots of things are dangerous if used or operated improperly.
Mike ... google the "yachting monthly crash test boat" propane video ... I think they used 2 one pound propane bottles ... it didn't go on the first attempt, but the second try blew the deck clean off the boat.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:32   #9
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Propane has 50.3 MJ/kg
1lb would have 22.9 MJ
A stick of dynamite has about 1 MJ. more or less according to Wikipedia.
A very small amount of propane mixed in the air near the proper ratio will give a nice bang. It probably would be a low order detonation, but plenty to do a boat from the inside.
Good point, but the OP's story smells. For example did someone smell the propane before blowing the boat? If no one did and it sank then how do they know it was a propane leak, and not something else say acetone.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:32   #10
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Wow, heck of a first post! Not doubting it, but some additional info would be nice such as a time frame when this happened and how it was determined that the propane was the culprit, especially what exactly caused the canisters to leak? That bit of info would actually be helpful.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:37   #11
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Propane has 50.3 MJ/kg
1lb would have 22.9 MJ
A stick of dynamite has about 1 MJ. more or less according to Wikipedia.
A very small amount of propane mixed in the air near the proper ratio will give a nice bang. It probably would be a low order detonation, but plenty to do a boat from the inside.
Well, I stand corrected on the energy component Adelie, thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelkara View Post
Mike ... google the "yachting monthly crash test boat" propane video ... I think they used 2 one pound propane bottles ... it didn't go on the first attempt, but the second try blew the deck clean off the boat.
Just seems odd the explosion wouldn't flow in the path of least resistance. A decent hull, backed against dense water, presents a pretty solid barrier. I'd think it far more likely a propane explosion would do as you describe Kelkara, and blow the sole and deck up rather than blast a hole in the hull.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:37   #12
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

This idiot didn't think it was a problem and could not understand why his insurance was cancelled after he sent them my survey report because ...
" I only connect it when I'm using the stove".
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:38   #13
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Here it is:

Yachting Monthly: Test Boat - Gas Explosion
https://www.yachtingmonthly.com/sail...xplosion-29779

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfelsent View Post
Propane, stored and used improperly, is dangerous.
So is gasoline.
+1 I'm with dfelsent.

It's not propane per se, but the improper storage and use of both prope and gas.
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:42   #14
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatpoker View Post
This idiot didn't think it was a problem and could not understand why his insurance was cancelled after he sent them my survey report because ...
"I only connect it when I'm using the stove".
Yiiiiikes!
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Old 03-10-2021, 15:47   #15
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Re: Propane, the kiss of death

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
I'm surprised that there's enough propane in one of those little bottles to "bl[ow] out the side of the hull" of a cruising sailboat. It would have to be very tightly confined to do that. Seems more likely to blow off the floorboards and perhaps start a fire.

Can you link to an accident report, or even a news story? It just seems ... odd.

Also seems odd to blame the salt environment. Sounds more like human error than a problem with propane or the bottles. Lots of things are dangerous if used or operated improperly.
Liquid propane has an expansion factor, when it converts to gas, of about 270:1. Imaging a mass of propane gas below decks equal to 270 of those little tanks!

Being in a locker or the bilges is contained enough to make a powerful explosion.

The small tanks are steel so will eventually rust in a marine environment. Bad idea on a boat.

But yes in the end its human error: storing steel propane tanks below deck, ot having them on a boat at all, is a recipe for disaster.
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