Breaking research on propane could mean a cleaner future

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COLUMBIA - In a world where cheap, clean, sustainable energy is a primary target, science just made one step closer to such a fuel.

A report from Manchester University in England states researchers have been working on creating a bio-fuel type of propane in order to create an efficient and sustainable propane production process.

Bio/Chemical Engineer with the University of Missouri Bill Jacoby said the benefits of this new process could be huge. 

"The supply of natural gas is a fundamental issue with climate change and fossil fuel usage remains {high}, natural gas is also a fossil fuel." Jacoby said. "Therefore something like a renewable pathway to propane could be quite advantageous."

So far, the researchers are still working, but a significant breakthrough involving synthetic pathways will enable renewable bio-synthesis.

Jacoby said because the researchers are working on a microscopic level, they would need to increase the scale of their production by 900 percent in order for it to be useful. 

Although it still would take some time to come to fruition, Jacoby said the work so far was very important and hoped it would continue. 

From an environmental standpoint, Peace Works coordinator Mark Haim said the way researchers are putting together the propane in the first place is the most important information.

"Because they didn't state how they processed the propane in the study, I can't really speak to the effects on the environment in terms of it's usage as a fuel source," Haim said.

Haim did say propane is a very clean gas, and as long as the process that was creating the propane in the first place was also efficient, clean and sustainable, that would be quite the victory for a greener future. 

Executive Director of Missouri Gas Propane Association Steve Ahrens said Missouri was one of the leading users of propane in terms of the household. 

"Our state is within the top 12 states in terms of propane usage," Ahrens said. "About 10 percent of our homes heat themselves with propane."

Until scientists are able to use the pathways to create the propane more efficiently, Jacoby said propane wouldn't really be an option.

"Hopefully people stop using fossil fuels on their own because they understand it isn't good for the environment," Jacoby said. "But if we get to the point where we can't dig anything else up, this research is going to be very important."