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This is what you should know about propylene

Image of damage caused by early-morning explosion in northwest Houston
Image of damage caused by early-morning explosion in northwest Houston (KPRC 2)


Friday morning’s explosion at a Houston machining and manufacturing company is burning propylene into the air. Authorities had initially stated that the chemical was polypropylene but later corrected themselves and said propylene is the chemical that was burning following the explosion.

But what is propylene?

Propylene, also known at propene or methyl ethylene, is a colorless gas. It has a naturally pungent odor and has properties similar to propane, but it burns hotter than propane.

The gas, though odorous, is non-toxic and is acquired during the gasoline refinement process.according to Linde-gas.com.

Propylene can be used as an alternative to propane for heating and cutting “due to its superior combustion performance,” according to Linde-gas.com. It can also be used as fuel for high-velocity oxygen fuel. Chemical and plastic industries also rely on propylene as gas.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, propylene can also be used to manufacture a variety of resins, fibers and elastomers - synthetic polymers that have elastic properties.