What Are LP Tanks?

Michelle Lancaster

The term LP tank is an abbreviation that has developed over time mainly in the United States. To find the definition of LP tanks in our modern society it is necessary to understand the background.

A small propane tank or cylinder is used typically for outdoor grilling or camping tasks.


Larger propane tanks are primarily used for home furnaces and water heater use.

According to The National Propane Gas Association, Dr. William Snelling, a chemist working for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910, discovered eight gases commonly occurring in crude oil and natural gas. Applying pressure to these gases caused them to become a liquid. The entire group was called liquefied petroleum gas. The individual gases were butane, propane, isobutene, butylene, isobutylene, propylene, ethane and ethylene. Containers were developed to hold and store the liquid gas, called Liquefied Petroleum Gas tanks.


The U.S. Department of Labor, division of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) currently defines an LP tank as “All vessels, such as tanks, cylinders or drums used for storing or transportation of liquefied petroleum gases.” A liquefied petroleum gas tank is referred to as an LP tank to shorten the name and applies to any container holding any of the eight individual gases or mixture of gases. Only propane and butane of the eight gases are commonly used as fuels. The other six are mainly used as chemical feedstocks derived from petroleum principally for the manufacture of chemicals, synthetic rubber and a variety of plastics. Butane containers are low pressure and even include plastic, making it difficult for the public to call them tanks. The current usage in 2010 of an LP tank by the industry and the public means a tank designed and used to store or transport propane.

Current Usage

The current usage in 2010 of the LP tank by the industry and the public means a tank designed and used to store or transport propane.The most common use for these propane tanks is for home heating and outdoor activities such as grilling or camping.