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Old 01-30-2009, 06:05 PM
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kcdusk kcdusk is offline
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Default LPG gass bottles

A few questions on LPG gas bottles.

1) do they have these in Europe and the USA? Would they be useful in that you could scrounge them and use them as portable fuel?

2) if you shot one, say a 9 litre or 2 gallon normal size bbq gas bottle, how big would the explosion really be (ie not movie effect!)? What stats would you give it? C:# and B:# ???
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Old 01-30-2009, 06:51 PM
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The Mythbusters detonated one using incendiary bullets. The explosion was not that large but the flames were substantial. My initial thoughts would be equivalent to a frag grenade plus a double or triple radius Malatov cocktail.

Here is the video. The explosion is about 2 min in

In the US they are very common. Gas stations, convenience, hardware and grocery stores all may sell them.
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Old 01-30-2009, 11:15 PM
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Targan Targan is offline
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Originally Posted by kato13
The Mythbusters detonated one using incendiary bullets. The explosion was not that large but the flames were substantial. My initial thoughts would be equivalent to a frag grenade plus a double or triple radius Molotov cocktail.
You've hit the nail right on the head there Kato. As some of you will know I have some knowledge in the area of explosives and after reading this thread today I spent a while looking up the specific data relating to the properties of LPG.

If you crack an LPG bottle it will probably explode but that is due to the contents being under pressure and not due to the explosive force of the fuel inside. This is because LPG needs oxygen to combust and there is little or no free oxygen inside the pressure vessel. LPG's gas to liquid volume ratio is about 250:1 (!) so when it is released from a pressure vessel it expands tremendously but in the event of a catastrophic failure of a pressure vessel (as opposed to a leak) Wikipedia describes the effect thusly:

Originally Posted by Wikipedia
If someone were to burst the container by any means, the LPG would first spread out as a supercooled liquid. This would freeze anything within range. Then it would boil into the atmosphere and become an oxygen-displacing gas, which would asphyxiate any living creature in the affected radius. This gas would spread out to cover several hundred times more area than the liquid from which it comes. At some point this gas is diluted by the atmosphere. It will then reach a point of an ignitable mixture.
The 20lb LPG bottle typically used to fuel portable barbecues etc is probably the LPG container PCs are most likely to find in the US. They have a capacity of 4.73 gallons of LPG but are often only filled to around 4 gallons to allow for thermal expansion of the contained liquid. At 68 °F (20 °C) LPG only need to be under 2.2 bar of pressure to remain a liquid but that increases to 12.2 bar at 100 °F (37.8 °C) and 22 bar at 131 °F (55 °C) so obviously it isn't a good idea to let your gas bottles get too hot.

So to cut to the chase here is what I think the effects of a 20lb LPG bottle exploding would be. Initial concussion would be relatively modest (non-lethal) and similar to a concussion grenade. Fragments from the pressure vessel would be fewer in number than, say, a 120mm mortar round and would travel at much slower velocities (damage and penetration of a thrown knife or shuriken perhaps?) but would fly out to a similar distance as a mortar fragment because of their greater mass. Anyone adjacent to the explosion would be at risk of suffering burn-like injuries from being splashed with liquid propane. If the bottle ruptured in a confined space (and the fragments failed to punch sufficient ventilation holes) the displacement of air by propane gas may result in anoxia within a round or two.

In the event that the cause of the rupture included an incendiary effect, or there is an ignition source within the immediate area, the expanding gas fuel will ignite within a second or two to perhaps a few rounds resulting in a flash fire. The fire will be non-persistant and relatively low temperature (it might ignite easily flammable objects like paper or unsealed combustable liquids but probably not clothes, ordnance or ammo unless the fire is in a small, contained space) but it will cover a wide area and start close to the ground. The thermal shock will act as a low explosive blast if it is in a contained area (inside a vehicle or intact building), blowing out or cracking windows and popping canopies etc but the concussion wouldn't be particularly debilitating for people. The flash fire will lower the oxygen levels in the air, temporarily blind those in the affected area and exposed skin will suffer at least first degree burns.

Edit: The Mythbusters blew up a 100 lb gas bottle by the looks of it. Naturally that is a substantially more fearsome event than what I described because it involved five times more gas. I suspect it would have an even more catastrophic effect than what it looked like in the video if it was detonated inside a vehicle or building, but less available oxygen may slightly retard the flash fire effect.

Edit #2: I'm thinking that puncturing a gas cylinder with API rounds would have a different result compared to a cyclinder catastrophically failing due to corrosion, adjacent explosion or exposure to a fire. In the event that any of the latter events occur what I wrote above should hold true. In the case of the Mythbusters video the gunner walked his fire down onto the top of the cylinder (the top is the weakest point because that is where the valve is screwed into an otherwise contiguous structure). I think the cylinder in the video was either punctured had the valve shot off, ruptured across the top or all three and some of the escaping gas ignited while there was still liquid and gas inside the cylinder. In a case like that there would only be fragments heading skywards and the remainder of the cylinder would act like a giant blow torch. If it was inside a building or vehicle I'd say the roof/ceiling and probably anyone in the immediate vicinity would be toast but at least anyone further away wouldn't be hit by shrapnel or the blast.
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Last edited by Targan; 01-31-2009 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:50 PM
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Break.com is always good for finding fools that like to experiment with those things rather than learning about them from others. You can do a search for "shooting a propane tank" and it should give you some examples.

Here's one at night...doesn't go off until about 18 seconds into the clip. In all of these cases, like Targan mentioned, there needed to be a fire to cause the effects, so they always shot at already ignited tanks of propane.


The explosions are more visual than substantive in all cases. They could be damaging within a confined space, but in the open it's more "Oooo" and "Aaah!" than anything else.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:00 PM
Littlearmies Littlearmies is offline
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In answer to part (a) of your question - yes we do have them in Europe. There are numerous makers of the gas. In terms of camping the best known is probably "Camping Gaz" who make about 10 different sizes of butane cartridge (the smaller sizes are pretty well all disposable) running from about a litre upto something in the 10kg size (sorry for switching measures but I never had much to do with the little cartridges). Most camping shops would have some of these in stock.

The bigger stuff comes in two sizes for home / caravanning use (10kg and 32kg re-usable cylinders) and comes in blue (butane) and red (propane). Common home use would be for cooking (propane) where the home is off-grid, or for extra heating (we used to have a gas heater on castors called a Super Ser - it was about 3' high by 18" by 18" and took a 32kg butane cylinder). They have a common connection mechanism (as in you could use either a 10 or 32kg butane cylinder - I don't think it was common between propane and butane for safety reasons) and it is a matter of moments to switch cylinders over. You used to buy your first cylinder and then just bring your empty in and pay for the gas when you picked up the full one.

They have them in the Middle East too - my wife used to carry 32kg cylinder up several flights of stairs to fuel the cookers in her block of flats during the Civil War in Beirut.

You'd probably find even larger sizes of propane in some manufacturing or building sites (they use them to power forklifts and such).

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Old 01-31-2009, 03:16 PM
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Another availability fact. The really small compressed gas cartridges (about liter external size guess) are very common in Korea. Every grocery and convenience store, as well as most homes have them. The local obsession with barbecue leads to indoor table top grills being very common. Although I believe the fuel used is generally butane, I am not totally sure.
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Old 02-01-2009, 03:14 AM
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Default fire drills

did a mandatory fire drill last week at my workplace .It included a guy from the fire dept. throwing a app. 1 litre camping gas container in a vat with burning fluid inside a steel container 2x2 m with the door slightly ajar.

Standing at 5 meters distance I could feel the heat wave as it went ,and there was a surprising bang -but the main thing was the flames- the flame from the explosion covered the whole of the containers inside and still licked out of the door and app 1-2 meters into the air.They only lasted like 2 sec -but I gotta say that inside a room or vehicle you would be very nastily burnt all over if present at the pop.
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:32 AM
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Just a coupleof days ago here in Australia, a man was burnt by gas from a leaking cylinder in the back of his car.
He pushed his wife out even before the car had come to a stop and barely moments after first smelling it. He himself brought the vehicle to a halt even as flames licked around scorching both arms (2nd degree I think). Once he was out, he remained to retrieve the motorcycles on the trailer they'd been towing.

I believe there was two bottles in the back and the car was blackened shell afterwards, but my memory of the news report is a little hazy.

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