Store propane tanks in a cool, ventilated place, away
from ignition sources, flammable materials, and low
places where a leak would form a pool of vapor. Do
not store propane in a room or garage containing a
water heater or furnace with a pilot light.
Always store propane tanks with the excess-pressure
relief valve on top so that if the pressure should rise,
the tank will vent vapor, not liquid.
Aluminum cylinders designed for either vertical or
horizontal use have a special universal vent that
should always be on top.
Selecting a Propane Company
All type-certificated hot air balloons in the United
States use propane fuel. Supposedly there is only one
grade of propane. The fact is, propane fuel purchased
from a propane supplier may be a blend of propane
and butane. Although butane is not readily available
in its pure form, it is a by-product that is used during
the summer months to reduce the tank pressure of
Propane is used mostly as rural and industrial heating
fuel. In the hot summer months, outdoor propane
storage tanks, sitting in the sun, can develop high
pressure, and propane suppliers may add butane to
keep the pressure lowered. Balloonists sometimes
have a problem in the fall or early winter when their
propane supplier may be selling old stock, still
containing a percentage of butane, which has low
pressure when cold. To avoid low-pressure propane
in the winter, purchase your balloon fuel from an
operator who pumps large quantities of propane and
has a fresh stock.
The price of propane varies widely and can be
purchased from gas stations, recreational vehicle (RV)
and trailer rental companies, trailer parks,
campgrounds, and propane companies.
Balloonists in rural areas have the advantage of being
able to have their own storage tanks and decanting
fuel into their balloons. Propane distributors will rent
storage tanks and fill them on a regular basis for a
reasonable price. All you need to do is provide a
legal place to put the tank, which usually involves
clearance from buildings and property lines and a
concrete slab or blocks to mount the tank. The propane
company provides a tank of suitable size with a liquid
feed hose and you can transfer liquid by differential
In some states there are discounts for using clean fuels
(propane is very clean) and highway or motor vehicle
taxes are deducted for use in certain vehicles. On the
other hand, some states charge balloons aviation fuel
All balloonists, regardless of how they usually receive
their propane, should know how to pump their own
propane, and should own their own propane line
All fueling should be accomplished outside in the
open air. Avoid fueling inside a van, bus, or closed
trailer. Make sure there are not any sources of ignition
nearby. Remove strikers and loose igniters from the
basket. Because of static electricity, do not wear
synthetic clothing in the fueling area. No one should
smoke in the fueling area. Although a cigarette may
not create sufficient heat to ignite propane, a cigarette
lighter will. Do not allow spectators and nonessential
persons to loiter nearby, and do not allow anyone in
the balloon basket while tanks are being filled.
Everyone involved in fueling should wear gloves.
Preferably, they should be smooth leather, loose fitting,
and easy to remove. If a glove does get a blast of
liquid propane, it will freeze, be very cold, and you
will want to get the glove off fast.
Keep a large operable chemical fire extinguisher
nearby and make sure everyone involved knows how
to use it.