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Does propane start easier than natural gas?


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  #1  
Old 08-21-2007, 05:25:59 PM
Frank Stenger Frank Stenger is offline
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Default Does propane start easier than natural gas?

Another newbie question for experienced stakers:
In trying to start up this Sheffield halfbreed of mine,
I could use either natural gas or propane - I have both
available. Is propane easier to light off than natural gas?
If so, I think I might switch to propane - so far I'm using
NG. Thanks in advance,
Frank Stenger
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Old 08-21-2007, 06:39:32 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas??

Propane is 'harder' to light than NG. NG has more Hydrogen in it, therefore lights faster. HOWEVER-NG also has a lower caloric value. You get less energy from it, and have to use approximately 15% more to get the same level of performance. If yours is a hot tube engine, propane will probably work. although the control settings will be different. Gas pressure regulaters are also different, as propane has a slight amount of 'oil' within the gas, that may affect regulater function. On a South Penn engine I have run, we are running propane @ 11 inches Water Column pressure from a gas grill regulator, into an accumulator, as a gas supply. Are you sure you are getting enough gas volume into your engine?
Andrew
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Old 08-21-2007, 07:04:59 PM
Frank Stenger Frank Stenger is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas??

Andrew, I'm just getting started here and really don't know
yet if I'm near a good mixture for starting. I have to wait
for my boys to show up to roll this halfbreed over - so it
may take me awhile to try to pin down the details of starting
settings. But - if natural gas is easier to light off than propane,
I may as well stick with the NG since that is all set up.
I'll admit that I'm a "perfect storm" of newbie problems:
1. No experience with oilfield engines.
2. "New" engine with "stiff" bearings and new rings.
3. Big engine and little muscles!
4. I'd probably jump out of my shorts if this thing started
up anyway!
I think I'm getting plenty of gas feed to the engine - my
problem may be too much fear of "flooding" the system
with too much gas - maybe I need to try more gas when
I can get help to roll this thing over.
I'm trying to use Patrick's starting suggestions but I'm just
having trouble turning this big guy's wheel.
Thanks for your helpful input, Andrew!
Frank Stenger
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Old 08-21-2007, 07:20:43 PM
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Eric M. Eric M. is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas??

Natural gas burns in concentrations between 5% and 15%

Propane burns in concentrations between 2 1/3% and 9 1/2%

I'd expect natural gas to be easier to light because it has a wider flammability range. However, either gas will probably be tricky to get tuned right.


Andrew, the amount of hydrogen in a gas does not necessarily reflect its flammability. Water vapor is hydrogen and oxygen in a 2:1 ratio, an easily ignitable ratio of the two gases, so long as they are not in the same molecule. As you know, water doesn't burn very easily.
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:29:47 PM
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Bill Geyer Bill Geyer is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

Yep, pretty tricky to find the sweet spot on the valve, till you have some running experience, only four or five degree range on the valve for starting, anything else too rich or too lean When you get her started run it at about 60 rpm with your manual gas valve (dial cock) MARK that spot, that will be the best place to start in the future. On my dial cock about 1/8 is a good setting. That is less than 1/4" diameter opening.

Good luck and let us know when you get her running.
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Old 08-21-2007, 11:28:23 PM
Patrick McNallen Patrick McNallen is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

Raw natural wellhead gas can have a wide range of combustion characteristics. In general, it probably has a lower flash point than either propane or "city gas". From what I have experienced, both antique and newer oilfield type engines start and run fine on propane with either spark or hot tube ignition. I think when you once get your engine started, it will be easier to start the next time. Be ready to keep control of the engine speed when it starts, and expect some noise and smoke and maybe some backfiring. These engines are easy to start once you get the hang of it.
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Old 08-22-2007, 02:39:10 AM
Redwing Redwing is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

my forklift Hyster - year about 1967 - sometimes I accidentally primer too much won't start with too much LP, I wait a bit and try again, got started. LP is sometimes hard start or instant start, its easy get flooded.


But home or shop heater is much hotter with LP than natural gas.
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Old 08-22-2007, 03:35:11 PM
Frank Stenger Frank Stenger is offline
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Default Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

Thanks to all you good Stak fellows for all the good info
and encouragement. We'll get this old bugger started yet!
And... it looks like we may get some nice days soon here in
northern Ohio so I can get this "girl" outside to fool around
with her - and not blow a hole in my garage roof trying!
Frank Stenger
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Old 08-23-2007, 01:27:22 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

In working with the Oil City/South Penn engine I have been working on for the North Jersey Antique Engine club, It took over 2 hours of steady work with 6 guys pulling on the wheels before she fired and ran We run it on propane. When it first fired, we thought it would just light off and run. WRONG It would fire once or twice, and quit. It would kick back, and rock back and forth a few times, and quit. Sometines it would turn over 3,4 even 5 times, and then backfire loud enough to scare the tar outa you! again after about 2 hours of tweeking the gas valve, we found that sweet spot, and we got it to run. Once we found the spot where it seemed to run the best, we left the gas valve at that setting, and turn the gas off at the tank. Now the engine can be started by one person, if they set everything up right. Setting your engine will be trial and error until you find your 'sweet spot' as well. Keep us updated. Does your engine have a compression release? If not, perhaps adding one on, until you get the gas controls figured out, may be a solution to your hard compression problems. We also use ours as an air bleed, to solve a starting over rich condition. At starting (crankind) speed, the mixture tends to be over rich, due to the fact that the intake valve is not opening very much, because of slow intake air speed. The decompression valve is opened , and extra air is admitted into the engine compression cylinder (about 1/4 a stroke). The valve is then closed, and the engine rocked against compression, against the direction you want it to run in. 9 out of 10, it will fire hard enough to spin itself thru the next intake cycle. At this point the intake cycle is a lot faster, letting in a lot more air, thus leaning out the mixture. This allows the engine to continue running. Finding this 'sweet spot' was not easy. The total movement at the end of a 12" crescent wrench handle, is only 1/4" - from run to not run This kind of adjustment will drive you nuts! Has your engine given any indication that it wants to fire? Does it fire once, and then nothing? It may be over rich, just like ours at starting, there is not enough airflow to get the mixture right. As we were told, you do not have to pull the engine clean thru a cycle, but in our case, it sure helped. After a full draw, if the engine didn't fire, we could lean the mixture in the cylinder with the decompression valve, just by rocking the engine with the valve open. In your case, if you do not have the decompression valve, you need to cut off the fuel valve completely, after the accumulater, to lean out the fuel/air mix on the intake cycle. Thats where marking the valve, once the engine runs is so important. Next time you attempt to start, if the engine fires once, and quits, turn off the gas, and re-try, several times. If she again tries, turn on the gas slightly after it fires, in order to keep it going. Again this is a trial and error process, until you find the spot where it will start and run on its own. You may find that a starting position may be different than a running position on the gas valve - leaner on start, and once the engine fires and gains speed, a richer position is needed. Until we got ours sorted out, it took more than 2 people to get it going, as it took one person on the gas valve, and the de-compression valve alone, to work them, as the others turned the engine over. Long winded I know, but it takes time to sort things out. Good luck with it!
Andrew
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Old 08-23-2007, 08:53:21 AM
Patrick McNallen Patrick McNallen is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Does propane start easier than natural gas?

Andrew is right. Once you get the engine started, you will soon learn to keep it running, and that will allow you to experiment with the gas feed and ignition and observe how the engine reacts to different adjustments. Starting does not require brute force, but you do have to adjust the ignition and fuel properly for the individual engine you are working with. This can be somewhat like learning to ride a bicycle. As you become more familiar with the engine, you will become an expert at starting it, and you will probably find that you can omit some steps and procedures.
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