Figure 1. A butane torch for kitchen use (specifically for crème brûlée).[1]

Butane is an an alkane with the chemical formula C4H10. As a type of hydrocarbon, it can undergo hydrocarbon combustion which gives off heat energy. Butane is one of the hydrocarbon components of raw natural gas, which is a type of fossil fuel.[2] Butane is usually removed from natural gas before being shipped to customers, but then butane is sold separately as a fuel itself.

Butane is commonly mixed with propane in camping fuel in order to maintain higher pressures at low temperatures.[3] Butane is also one of the main components in lighter fluid and is commonly used in cigarette lighters, portable stoves and butane torches. Figure 1 shows a butane torch used for cooking purposes.


Figure 2. Space filling model of butane, the white spheres representhydrogen and the black spheres represent carbon.[4]

Below is a table of some of the basic properties of butane.

Formula C4H10
Molar mass 58.12 grams/mole
Energy density 49.5 MJ/kg[5]
Melting Point -138oC[6]
Boiling Point -0.5oC[6]

Combustion Reaction

Butane releases its chemical energy by undergoing hydrocarbon combustion. Below is a hydrocarbon combustion animation showing the net reaction that occurs when butane combines with oxygen.

2 (C4H10) + 13 (O2) → 8(CO2) + 10(H2O) + Heat Energy (Enthalpy)

The hydrocarbon combustion reaction releases heat energy and is an example of an exothermic reaction. The reaction also has a negative enthalpy change (ΔH) value.

For Further Reading



  1. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons accessed 1/29/2015.
  2. “NATURAL GAS FAQs,” Pacific Northern Gas RSS. [Online]. Available: http://www.png.ca/natural-gas-faqs/. [Accessed: 24-May-2017]
  3. MSR.(2014). MSR ISOPRO - Performance Boosting Fuel for your Canister Stove [Online]. Available: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/stoves/stove-accessories/msr-isopro/product [February 16, 2015].
  4. "Butane-3D-space-filling". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Butane-3D-space-filling.png#mediaviewer/File:Butane-3D-space-filling.png
  5. Glenn Elert. (2015). The Physics Hypertextbook - Chemical Potential Energy [Online]. Available: http://physics.info/energy-chemical/ [February 16, 2015].
  6. 6.0 6.1 Charles E. Ophardt. (2003). Virtual Chembook - Hydrocarbon Boiling Points [Online]. Available: http://www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/501hcboilingpts.html [February 16,2015].

<languages />

Authors and Editors

Semaa Amin, Allison Campbell, Jordan Hanania, James Jenden, Kailyn Stenhouse, Daniel Suchet, Jason Donev
Last updated: June 25, 2018
Get Citation