Propellants | Industrial, Medical And Specialty Gases | Coregas Australia


Nitrous oxide and the hydrocarbons isopentane and isobutane are used as propellants. Nitrous oxide is used for whipped cream and the hydrocarbons for personal hygiene products.

Modern propellants

Propellants are used in aerosol packaging. Many decades ago it was common to use Freon gases for this application. However, as more came to be understood about their damaging impact on the ozone layer, alternatives were found. Many aerosol propellants in use today are hydrocarbons such as isobutane and isopentane. Whilst these are suitable for personal hygiene products, such as shaving foam, deodorants and hair spray, they are not compatible with foods such as whipped cream. In the food industry nitrous oxide is preferred.

Personal hygiene propellants must be scent free

Isobutane and isopentane are refined from heavier natural gas or lighter crude oil fractions. It is often the case that the crude oil or natural gas contains hydrogen sulphide or other sulphur-containing chemicals known as mercaptans. These chemicals have a strong smell and hydrogen sulphide is often called 'rotten egg gas'. In fact, some mercaptans are added to natural gas in the distribution grid to give it a characteristic smell to ensure leaks from the network grid or in the home, eg from a cooker hob that has been left on without ignition, can quickly be detected by members of the public. Clearly these strong-smelling chemicals would not be suitable additions to deodorant and hair spray products. It is therefore necessary for propellant grade hydrocarbons to undergo special processing to purify them and reduce all traces of mercaptans and hydrogen sulphide.

Whipped cream needs a food grade propellant

In addition to being popular as a beverage, cows' milk is used to make a large number of products including cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, liquid milk, ice cream, whey protein and aerosol creams. The propellant gas for aerosol creams must be compatible with the food and safe for human consumption, and nitrous oxide is used for these reasons. This gas is also used in hospitals as a pain killer, especially in maternity wards where it is often referred to as maternity gas. At Coregas we refer to this product as Medical Nitrous Oxide. Nitrous oxide production is therefore geared up towards applications that are related to human consumption and the same sources can also be used for this food packaging application.

Coregas - here to help

At Coregas our specialty gases experts can assist you in sourcing propellants suitable for food and personal hygiene applications. These products are part of our chemical gases range. Delivery quantities are generally large and liquefied products can be delivered either in drum tanks which contain approximately one tonne of product or larger ISO bulk liquid containers which can contain upwards of 20 tonnes of product.

Did you know?

New Zealand - the world's dairy

  • New Zealand is the worlds eighth largest producer of milk with approximately 19 billion kilograms of annual exports. The country has approximately 5 million dairy cows and the majority of dairy farms are located on the North Island.
  • Based on US$ values, New Zealand is the world's largest exporter of milk. Annual exports are worth more than US$ 5 billion and make up approximately 20% of total global milk exports. China is the largest consumer of New Zealand milk.
  • The total value of dairy exports from New Zealand including milk, cheese, powdered milk and aerosol creams is currently worth around US$ 10 billion per year.

Nitrogen gas is used extensively for head space inerting in milk bottling and packaging to extend the shelf life of milk. It eliminates the presence of oxygen which can stimulate degradation of the milk quality.