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Ozone friendly torches?

I found this very cool butane torch on sale:

http://www.chefdepot.net/minitorch.htm

and, in the description, it says, “…ozone friendly, too!” So I
started to wonder… does butane have less environmental impact than
other fuels? I know MAPP is a petroleum by-product, which makes me
shy of using it, but I assumed propane was natural gas, which seems
to be less of a problem. I’m no expert, though. Anyone know about
this?

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

PS: Please, if you think the ozone layer is doing fine, and the
greenhouse effect is a hoax, don’t respond to this post, on or off
list. I don’t want to hear about it. I’m a tree hugger who won’t even
burn paraffin candles, so you aren’t going to change my mind.

      I found this very cool butane torch on sale:
http://www.chefdepot.net/minitorch.htm and, in the description, it
says, "...ozone friendly, too!" So I started to wonder... does
butane have less environmental impact than other fuels? I know
MAPP is a petroleum by-product, which makes me shy of using it, but
I assumed propane was natural gas, which seems to be less of a
problem. I'm no expert, though. Anyone know about this? 

Interesting ad, Lisa. For one, I enjoyed their bit about their
butane being the hottest burning available. Cool. (pun intended) I
rather expect that makes it identical to all other butane types, as
there should be no difference between one brand of butane and
another. Equally interesting is the Ozone friendly claim. Does that
mean it LIKES Ozone? Hmm. Maybe it means it doesn’t produce ozone as
a combustion product. OKaaaay. neither does burning any other of our
usual fuel gasses, actually. Does it mean that it’s not producing
fluorocarbon type gasses like Freon or other fluorocarbons that harm
the ozone layer? Again, neither do other fuel gasses. Probably they
mean their brand of butane cans is pressurized with something that
contains no fluorocarbons, which harm the ozone layer. Okay, now
THAT’s cool. But that’s just their brand of butane canisters, and
has nothing to do with the torch itself. And I’d not be surprised if
the other major manufacturers of butane canisters are also
fluorocarbon free, the same as almost all spray can products on the
market these days. So while the Ozone friendly claim is likely true
on this aspect, I’d guess it’s mostly marketing hype, rather than any
actual feature not found on the competitors. This is especially
likely when you consider that butane, like LPG gas (natural gas)
liquefies at relatively low pressures, and the remaining free butane
gas in the “air space” does just fine to pressurize the can. A can of
butane does not need much in the way of additives to pressurize the
can. I could be wrong, and perhaps some brands use fluorocarbons to
pressurize the can, but I doubt it. My guess is that the ozone
friendly claim is about like selling pencils on the basis that they
are wireless/cordless and don’t need batteries.20

As to other environmental aspects of butane as a fuel, it’s more
serious. All hydrocarbon fuel gasses produce, if properly burned, two
main combustion products. one is H2O, or water. The other is CO2,
carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas. If it’s producing less
CO2, then it’s producing even more toxic CO, carbon monoxide, or
simply releasing the hydrocarbon gas unburned into the atmosphere
(perhaps an even worse greenhouse gas in some cases.)

As to differences in fuel gases, Butane and Propane are both
generally byproducts of refining either natural gas or petroleum.
Neither is totally “natural”, and natural gas itself is also not in
any significant way more environmentally friendly than other
hydrocarbon gases, except that because it’s coming straight from the
ground, less energy is expended in coming up with the final product,
so less pollution from manufacturing the stuff. But Natural gas is
just as much a greenhouse gas as any other hydrocarbon gas, up to and
including the gasoline vapors that escape when you fill your car’s
gas tank, or the natural methane released by fermentation of wood by
termites, or the intestinally produced methane from the worlds cows
(who generally fart much more prodigiously than some of the guys in
our office due to the fact that their digestion is based literally on
fermentation of their food).

The only fuel gas I know of which is NOT a greenhouse gas in this way
is pure hydrogen, who’s combustion product is pure water. But of
course, producing hydrogen generally is done by electrolysis, and
that means electricity, and unless you’re getting that juice from a
solar panel or wind farm, or perhaps nuclear plant, you’re right
back to creating at least some pollution, and likely greenhouse gas
of some sort, somewhere. The amounts may vary, certainly, and
hydrogen’s clean burning is why it’s considerably more desirable in
greenhouse effects, than, say, gasoline in automobiles. But perfect?
Nope.

As to that torch, it’s designed for Creme Brule. For that it’s ideal
(though for me, it’s kinda pricey). For your other environmental
concerns, it’s got no advantage, at least not based on it’s fuel gas
choice. And butane, despite the impressive claims of that ad,
actually burns cooler than most other fuels we use, so a soldering
torch burning butane will have a harder time getting your metal hot
enough to solder than will a torch using natural gas, propane
(slightly hotter), Mapp (even hotter still), acetylene (hotter yet
again), or hydrogen (hottest, if burned pure, often “cooled” with
vapor fluxing units using organic solvents like acetone or
methanol).

If you really want environmentally friendly soldering and heating,
get a large fresnel lens, build a solar furnace, and use focused
sunlight. Rather hard to control, but actually possible. As a kid I
got such a kit from Edmund scientific, and that foot square lens, on
a bright sunny day, could easily melt a small bit of brass on a
charcoal briquette… I never tried soldering that way, but
presumably it could be done. Not much good for night owl jewelers,
though…

The truth of the matter is that much of what we do is a long way
from being even close to environmentally friendly, and it’s probably
fair to say that most of us are guilty of using products or materials
that are causing harm of some sort, somewhere, even if we never see
it or are aware of it… Our metals, to begin with, are often obtained
via mining methods that produce disgracefully damaging effects on the
environment. See the article about this in the latest Metalsmith
magazine, titled I think, “The Price of Gold”… One of the more
interesting presentations at the recent SNAG conference was a panel
presentation on this very subject by, among others, the authors of
that article… Sobering indeed, and without obvious easy answers if
we still wish to use precious (or other) metals.

It’s important for all of us to educate ourselves on environmental
issues, and learn to lead the way for our industry, and our society,
in responsible use of resources, and responsible residency on this
planet. But I’d suggest that marketing claims for a product are
probably a poor place to start with the education… (Orchid,
however, is a GREAT place.)

Cheers.
Hope that helps.
Peter Rowe

Micro Mark sells reasonably-priced butane torches all the time. I use
one all the time, though they do “wear out” after a while. The price
is low enough to replace them when that happens.

Donna

    and, in the description, it says, "...ozone friendly, too!" 

Marketing hype, butane has replaced Freon as a propellent in many
aerosol spray cans, this is where the “ozone friendly” BS comes from

    So I started to wonder... does butane have less environmental
impact than other fuels? I know MAPP is a petroleum by-product,
which makes me shy of using it, but I assumed propane was natural
gas 

Nope propane (C8H8) is a petroleum processing product as is butane,
this is from the NPGA site

  "Approximately 90 percent of the United States' propane supply
  is produced domestically, while 70 percent of the remaining
  supply is imported from Canada and Mexico. Approximately equal
  amounts of propane come from the refining of crude oil and from
  natural gas processing." 

Natural gas is mostly methane CH4.

Methyl acetylene and propadiene (MAPP) is also a manufactured fuel
gas.

If you are burning hydrocarbons you are affecting the environment.
There is no environmentally safe or neutral torch fuel with the
possible exception of hydrogen (hydrogen production is not a "green"
process).

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

All hydrocarbon fuel gasses produce, if properly burned, two main
combustion products. one is H2O, or water. The other is CO2, carbon
dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas. 

“What gas is most responsible for the greenhouse effect?” This
question was asked of graduate students in physics several years ago
and only one in twenty got the answer right. The main greenhouse gas
is water vapor. So really, everything you burn becomes a greenhouse
gas. The water eventually percipitates out as rain or snow and the
carbon compounds eventually are metabolized by plants by
photosynthisis. For more

http://www.espere.net/Unitedkingdom/water/uk_watervapour.html

Lisa

Propane and butane are both naturally occurring hydrocarbon
compounds that are components of natural gas. When they are burned
efficiently (such as in a soldering torch) they both form carbon
dioxide and water as by-products. MAPP gas is also a hydrocarbon and
also forms carbon dioxide and water when burned. Since all three
produce the same gasses once they are burned, I don’t believe that
one can be considered more ozone friendly than the other.

The amount of any one of these gases that you would burn in your
torch in a year is minute, compared to the amount of similar
hydrocarbons that are burned in a year in say your furnace, your
home water heater, your car, in making electricity to run your home
etc. You can do far more for the ozone layer by lowering your
thermostat in the winter or raising it during air conditioning
season, or by leaving your car at home and taking public
transportation or riding a bike.

My suggestion is that you buy the best torch for the job and
consider other ways to conserve energy use and thus reduce your
impact on the ozone layer.

Regards
Milt Fischbein - Jewellery Artist
Calgary AB, Canada
www.members.shaw.ca/a925maven
@Milt_Fischbein_Jewel

“What gas is most responsible for the greenhouse effect?” This
question was asked of graduate students in physics several years ago
and only one in twenty got the answer right. The main greenhouse gas
is water vapor. So really, everything you burn becomes a greenhouse
gas. The water eventually percipitates out as rain or snow and the
carbon compounds eventually are metabolized by plants by
photosynthisis.

True enough, since the most effective “greenhouse” is actually the
cloud cover formed by the water vapor. However, when considering
the polluting effects of human activity, water vapor production
pretty much must sink totally into the back ground. Water vapor in
the earth’s atmosphere is part of such a dynamic thermal equalibrium
cycle (the weather), which rapidly cycles it in and out of the
atmosphere, and the vast quantities of water that are naturally
introduced into the system from normal natural sources mean that the
small increments introduced from hydrocarbon combustion or other
human activity is likely an inconsequential tiny drop in the bucket
that is not likely a cause of significant problems. A few good large
thunderstorms probably can get rid of a years worth of human
combustion produced water vapor I’d guess. The hydrocarbons, and
CO2, on the other hand, are dealt with by much slower systems, and
systems which have somewhat more far reaching effects than a few
thunderstorms with which we are already used to dealing. Reductions
in worldwide forest and vegitation cover slow the photosynthetic
absorption as well, and once the hydrocarbons reach higher
altitudes, it may take a long time to get them back down, while water
vapor, by contrast, tends to automatically drop out if it gets too
high. With the CO2 in particular, a great deal of it ends up being
processed, as you note, by photosynthesis. But some recent research
has suggested that a very large amount of this is due to algae in the
oceans, which responds faster to increases in nutrients (like CO2)
than do land vegitation populations. Small increases in atmospheric
CO2 (as well as perhaps slight increases in ocean temperatures) seem
to be making fundamental changes in the ocean ecosystems, due to the
increase in algae as a result of the increased CO2. it’s making
fundamental changes in populations of other plants, planktons, and
fish all the way up the food chain. Because the algae tend to bloom,
and then die, producing toxic decomposition products as they die, one
result seems to be things like fish kills. Not good for the oceans,
not good for our own food chain. Already, there is some good evidence
that a number of the worlds fisheries have already been significantly
impacted. If we stop all emmission of water vapor from fuel
combustion today, the impact humans have had on the water vapor in
the atmosphere will dissappear likely within a couple years. With the
other gases, the effects are likely to recover in time scales
measured more in hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of years.

So all told, while water vapor may in the physics lab be shown to be
the most significant greenhouse gas, I suggest that it’s human
production is much much less significant in terms of environmental
changes and climate changes, than are the hydrocarbons and CO2
productions.

Of course, you can always take the policy of our current government
(unlike previous administrations) which feels that the science is
not yet absolutely sure. They are right. it is not. But it seems to
me that if they wait until they have absolutely incontestable
answers, by then it will be even closer to being way too late to
avoid the problems. These are not quickly fixed things. It’s a little
bit like smoking and cancer. Nobody can tell a smoker that they are
absolutely going to get cancer from smoking. Only way to do that is
to wait until the smoker DOES have cancer, and then say “I told you
so:”. One might hope that we humans will not try the same approach
with our atmosphere, especially since, as in the case of arguments
against the Kyoto accords, the main arguments seem to be that, Oh
Gosh, it might cost americans a few more dollars and jobs than it
might cost some other less developed nations.

Sorry. I’m starting to get political. Somebody better get me my
muzzle before I bite something…

Peter

Hi Gang,

All hydrocarbon fuel gasses produce, if properly burned, two main
combustion products. one is H2O, or water. The other is CO2,
carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas.

I haven’t done any research on this, but I’d hazard a guess that all
the jewelers torches in the world won’t generate as much pollution in
a year as 1 SUV will in a week. Have we got are priorities organized
correctly?

Dave

       I haven't done any research on this, but I'd hazard a guess
that all the jewelers torches in the world won't generate as much
pollution in a year as 1 SUV will in a week. Have we got are
priorities organized correctly? 

Well, I haven’t done the math either, but I suspect your rather
understating the case, if you figure the SUV at 20 gallons of gas,
roughly the pollution equivalent (maybe less when you factor in
catalytic converters) a one barbeque grill sized propane tank, and
the fact that there are actually quite a lot of jewelers torches.

But I’ll also agree that in the world view, the component of the
worlds pollution due to our torches is no doubt such a small fraction
as to be difficult to even measure. Most of the point of my posting,
which you quote, was to point out that there is not one type of
hydrocarbon fuel or torch that is significantly better than another
in that regard. Mostly, I’d guess the impact of the torches as
polluters will be on the indoor air quality within our own shops,
especially right near our own faces as we solder, and even then,
perhaps most of the impact is due to more toxic stuff released by what
we heat, rather than the torches heating it.

Of far greater concern, environmentally, are some of the other
things we due, especially as an industry. Precious metals industries
often use significant quantities of cyanide, for example. If not
properly destroyed, but released into waste waters, this can have a
very significant negative impact on the waterways, water sources, and
environment in general, in whole regions. Gold and silver mining in
particular is a major concern here, since a mine can either be a
process of extracting the ore, removing the gold, and putting the
waste rock back in the hole and cleaning it all up, on one hand, or
can be a process by which a pristine mountainside, or even whole
mountain, is reduced to a pile of rubble which will be leaking toxic
cyanide solutions into the entire surrounding area and downstream
waterways for even hundreds of years. Other processes can produce
similar mines which then leach acid solutions a toxic as battery
acid, from the mine also for hundreds of years. This is not a minor
drop in the bucket for those areas concerned. Neither is the impact
of mercury contamination in those several rather large areas where
primitive mercury extraction methods are practiced, often by legions
of small miners or even individuals.

And for us, the kicker is that we, when we go to buy gold, cannot
yet know whether the metal we buy has caused any of these impacts,
which we may not hear about much in our nice comfy cities, but which
can have devastating impacts on the areas, usually populated by
indigenous or native peoples, where the mining is going on. And it’s
not restricted to just the Amazon or remote parts of Indonesia. You
can find this stuff right in the U.S.A. in areas in Colorado, Nevada,
or other states where gold mining is going on. Yet to date, your
gold supplier will have no way to track where their metal came from
or how it was mined. But this, unlike the likely negligible impact
of our combustion gasses, is something we can, with some time and
effort, change. The jewelry industry worldwide uses the majority of
the gold mined. If we, as an industry, start to insist on buying
metal that can be tracked back to “green” production methods, we can
get this to happen. especially if we’re willing to pay just a
little bit more for the metal (putting the waste rock back in the
hole, for example, costs money, adding to the production cost of the
metal.) This is, albeit slowly, happening in the world of gems and
diamonds, where we’re starting to be able to insist on buying
diamonds that are conflict free, or in the area of exotic hardwoods,
where we can insist on wood that was grown and harvested
responsibly, without destroying rainforest habitats, or even to
insisting that the coffee we buy is shade grown and produced
responsibly both in terms of the environment, but in fairness to the
workers who produce it. This wont’ happen overnight, but if we, as
an industry, insist on these changes, it will happen.

Peter Rowe

Thanks for the enlightening info. I guess it’s going to be propane.
I only hope that all those candles I didn’t burn make up for this!

Peter, I am, however, surprised that there’s no difference between
grades of butane. When I took a class in stone-setting at the
Richmond Art Center (actually, I started the class, but dropped out
when I realized that channel-setting–when all I’d ever done was
bezels–was a little over my head), the teacher, who had 30 years as
a bench jeweler and stone dealer, made us buy “special” butane. He
said it was superior to other “grades.” He also had people using
butane torches, because he said they were better for creating
settings for 3mm stones.

And what I thought was cool about that torch was the design: I saw
it as a sexy Wolfgang Puck torch, and thought somebody might like
to use it for demos in a sleek, modernist booth.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

Good Lord! Now the focus is on jewelers torches? I personally do not
leave mine on except in repeat work thats laid out en masse.
Otherwise the cost doesn’t justify. I would think you would have to
burn your torch for months to catch up with what one auto produces
daily. be more worried about the chemical exposure and heavy metals.
My 2 cents.

Ringman

   Thanks for the enlightening info. I guess it's going to be
propane. I  only hope that all those candles I didn't burn make up
for this! 

Make up for what? All in all, while it’s fun to discuss, in theory,
the various levels of pollution one might get from different types
of torches, in truth the amount of pollution you’re going to generate
from any torch in your studtio is small enough as not to matter
much. A good meal of baked beans will likely cause you (or at least,
it would do it to Me) to release more methane into the air than your
torch will if the hoses are good. The torch is simply not that big
an issue to worry about.

       Peter, I am, however, surprised that there's no difference
between grades of butane. 

find me ANY can of butane fuel, any brand, that lists anything that
could be called a grade, that would differ from brand to brand.
There simply isn’t any such rating on the fuel containersl. Now,
as with any chemical, there may be different levels of purity, so
buying it in industrial quantities perhaps for other uses, like
pressurizing cans of hair spray, might lead you to need a different
grade of purity. but generally this won’t be significant when used
as a fuel, since contaminants will simply be other hydrocarbons,
which will also burn just fine The little cans of butane are simply
pretty generic. only difference from one brand to another might be
the price, offered adapter tips, colors on the label, etc. Butane
is pretty much butane. .

        When I took a class in stone-setting at the Richmond Art
Center (actually, I started the class, but dropped out when I
realized that channel-setting--when all I'd ever done was
bezels--was a little over my head), the teacher, who had 30 years
as a bench jeweler and stone dealer, made us buy "special" butane.
He said it was superior to other "grades." 

Okaaayyy… Not the first long time pro I’ve heard of or known
with strange habits. I’ve got a few myself. But I’m guessing this
one can be chalked up to some long held practice that would not
actually hold up to impartial examination. Or perhaps there is indeed
some version of gas lighter fuel that is not just butane, but some
sort of mix. Then he might recommend one brand over another. But if
that’s the case, I’m unaware of it.

   He also had people using butane torches, because he said they
were better for creating settings for 3mm stones. 

butane burns cooler than other fuels, so having you use it to make
tiny settings is perhaps useful in terms of the fact that with that
gentle heat, you won’t melt much by accident. And the little butane
torches DO have their uses in that way. just don’t expect them to do
things much heavier and larger.

   And what I thought was cool about that torch was the design: I
saw it  as a sexy Wolfgang Puck torch, and thought somebody might
like to use  it for demos in a sleek, modernist booth. 

Well, if you like it, get one. Fashionable indeed. But they aren’t
the originators. Blazer beat them to it in my book for the small
ones with a piezo lighter. And Ronson has been making a slightly
larger (and actually useful) butane fired torch for at least 35
years. My first jewelry torch was one of the Ronson ones. Plenty
of copycats of the Blazer type are out there now, often very cheap.
Your’s is a bit cooler than most, I’ll admit.

Peter