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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Posts
    347

    Default Cutting Open Old Propane Tanks

    Because I've built a few BBQ pits and known as the local "welding expert", I get this question all the time. It's also asked quite often on BBQ forums.

    Although I think I know how to do it safely, I don't want to give out advice that would get someone else hurt. And frankly, it makes me nervous the few times I've cut one open.

    I know there has to be a procedure from a reliable source like OSHA or something like that. Otherwise, how are old tanks cut up and recycled? Anyway, it would be nice if there were such a procedure that I could point people to that ask me about cutting open tanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    Posts
    225

    Default

    Can I add to the question? How would you safely cut open a refrigerant container. I have some (look like 20lb propane tanks, but green) that I would like to cut and use. I think they are from R12, and are empty.

    Thanks,
    Joshua

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Cave Creek Az
    Posts
    989

    Default

    Remove the valve and purge with air, these gases are easily removed and do not leave a residue that burns. Then you can pierce with a torch. If you are nervous you can fill it with water up to the level you want to cut.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    St. Johns Michigan
    Posts
    211

    Default

    Hi Gary,

    I think I have seen a few of your pits on the BBQ Forum over the years, If you are in fact the same Gary B Davis that is. Well if you are you do some mighty fine work pal, those are some of the nicest BBQ pits I seen. I don't personaly know the correct and safest way to cut into a lp tank but I'm sure there are quite a few on this forum that do. Are you doing any Compettion bbq these days?? We only got a chance to hit a couple this year..

    Good luck
    Pete "pgk" on the bbq forum

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    51

    Default

    I have cut quite a few propane tanks (company that I work for has a propane business), and I normally fill them up with water, empty, and check with a gas monitor. I would not recommend purging a propane tank with air, because if you do not remove all of the flammable vapor, it is more dangerous with the air mixed in. Propane will normally not burn back into the tank because there is not enough oxygen to support combustion (propane will only burn at a concentration of about 2-10% in the air), so if you do not want to use water, you can purge with nitrogen, argon, or any other inert gas. If you don't have a gas monitor, check with your local fire dept.-most depts have one and would probably check a tank if you asked (that is what I do.).
    One final note, don't go by the odor in the tank. Propane is odorless, what you smell is ethyl mercaptan, which is added so that you can tell if you have a leak. The smell will normally remain in a tank even after it is safe to cut. Just remember, DON'T TAKE ANY CHANCES. If you have any doubts, find someone with a gas monitor to check the tank before you cut it. Hope this helps, if you have any questions, I'll be glad to help if I can.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    249

    Default

    I have a guy up the road from my house who deals in delivering gas grill propane tanks to peoples houses,He takes there old tanks and recycles them drains off all propane and devalves fills with water and then cuts them up.around halloween he takes old tanks and cuts jackolantern faces out of them and paints them orange and sells them on his front lawn for $10.00 ea

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    134

    Default

    I have found that a sawzall works well.You can get nice straight clean cuts.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Posts
    347

    Default

    PKG,

    Yeah, I'm the same Gary B. Davis who posts on Ray's BBQ forum. I mostly lurk there these days. Small world isn't it?

    You guys have given me much of the same practical advice I’ve heard before, but I would still like to find a written procedure somewhere. If anyone’s seen one, please let me know where to find it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    1,258

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by garybdavis
    PKG,

    Yeah, I'm the same Gary B. Davis who posts on Ray's BBQ forum. I mostly lurk there these days. Small world isn't it?

    You guys have given me much of the same practical advice I’ve heard before, but I would still like to find a written procedure somewhere. If anyone’s seen one, please let me know where to find it.
    i think you will have a hard time finding a "written" procedure on this subject, no one wants the liability of printing such a thing. there are mant ways of welding/cutting on flamable containers none of wich are 100% safe. my neighbor was badly burned cutting apart a large propane tank, he thought he was doing it the "safe" way. i wish you luck and be safe!
    The one that dies with the most tools wins

    If it's worth having, it's worth working for

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Posts
    347

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tigman250
    i think you will have a hard time finding a "written" procedure on this subject, no one wants the liability of printing such a thing. there are mant ways of welding/cutting on flamable containers none of wich are 100% safe. my neighbor was badly burned cutting apart a large propane tank, he thought he was doing it the "safe" way. i wish you luck and be safe!

    Yep, thats's what I'm always told - no one wants to be liable.

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