Propane Tanks

PLEASE NOTE: The information on this page is intended only for households in Anoka County, Minnesota.  Businesses, schools and organizations in Anoka County must contact Anoka County Environmental Services at 763-422-7063, for information about propane tanks, other compressed gas cylinders, or fire extinguishers.

Propane gas cylinders, known as propane tanks, are used to fuel gas grills, camping equipment (stoves, lanterns, and heaters), and torches.  They come in several sizes and are either single-use or refillable.  The most common size is the refillable 20-pound cylinder used for gas barbecue grills.
  
Why be concerned about propane tanks?
Propane is flammable and can explode.  Even if the contents are used up or the tank will no longer support a flame, a tank still contains vapors that make it an explosion hazard.
 
Safety code requires OPD (Overfilling Protection Device) valve
The National Fire Protection Association safety code for propane tanks (NFPA 58) required tanks with a capacity of 4 to 40 pounds that were manufactured after September 30, 1998, to have an OPD (Overfilling Protection Device) valve.  This includes the 20-pound propane tank used in full size barbecue grills.  A tank without an OPD valve cannot be refilled.

Purpose and identification of OPD valve
The OPD valve is a safety device that prevents overfilling of a propane tank.  If a cylinder is overfilled, there is no room for the liquid propane to expand.  Therefore, gas may escape, creating a potentially hazardous situation.  The OPD valve uses a float that rises during refilling to block the filling process when the tank is filled to the proper level.
  • An OPD valve can be identified by its three-lobed handwheel (nonremovable) and by the letters “OPD” forged in the brass.
  • A non-OPD valve has a handwheel that is round or has five or more lobes.
What to do with propane tanks
Do not put a propane tank in the garbage.
An empty tank still contains a small amount of propane gas.  A propane tank may explode in a garbage truck or when the garbage is processed.  Propane tanks in garbage are a safety hazard to people and can damage equipment.  

Most scrap metal yards will not accept intact propane tanks, even if they are empty.
 
Cylinders with an OPD valve can be refilled and reused. 

Tanks without an OPD valve can be retrofitted with an OPD valve.
Each propane tank is marked with the month and year it was made.  A tank that is more than 12 years old must be recertified before it can be refilled.  A propane marketer, pressurized-gas retailer, or gas service company can provide these services.  Look under “Gas-Propane” in the Yellow Pages.

Exchange a tank without an OPD valve for a tank with an OPD valve.
Some convenience stores that sell propane and some retailers that sell propane tanks and barbecue grills will exchange a consumer's empty tank without an OPD valve for a tank with an OPD valve and filled with propane.  The cost may be the same as the cost to fill a propane tank.  Propane users should check with the retailer for policies and prices.
 
Take unusable or unwanted propane tanks (refillable or single use) to a propane marketer, pressurized gas retailer, or gas service company.  
For locations that accept propane tanks, search Propane Cylinders/Tanks in our Recycling and Disposal Directory, or look in the Yellow Pages under “Gas-Propane.”  Call for services, hours and fees before going to a site.

Tips for using propane
  • Always transport and store a propane tank in the upright position so that the valve is at the uppermost part of the tank.  Do not lay a tank on its side.
  • Do not attempt to remove the valve or take apart any gas cylinder.
  • If the tank becomes corroded or any parts become loose, replace the tank immediately.
  • Keep tanks away from flames and sources of heat.  Keep the spare propane tank away from the gas grill.
  • Do not store a propane tank inside your home.
More information
Do you have questions about propane tanks, other compressed gas cylinders, or fire extinguishers?  Call Anoka County Recycling & Resource Solutions at 763-323-5730, Mon - Fri, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.