Difference Between City Gas and LPG

Generally, newly built homes in Japan are constructed to run entirely on electricity for cooking meals and heating homes. However, older houses in Japan will either use ‘natural gas’ or ‘LPG’. These are the 2 types of gases available for household consumption in Japan.

While the gases can be used for the same purposes, there are a few differences between the composition, delivery methods, efficiency, safety precautions and price rate of the gases.

Read the article to find out more about the differences and similarities between natural gas and LPG and whether your appliances are compatible in the event you move and change gas connection.

Approximately 65% of all Japan are city/natural gas users, and 34% are propane gas (LPG) users. The remaining 1% are covered entirely by electricity.

What is city/natural gas?

City gas’s main component is methane or ‘natural gas’. In Japan, city gas is supplied through underground pipes with branches connecting to your home, like electricity and water pipes. Such infrastructure is quite expensive to build and maintain, therefore, only major cities are connected to city gas.

What is LPG?

LPG is liquified petroleum gas. It is created through the processing of natural gas, whereby the gas it put under a lot of pressure to make it a liquid. The liquified gas is then contained inside gas tanks which makes it portable. The liquid turns into gas when it is slowly released from a valve on your tank. It is a cost-effective supply of gas to houses/ areas that are too remote and less populated.

What are some differences between city and LPG?


Methods of supplying the gases

City gas is available in densely populated areas and made available to these areas through underground pipes.

LPG is stored in tanks and needs to be periodically replaced and refilled. The tanks can range in size and some can be portable. This makes it ideal for those living in remote areas to use this type of gas. A downside is that you would have to wait to ger your tank refilled by a special technician.

Raw components and materials of the gases

City gas is primarily methane, though it can also contain ethane, propane, butane and pentane.

LPG is a mixture of butane and propane.

Efficiency of the gases

Amending city gas pipes or constructing the pipes can take time, therefore, in the event of a natural disaster, houses connected to the city gas supply may be disadvantaged and disconnected from the supply for some time. This makes LPG gas more efficient in case of an emergency.

Another advantage of LPG is that less is required to generate the same about of heating compared to city gas because it is denser and more concentrated. But because it is more concentrated it requires more oxygen to burn properly, therefore LPG tanks often contain more oxygen than propane.

Safety precautions

City gas and LPG are almost colourless and odourless. Therefor to detect leaks, manufacturers add a harmless chemical to give it a sulphur-like smell and be detectable if there is a leak.

If you ever notice such a smell in your home, immediately put out any flames and call 119 (the fire department).

Your household appliances such as a gas stove or anything that requires gas fuel, can produce carbon monoxide if the fuel does not fully burn. This is a colourless and odourless gas and can be harmful to humans. Therefore, you should never try to burn anything in an enclosed space. Having good ventilation to get rid of harmful fumes is very important.

It is always a good idea to use carbon monoxide detectors in your home, these resemble smoke detectors, but work to detect carbon monoxide that can be emitted from open flames, space heaters.

Gas rates

City gas can be less expensive to use than LP gas, because LP gas factors in the cost of frequently replacing and refilling the tanks in the remote locations around Japan.

Can your appliances work with any type of gas?

Generally, appliances that require gas can be fuelled by either city gas or LPG, but the appliance may need special gas utilization fittings to be adaptable. However, if you have an appliance that requires electricity you cannot convert it to be fuelled by gas. You would need to replace your electric appliance for those that run on gas.

Some gas appliances are not convertable and adaptable to any type of gas so you should check your appliances first!

If you must choose between city gas and LPG, what should you choose?

While both gases can dissipate into the air if there is good ventilation, they can be dangerous in enclosed spaces. This makes LPG more dangerous, as it is heavier than natural/city gas and therefor, it can collect along the floor rather than dissipating. This collection of gas can increase the risk of explosion or harm if the leak is undetected. However, LPG can offer greater fuel efficiency at a higher cost and is more portable. Consider these factors when deciding.

Advantages and disadvantages of city gas, LPG and electricity
Type Advantage Disadvantage Additional Info
  • Portable; you can take this gas with you to remote locations
  • Supplier choice; you can choose your gas company, there is no standardised provider
  • Quick recovery in case of disaster
  • If you live in a remote location and need help with setting up LPG gas supply contact Selectra today.
City Gas
  • Cheaper than LPG
  • More efficient at heating than electricity
  • Although the gas market has liberalised there are a few entrants for city gas
  • Can be costly to build new pipes o fix damages
  • Generally provided in many areas in Japan
  • You only get one bill instead of separate ones for cooking and electricity use in the house
  • Many competitors to choose from
  • More expensive than city gas o LPG
  • In the event of a disaster recovery/reconnection is slow