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Using your North American LPG system in Europe


 Although to date we have only adapted our North American (NA) propane system for use in the UK, you will also find information on using European ‘Gaz’ in this write up, so that you can learn what we have learned to date.  As our experience grows, we’ll no doubt expand on the information below but, meantime, believe the information provided is accurate.  Also, I should credit Nigel Calder’s The Boatowner’s Mechanical & Electrical Manual, 2nd Edition, from which the overview below is summarized.  Let me encourage you to read his section that addresses the use of gas systems aboard boats.  He does not get into the detail you’ll find here on adapting NA propane systems to Europe’s LPG infrastructure but the reading is still worth your time, including his comments on 1) safely using LPG aboard boats, and 2) doing tank-to-tank refills, if you must resort to this.


Overview:  There are three types of gas currently in use aboard boats:  propane, butane and compressed natural gas (CNG).  The first two are broadly interchangeable and are generally referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  Propane is stored at significantly higher pressure than butane when a tank is filled, so using a butane tank to accept a propane refill is not a good idea; the safety valve is likely to blow as the tank is filled.  The reverse – filling a propane tank with butane - is not a problem, which is why an ocean-crossing cruising boat’s LPG system should start with propane tanks.  This also explains why your tank doesn’t last as long when filled with butane; there simply is less fuel placed in the tank.  And because you face a logistics hurdle every time a tank is exhausted, this is why propane gas would be the preferred refill option if available; fewer refills is easier.  The main difference between the two fuels is the ability to evaporate at lower temperature, which means that in colder climates butane’s evaporation rate can slow to the point where the appliance will not work efficiently…or fail to work altogether.  This is why one finds propane as the LPG gas of choice in Scandinavia as well as North America.  (It’s also why propane is preferred in rural areas even in less severe climates, as the gas bottle is typically stored outside).


Since CNG suffers in performance when compared with LPG and is not widely available for cruising sailors in any event, we can narrow the issues down to those affecting LPG.  To start with, there is no worldwide standardization of gas, gas cylinders, gas valves, regulators and their output operating pressures, or the related fittings.  In addition, while we are accustomed to carrying our own tanks on our NA boat and having them repeatedly refilled at nearby refill stations, the common European method is for an exhausted tank to be removed from the boat and exchanged for a full one at a vendor site which probably does not have refill capability.  This appears to be for safety reasons since all filling takes place in more remote, hopefully safer fill stations by more experienced workers vs. perhaps someone doing it in the shed out back.  This also explains why, in some countries, convincing the fill station to fill our NA tanks can prove to be difficult.  They simply are not accustomed (and most likely, also neither permitted nor personally comfortable) in doing so.  And of course, European tank fittings and regulator fittings - and likely the operating pressure provided by a European regulator - are different from NA LPG systems.  So all in all, we have our work cut out for us.


The Challenges:  Since we’ve narrowed the discussion to NA boats likely to have a propane installation (tanks, regulator, perhaps a solenoid, a hose and possibly copper tubing run, plus a propane stove and perhaps other appliances), the two challenges you face once you’ve arrived in Europe are:

  1. How do you get your NA tank filled when it is exhausted, and
  2. When that’s not possible, how do you adapt to the country’s system so you can continue using your boat’s existing propane installation?

A third option is to convert over to a totally European system.  This might seem inviting in simplifying the refill logistics at times but you still must address compatibility issues if cruising between in the UK and/or Scandinavia, and subsequently in other parts of Europe and the Med.  Also, if the boat’s NA propane system will need to be reinstalled at a later date, it raises other logistics issues such as where one stores the stove, tanks and such in the interim.  I don’t address this third option nor did we consider it ourselves since other options are easier and less expensive.


Summary of Options

(For additional information, see ‘Comments’ sections below)


Cruising Grounds

Gas Available

How to fill your NA tank…

…and what to do if you can’t

United Kingdom

Butane and, increasingly for caravans & boats, Propane

1.      Take your NA tank to a refill station (not the retail vendor) familiar with NA tanks & seek a refill

2.     Tank to tank refill, filling upright, lower NA tank from higher, inverted UK Tank using custom pigtail (see below plus Calder for details)

1.        Use UK propane tank with custom pigtail that connects to your NA regulator –or- using your existing NA POL pigtail in a UK tank

2.        For short-term solution, use small Coleman bottles and POL adapter

Continental Europe and the Med (excluding Sandinavia)

Butane (or sometimes a mix of Butane and Propane)

1.   Take your NA tank to a refill station along with your ‘Gaz’ System Adapter

2.  Tank to tank refill, filling upright, lower NA tank from higher, inverted ‘Gaz’ cylinder using custom pigtail (see below plus Calder for details)

1.    Use Euro ‘Gaz’ cylinder plus ‘Gaz’ Cylinder Adapter connected to your existing NA regulator



No information yet

 No information yet


United Kingdom Comments:  Propane use is widespread in the UK, e.g. in residential and farm applications, but availability of propane has increased more slowly for the ‘leisure market’ (caravans and boats).  Which gas you can purchase could therefore be shaped by your location.  Our impression is that the handling of LPG has been tightened severely in the UK within the last few years, and even our current cruising guides suggest marinas have gas bottles for exchange when in reality they now are not allowed to carry them.  Consequently, you may find things are more ‘flexible’ in remote areas of the UK but sticky and more regulation-bound in or near the cities.  In addition, keep in mind there are two main propane suppliers in the UK:  Calor Gas and Alta/Maxi/Flo Gas/BP Gas/etc., a recently combined business to compete against Calor.  If a marina stocks propane cylinders for exchange, it will be Calor. However, both vendors have a wide range of retail vendors throughout the UK and either company’s bottle can be exchanged almost anywhere (but only with another bottle from the same company).  Calor may be the more convenient choice for use in your boat BUT may not offer a bottle size large enough to satisfy the cook and yet fit in your (NA) propane locker (see below).  Offsetting the availability of Calor bottles in some marinas, the Flo Gas vendor may well deliver to the boat.  As one example, if wintering in London you can call Flo Gas at 0207 476 9091, register your boat and they will deliver the propane bottle of your choice; there is no charge for this additional service in Fall, 2003.  The ‘freephone’ number offered by Flo Gas so that you can learn where the nearest retail vendor is located anywhere in Britain is 0800 526 360; you will need to give them your postal code.  Here are additional comments about the possible solutions in the table above for the UK:


How to fill your NA tank…

1.      We’d very much like to offer some vendor information aimed at getting your NA tank directly refilled but, after cruising England’s South Coast and arriving in London, we see no evidence this is easily arranged in the areas we’ve been cruising. Again, this may be more easily done in rural areas…but then, you might not be cruising there, either!Click on pictuire to view an enlarged image

2.      Refilling your empty NA tank from a full UK tank will require a special pigtail you make up yourself.  Understand that this is a slow process, taking longer the colder it is, and you will not get a full fill as not all the gas will be forced from the UK bottle into your NA bottle.  Here’s how to start:  A local caravan, camping or similar store can sell you a standard propane pigtail with the UK ‘bullnose’ or POL fitting on one end and the UK appliance fitting on the other.  Whack off the appliance fitting and you will have one end of a custom pigtail that can actually serve dual purposes.  To complete the custom pigtail for a tank-to-tank refill, you’ll need to start with a spare NA POL-to-regulator pigtail (such as Trident Marine’s #1014140120); this is most likely how you are currently connecting your NA tank to your existing regulator.  This will have a male inverted flare fitting on one end of the hose, designed to snug into the regulator and be gas-tight without using tape or putty.  Cut this spare pigtail in half and join the NA POL end (the hose segment with covered POL fitting in the photo) to the UK POL pigtail in a leak-proof fashion.  (I chose to use a long double-barb union and double hose clamps).  This will now allow you to connect the two different kinds of tanks.  Calder’s The Boatowner’s Mechanical & Electrical Manual provides a step-by-step method for doing a tank-to-tank refill safely, as well as how to speed up what will be a slow and somewhat inefficient process.


…and what to do if you can’t:

1.      Two options for using an UK tank:  My choice was to join the other half of that NA pigtail you cut in half (the one with the inverted flare fitting at the end) to the same UK POL fitting + hose (see made-up pigtail in the picture) and you will be able to have a gas-tight connection between a UK tank and your NA regulator.  The other option is to go ahead and use your NA pigtail, the one normally connecting your U.S. tank to your installed regulator.  As you look over the UK tanks and fittings, you’ll notice that the UK POL fitting is only a wee bit bigger and deeper than the NA POL fitting, similarly reverse threaded AND it does look similar.  The temptation will be to screw your existing hose’s POL fitting into a UK propane tank…but while it will fit, it is not as satisfying a fit.  Adding Teflon tape on the POL threads won’t help; the threads are only there to increase mechanical advantage, serving as an ‘inclined lever’.  The seal in gas fittings comes from two semi-malleable metal surfaces being forced together until a seal is created.  I held up the UK and NA POL fittings, side by side, and saw enough difference between them that, for my peace of mind, I chose to build a custom pigtail.  However, I’ve been told by a seasoned cruiser who’s opinion I respect – and who diligently performs lengthy leak tests each time he works on his propane system – that a NA POL fitting has not leaked in the UK tanks he’s been using over a period of years.  You of course can eyeball the fittings and form your own impression – at least it’s nice to have choices.

Note 1:  It’s worth pointing out the variety UK propane tank sizes.  I found that the 6.8 Kg (empty) steel tank found at Flo Gas vendors is just slightly smaller than our 10#/2.4 Gal U.S. aluminum tanks and fits nicely in the same footprint in our propane locker.  (Keep in mind that all this tank size information is for ‘red’ tanks intended for propane; the sizes differ for ‘blue’ tanks intended for butane.  This means you might have even more options than I’m describing re: tank sizes provided you’re willing to burn butane).  Our 6.8 Kg UK tank holds 3.9 Kg of propane and cost £8.95 (or about $14.30 U.S.) to fill.  However, when inspecting Calor propane tanks, I found their sizes to be different.  Their 6.0 Kg tank is taller and narrower than the Flo Gas 6.8 Kg tank, and would not have fit in our locker.  Calor offers a smaller 3.9 Kg tank suitable for our locker but, obviously, it would hold less propane and therefore need to be replaced more often.

Note 2:  If you plan to remain ‘settled in’ at a UK port for an extended period, as we chose to do in London, check out propane delivery service with the two companies mentioned above.  We enjoyed next-day delivery service at no charge above the normal exchange fee right to the boat by calling Flo-Gas once we settled into St. Katherine’s Haven.  If things could be easier, I don’t know how.

Note 3:  If you are tempted to install a British regulator in conjunction with using a British hose and tank, keep in mind the regulator will provide a 37 MB output pressure.  You might want to check with your stove manufacturer whether that will work with your stove.

2.      Some years ago Coleman introduced a line of small appliances (stove, light and heater) all fueled by the kind of small propane bottles we find in many NA stores.  In the UK these are known as Coleman Propane Cartridges, stock #5103A1643.  An adapter (Trident Marine #G487) is available that looks to me like it should allow you to connect your NA POL fitting via this adapter to these small bottles and, for shorter periods of time, supply your stove.  In fact, we brought two such bottles over from the U.S., stored in our propane locker, as an emergency supply should our main bottles become exhausted with no immediate resupply options available.  In the UK, Coleman has since withdrawn these appliance products so caravan and camping dealers may not have a ready supply of the small bottles at the exact time you need them.  It would be best to call around and inquire.  (One vendor that does carry them to supply the existing ‘installed base’ of customers is Caracamp in Plymouth, Devon. You can speak with Suzanne Guswell at 01752 664695 or email her at  She is able to ship these bottles in larger quantities within the UK but not beyond its borders).


Continental Europe and the Med (excluding Scandinavia):  These countries rely exclusively on butane (or sometimes a mix that includes a minority of propane) and also use the bottle exchange approach to providing refills.  However, given the diversity of countries like France, Sicily and Turkey, we have been repeatedly told that we will find it possible to have our NA tank(s) filled in some countries (or regions within a given country) even if not in others.  In some areas, it may be necessary to place a deposit down on one of that country’s exchangeable tanks and use it until refilling your own tank(s) again becomes possible.  Fortunately, there are some ready-made adapters to help you with all these options.


How to fill your NA tank…

1.      To attempt refilling your NA tank, you can take a ‘Gaz’ System Adapter (Trident Marine #1190-1625; it’s the short, straight adapter with a NA POL fitting in the picture) along with your tank to the refill station.  Click on pictuire to view an enlarged imageThis should allow them to connect their fill hose to your tank if they normally fill European ‘Gaz’ cylinders…and if they are willing to do so.

2.      To do a tank-to-tank refill from a European ‘Gaz’ cylinder, you will need to construct another custom pigtail like the one described for the UK, with a ‘Gaz’ connector at one end joined to the NA POL + hose shown above.  (We haven’t done this - yet? - which is why I haven’t illustrated it).


…and what to do if you can’t:

1.      You can purchase a ‘Gaz’ Cylinder Adapter (elbow’ adapter shown in the picture) that is made to accept your NA POL fitting (the one already installed in your propane locker) and which also screws into a European ‘Gaz’ cylinder.  It is Trident Marine product #1195-1615 and, I thought, somewhat pricey.  I found the best regular price for this at Defender but happened to catch a stock reduction sale at Sailnet when purchasing mine.  This makes things easy provided you can accommodate a ‘Gaz’ cylinder in your locker.  We don’t yet have information on ‘Gaz’ cylinder sizes but we’ve seen many small blue ‘Gaz’ bottles in Euro boats that our locker can accept.


Spares:  Don’t overlook your propane system when deciding which cruising spares to carry, as there are few systems on your boat that are going to be valued as highly as the stove.  All of a propane system’s components have finite life spans.  In the UK experts who work with these components offer the opinion that regulators should be changed out after ten years service, and hose (e.g. the flexible hose connecting your stove to copper tubing, if not the entire hose run) after five years.  Even the tank should have its valve removed and be visually inspected, much like a SCUBA tank, every so many years (the frequency mandated seems to depend on the country).  In addition, your solenoid valve will slowly accumulate hydraulic fluid over time as droplets are captured in the LPG from the occasional leaky compressor used to compress the gas.  (‘Dirty’ or oil-laden LPG seemed especially prevalent in the Caribbean, in our experience).  We’ve disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled a solenoid valve after it failed due to oil contamination but it was nice to have a spare onboard and tackle the rebuild when it was convenient.  (Thinking you’ll just “bypass” the solenoid?  You do have the necessary fittings, right?)  On the other hand, how do you repair a sealed regulator?  We don’t know and therefore carry a spare.  So think about the age of your existing system’s components, the length of your planned cruise, and which components might therefore deserve to be carried as spares before departing North America.  In addition, consider bringing a spare NA pigtail as described above so you can make up custom pigtails.


A note on LPG rated hose:  LPG attacks rubber hose, which is why hose is considered to have a finite life.  Hose manufacturers appear to adopt two different methods for dealing with this.   You’ll notice in the picture of two LPG hoses that the smaller OD hose, which is of U.S. origin, has a thin inner liner that appears to be made of an inert blue plastic material (Teflon?).  The UK hose I purchased with the same ID is not lined but is twice the wall diameter, apparently a different approach to helping the hose last longer in the presence of LPG.  The lack of a wall liner may be one reason UK gas installers recommend replacing the hose every five years, although that’s just a guess on my part.


Cost:  It hasn’t escaped my notice, as I mention one Trident adapter, pigtail or fitting after another, that I’m running up quite a bill to be put against your cruising kitty.  It would be easy – initially - to arrive on the scene, scope out the same details I’ve presented here, and then see what you can come up with.  I think it’s possible one can be led down the wrong path that way, as e.g. some might be tempted to use a NA POL fitting in a UK tank simply because they don’t have anything else easily at hand and everyone’s waiting for the stove to work.  Another approach is to wait until you know what you need and then order the items from the States – I see no evidence you’ll find these NA pigtails and ‘Gaz’ adapters in Europe.  That’s how cruising budgets can really get clobbered unexpectedly, in our experience – the cost of shipping things air freight can be surprisingly costly, plus of course VAT and duty.  And meanwhile, the propane that is aboard gets consumed like clockwork and eventually expires.  Some careful upfront shopping before leaving the States might run up an initial bill…but perhaps a smaller cost to the kitty by the time the cruise is over, with a lot less frantic hassle in the interim.  And as I mentioned earlier, how many systems on your boat are more important than your stove?


© Jack Tyler – October, 2003

WHOOSH, wintering in St. Katharine’s Haven, London

Additional Notes on Using LPG in Europe



Revisiting Propane Tank Storage & Hook-ups:  November, 2003


As we have a chance to spend time with cruising sailors who have been in Europe for quite some time – and such is the case while wintering in London – we learn about ‘second level’ techniques, ideas and approaches that further refine the boat systems to the Euro infrastructure.  One such source of clever ideas are Judy & Bob Bailey on their Westsail 32, POOH BEAR.  (You might remember the name from the cell phone/internet write-up, as we met Judy & Bob in Florida a year ago and began receiving helpful tips from them back then.  Now we find ourselves sharing the winter together here in London, our first winter here but J&B’s fourth!)


You’ll recall the description of the two main LPG vendors in the UK:  Calor Gas, the vendor that’s best penetrated the marine market, and Flo-Gas, the newly formed conglomerate who’s presence now rivals Calor throughout the country.  POOH BEAR arrived in the UK with the typical compliment of a single-stage regulator and two American aluminum tanks.  Since then, they’ve cruised around the British Isles (including Scotland and Ireland) and also cruised Scandinavia (from as far north as Bergen in Norway and down through the Dutch Canals).  Over time, Bob discovered that sometimes using a Calor tank was most convenient, while other times Flo-Gas was the easiest vendor to work with (e.g. as they now winter in London).  At still other times when they were in Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands, he and Judy found they were able to have their American tanks filled.


Several years ago their LPG regulator failed and, when replacing it, they chose a Two-Stage Regulator (such as Trident’s #12301411) which offers dual gauges and outlets on the low-pressure side and a valve that permits you to switch between one connected tank and another.  They did this so they could cruise the UK coast with one Calor tank and one Flo-Gas tank in their locker, and always be assured of having a suitable tank to exchange with the most convenient vendor regardless of where they were.  When arriving in Norway, they continued to use their UK tank on service while hunting for an American tank refill…and when they succeeded, the American tank went into the empty space provided by the last UK tank they’d finished up.  As they headed back to the UK to again winter, they were able to make sure they came back with at least one full American tank – a prudent idea if the local Flo-Gas vendor had a short-term delivery problem of some kind (which in fact, happened shortly after they arrived).


But the advantages of this arrangement go beyond the UK.  If your cruising plans include crossing the Channel in the course of one season, visiting France for a portion of your time and England’s coast as well, this option would allow you to carry both a Gaz (butane) cylinder and a LPG tank in your locker, providing yet another way to straddle two totally different LPG supply systems.  All you would need are modified pigtails to accommodate each tank.  Since some boats leave the Azores with plans to cruise up the Iberian coast and sample France’s Biscay ports before arriving in the UK, such an arrangement would seem ideal for them.


A dual output regulator is more pricey and so one – as always – has to weigh to value of such flexibility against the length of time one is planning on cruising here.  But this seems to be a clever alternative that I thought worth mentioning.

2009 Update:  Here's information on another way to refill North American LPG tanks in England, sent to us from folks currently visiting Britain aboard a USA sailboat.  Since LPG on their boat is used by both the stove and the refrigerator, they go through a LOT of LPG...and they preferred not to use British LPG tanks as filling could become a part-time job.

 "Eventually we stumbled across a pretty nifty adaptor, and we can now fill our propane tank at any Auto-gas filling pump (most towns of any size seem to have at least one petrol station with an AutoGas dispenser.  It is easy and cheap too.  We got the adaptor from an EBAY provider - and it connects to our US POL tank fitting - leaving a free UK AutoGas fitting to load up with at the pump.

Unfortunately the Autogas fitting is NOT standard throughout Europe, but we will simply get another adaptor when we move the boat to France.  Another possible downside is that the fill may not be 100% propane but a mix of propane/butane - I've been unable to find any real facts here.

 As LPG powered cars are becoming more common, the filling stations too will be easier to find.

Thanks again for the most helpful web site.

SV Footprint"


© Jack Tyler – November, 2003-August, 2009