Refined Butane: Why Should We Care?
Although true cigar aficionados love to use wooden matches or cedar spills to light our cigars, we also invest in quality lighters, as many of us like to have a good windproof butane torch lighter available for those moments when matches or cedar spills just won't do.
It is imperative that we take care and properly maintain our torch lighters (see Keep That Flame Alive: Proper Butane Lighter Maintenance). But ensuring the longevity of our investment also includes ensuring that the right butane fuel is used to keep he lighter in the proper working condition. A higher quality butane will not only keep the flame burning, but will contain low to zero contaminants that may clog the lighter's burner valves and cause misfiring and other malfunctions.
The best butane that should be used is one that is filtered several times for optimal purity, as inferior butane will clog a good quality lighter, restricting the flow of butane and causing the lighter to not produce a flame, despite the hissing sound you may encounter indicating that there actually is some flow of gas.
How Butane is Refined
Butane is a natural gas derivative from petroleum and is a fossil fuel that has been formed deep within the layers of the earth over several million years from the remains of prehistoric animals and plants that have decomposed and been covered and compressed by layers of rock and sediment. Once natural gas is extracted, it is unrefined and quite impure. In addition, as natural gas is often dissolved in oil, the oil needs to be seperated from the gas, and subsequently water vapor needs to be extracted as well. Butane, methane, and propane are three natural gas liquids that will then need to be removed from the natural gas by a series of heating and boiling (as each has its own boiling point). Once butane has been extracted, companies that manufacture the highest quality butane for commercial use may require that they receive butane from their suppliers that is at least 97% to 99.5% pure - and even then will still require further significant filtration and purification.
Premium Butane Products
As you consider which premium butane refill products to purchase for your lighter, you should consider some of the following products on the market. XIKAR® claims that their butane "has only 15 parts per million (ppm) of impurities while other brands have 100-400 ppm of impurities" and is "triple refined to eliminate water and contaminants." Lotus® butane products are also triple refined. While Colibri® claims to be 99.9994% pure with less than 6 ppm of impurities, Vector® butane products claim to be of super-premium quality as their butane is "cold filtered through a 14-step process for maximum purity."
Whether you have a single-, double-, triple-, or quadruple flame cigar torch lighter, tabletop or handheld, it is important to remember that using and refilling your lighter with the purest butane is a major step of proper lighter maintenance and should not be compromised, or risk malfunction and the need for either repair or replacement.