Beware of Blue Rhino Propane Tank Exchange

sscutchenMarch 5, 2004

I had posted this information on the Appliances forum in a thread about gas grills. Thought I would post it here as well for reference.

Beware if you plan to use the Blue Rhino tank exchange service for buying propane. Blue Rhino is installing valves on their tanks that can only be refilled by Blue Rhino, meaning that you will be locked into their tank-for-tank service, and won't be able to get the tank refilled at your local propane dealer.

I noticed this because I was in the process of exchanging a non-OPD tank for an OPD tank through Blue Rhino at my local Sears Hardware. I also needed a different connection; mine was the sliding sleeve quick connect connection that Weber was selling. I had bought a new regulator from Weber with a twist-quick connect, and needed a tank with that valve.

I was fortunate and noticed on the label on the tank sleeve that the tank was to be refilled by Blue Rhino only. Turns out that is a requirement, not a request.

Blue Rhino is not only installing OPD valves, they are installing their OWN proprietary OPD valves, called Tri-Safe II valves. You can identify a TSII valve by the little triangular indentation on the side of the valve. In order to get flow IN to a TS2 valve, a magnetic key must be inserted into the indentation to hold a steel ball out of the way.

A guy named Mark Sharp received a letter from Blue Rhino confirming this information. Here's the text of the letter he received:

"Blue Rhino is the leader in the industry for providing the safest tanks on the market. Some, but not all of our tanks have a special safety device that prevents the refill by anyone other than a Blue Rhino specialist. They are called TS2 cylinders. The reason we designed them is simple. It's for the safety of our consumers!! We stand behind our product. We know how our cylinders are filled and that the highest level of accuracy and safety checks are performed. When our consumers take our cylinders and have them filled elsewhere, we cannot be liable or guarantee the safety of that cylinder. If your tank is not properly filled, damage to your valve can result, which can prevent it from performing properly.

Our business is propane cylinder exchange. We recommend that our customers only exchange because of the safety/liability issues associated with someone else filling our tanks. However, you, as a consumer, are free to fill your cylinder if you wish. Not all of our tanks offer the special safety feature. The way to identify the special TS2 valve tanks that cannot be filled is easy. If your tank valve has a small triangular indention on the side, then it is "tamper" protected. If you prefer to have a tank that can be filled by anyone, take that tank back to any Blue Rhino retailer and exchange it for one that does not have the triangular indention.

For liability reasons, if you choose to refill your tank, please remember to remove the plastic sleeve before having it refilled.

I hope this information helps."

Don't confuse the new OPD valves with the triangular handle with the Blue Rhino-only TS2 OPD valves, also with the triangular handle, but also the little triangular indentation on the SIDE of the valve.

All Blue Rhino tanks now have OPDs and the new three-sided valve handles. (Overfill Protection Device, a float-based device inside the tank)

*NOT* all Blue Rhino tanks have (yet) been retrofitted with TS2 valves.

So there is a chance that you can find (or end up with by chance) a tank from Blue Rhino that is OPD and is refillable at your local propane dealer. But you need to look for the telltale TS2 indention to be sure.

On final bit of information. There are several reports on the net that the tanks filled by Blue Rhino only have 17.5 lbs of propane, not 20. I'm not sure of this. Or whether this is an OPD phenomenon due to possible void space left in the tank by the float interlock. But I thought I'd pass it along as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Usenet Thread including info from Mark Sharp

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    Bookmark   June 13, 2004 at 10:13PM
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Sounds to me like a good way of insuring repeat business!
But, Blue Rhino is the only place nearby where i can get my tank exchanged if i'm in a hurry, so i'm a captive customer, eh!
by: Rustyj

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 12:19PM
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One other thing you should know about Blue Rino is that they don't fill the tanks to their designed capacity. They clearly state on the label that the net weight is 17#, however these are 20# tanks and they can be safely filled to this capacity or very close to it. They will tell you that they can only fill to no more than 80% capacity and this is a true statement.

The new OPD valves are designed to prevent overfilling (no more than 80%), but the tanks can generally be filled with much more than 17#. I know this, because I have had my tanks filled by propane suppliers for many years (including post OPD requirements) and weighed them each time I brought them home. The weight was always within a few ounces of the tare weight + 20.

I was in a hurry and did a tank swap at Walmart recently, which is supplied Blue Rhino in the DFW area. When I got home, it weighed 34.4 pounds. The stated tare weight was 18, so I actually received 16.4 pounds of propane in a 20# tank. With the price of propane these days, I want what I pay for and that's a full tank. No more Blue Rhino for me.

These are strictly my opinions and observations. I am not a gas engineer.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 9:45AM
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These special TS2 valves are only on a very small portion of Blue Rhino tanks. The majority of Blue Rhino tanks can be refilled by any qualified and trained propane supplier.

If you prefer to have a Blue Rhino with a standard OPD valve (as indicated by the triangular hand wheel), simply check the valve. The retail store will allow you to pick the Blue Rhino tank you want.

Also, Blue Rhino fills its propane tanks to 17 lbs. This is because national fire codes prohibit filling tanks to their designed capacity, for safety reasons.

Finally, if you are dissatisfied with a Blue Rhino tank, please return it to the store for a refund or replacement.

Happy Grilling!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 2:59PM
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I'm anxiously waiting a response from Hank Hill,assistant sales manager of Strickland Propane, on the TV show King of the Hill, to chime in with his two cents!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 9:08PM
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You will seldom, if ever, receive 80% (of Water Content-WC) which is what is considered a full tank from any supplier who fills an OPD equipped tank. This is simply because the OPD will close and prevent the tank from being further filled. OPD's are relatively crude mechanical devices and are not calibrated when installed in your tank. They are designed to ensure that the tanks are not over-filled. They will however often result in a tank being under-filled as this is not a safety concern. Now, before getting too upset, a slightly under-filled tank is not a concern, IF you are only charged for the propane received. Make the supplier weigh the tank before and after the fill and determine exactly how much propane you received.

More information on this and other consumer related measurement issues at the supplied link or at

Know your rights - demand fair measurement!

Here is a link that might be useful: Propane Bottle Fill Calculator

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 10:49PM
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1- Refilling may be done at many service stations, garden/nursery center, etc. This is likely to be closer to your home than an exchange location like blue rhino.
2- Tank exchange is much less environmentally friendly than having your tank refilled. Trucking around a bunch of small blue rhino propane tanks is much less efficient than trucking a big propane refill truck that will fill up your local dealer's big tank, then yours. Think about it - by refilling, you completely eliminate the blue rhino mass refill center too.
3- A tank designed and certified by the government as a 20 lb tank should accept a fill for the full 20 lbs. If you pay for 20 lbs don't get 20 lbs, you are getting ripped off and that company is unscrupulously profiteering out of your wallet. Don't do business with them.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 7:00PM
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yeah, dont worry about all the drivers delivering the propane to all of your local stores 6 and sometimes 7 days a week so you can have a nice bar-b-que! Just put them out of a job and let them suffer because you evidently have nothing better to do with your time then to find something to complain about. There is some fault with everything if you look hard enough but i would never try to advertise putting people out of work who have nothing at all to do with the perticulars of filling propane bottles. My son , who is special needs would totally understand me not being to pay for his medical needs with the loss of my job because you could only cook 10 steaks instead of 12!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 10:23AM
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To clear up the misconception:

20 LB tanks can not be filled to a 20 LB capacity. They are not permitted to be filled over 80% capacity due to the possibility for propane to contract and expand.

If you get a fill station that puts more than 80% in they are definitely risking their licenses.

Simple solution - don't prepay when you get your tanks filled. Pay for what they put in, which will never be 20 lbs.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 1:49PM
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And for more information about propane see the link below.

"The attendant will not fill any cylinder beyond 80% capacity - it's the law. If a cylinder is overfilled (beyond 80% capacity), the following potentially hazardous conditions could occur:

* The pressure relief valve may open, discharging propane.
* If the pressure relief valve fails to open, the container could rupture, resulting in serious injury or property damage.
* Propane liquid could enter the piping system for the appliance, resulting in higher than normal pressures to the appliances. "
- from the Propane Gas Association of Canada website (couldn't find the US equivalent, but as I'm Canadian...)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 2:00PM
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A 20 lb tank is designed to hold 20 pounds of propane when filled to 80% according to the most basic training. OPDs were introduced because so many unqualified and/or negligent people were overfilling tanks, which can be very dangerous to say the least. If Blue Rhino ships out tanks with 17 pounds, they have found a way to get paid 12.5% more $$$ per tank, but they probably have their description carefully crafted to deceive buyers. It is well know they have proprietary fill valves designed to screw customers into being captive. Both strike me as a rip off! The stations that charge based on temperature correct gallons or weight are being fair. If you have gas installed at your house already, you can have your gas company run an outlet to your barbecue and be free of the extra cost and many headaches of 20 lb cylinders forever.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 1:36PM
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Cylinders are labeled by how much propane they hold. 10lb tank holds 10 lbs of propane, 20 lb tank holds 20 lbs of propane, 30 lb tank holds 30 lbs of propane. 20 lb tanks are more commonly known as BBQ size tanks. These cylinders are meant to hold 20 lbs of propane @ 80% of the tanks capacity. Blue Rhino is most certainly 'short-filling' their tanks to line their already bulging pockets. Also, Blue Rhino puts a plastic 'sleeve' around its tanks which advocates rapid rusting resulting in an ugly and sometimes unsafe cylinder.

I have worked at a refill station for 10 years now and I can't tell you how many complaints we get about Blue Rhino tanks. It is not unsafe to put 20lbs of propane in a tank, UNLESS that tank is exposed to 120 degrees F or above, at which point, the pressure relief valve with discharge to reduce pressure inside the tank.

You only want 80% of your cylinder filled because propane expands and increases in pressure when exposed to temperatures between 66-119 degrees F. This is why you never want to store a full tank inside. If in the case the pressure relief valve does blow off, and the tank is outside in a highly ventilated area, the propane will dissipate.

Also, propane is heavier than air, so if you do have a leak, the propane will settle in low laying areas. Shut all electricity off and call your fire department if you suspect a leak.

As for this new 'magnetic valve', I have only seen a few up in MA over the past 10 years. I empty the cylinder, and replace it with a fully functional OPD valve (DO NOT TRY THIS IF YOU ARE NOT CERTIFIED), this way it can be refilled wherever the rightful owner of the tank wants it to be refilled.

I can't knock Blue Rhino for its convenience. It's about the only propane you can get at midnight at a 24 hr Stop & Shop. Try finding a refill station open at midnight (never!) If you think Blue Rhino is ripping customers off only filling to 17 lbs of propane. AmeriGas only puts 15 lbs in their exchange tanks!!

With all this said, stay away from Blue Rhino and Amerigas. Blue Rhino is now owned by FerralGas which is the largest propane supplier in America. Support your local mom and pop refill stations. If your using Blue Rhino, your just lining the already rich pockets of corporate America.

God Bless the USA!

Thanks for reading!

-Ben Gaetani

Tanks 2 You Propane

Here is a link that might be useful: Ta nks 2 You Propane

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:01PM
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