Expected Storage Life for Emergency Fuels

Preparing for emergencies can be a bit daunting. Not knowing when disaster will strike makes keeping emergency supplies fresh and viable a challenge. As you plan and begin to store fuel it is important to understand which fuels have the longest shelf life. Whenever practical it is a good idea to lean toward fuels with an indefinite shelf life.

Which fuels have the longest shelf life? Propane, alcohol, wood, and charcoal are examples of good emergency storage fuels that can be stored indefinitely and still remain viable.

The more appropriate question is which fuel has the longest shelf life and will meet my needs. For instance:

Fuel options to power an emergency generator may include:

  1. Gasoline – shelf life less than one year
  2. Diesel – shelf life 18-24 months
  3. Propane – indefinite shelf life
  4. Natural gas – indefinite shelf life (when available)
  5. Solar – indefinite and renewable

Fuel options for emergency alternative heating for your home during a power outage include:

  1. Firewood – indefinite shelf life
  2. Propane – indefinite shelf life
  3. Alcohol – indefinite shelf life
  4. Kerosene – 5-year shelf life

Fuel options for emergency alternative cooking without electricity options may include:

  1. Firewood – indefinite shelf life
  2. Propane – indefinite shelf life
  3. Alcohol – indefinite shelf life
  4. Solar – indefinite and renewable
  5. Butane Cartridges – 8-year shelf life

The potential energy in the fuel and availability also comes into play when determining which fuel may be the best choice for your emergency preparations with fuel shelf life being only one of the factors to consider. The ability to safely store the fuel should also be a primary consideration. Visit How to Store Fuels Safely for Emergencies to learn the best methods for storing emergency fuels.

All factors being equal, it would make sense to focus on storing the fuels with the longest shelf life and the fuels that are the most stable in storage. In this post, we will highlight the usable life of popular fuels that are stored for emergency preparedness.

Indefinite Shelf Life Fuels

Surprisingly there are several fuels that can be stored almost forever as long as you provide them with the ideal storage environment.


Alcohol is a fantastic storage fuel with an indefinite shelf life when stored unopened in the original container. It will lose potency once opened as the alcohol evaporates quickly.

Learn more about alcohol as a fuel source at Alcohol Stoves – Safe to Use Indoors or Outdoors and Best Alcohol Cooking Fuels for Campers and Preppers.


Butane gas has an almost indefinite shelf life. However; the cartridges may rust and the valve seal will deteriorate over time. A leaky butane cartridge can potentially cause a dangerous situation.

The manufacturer of one butane canister only recommends a shelf life of 8 years if stored in a cool, dry location.

Learn more about cooking with butane on our post, Butane Stove: Portable and Convenient Power Outage Cooking. 

Charcoal Briquettes

Your trusty backyard barbeque charcoal briquettes will store just about forever if kept dry. Charcoal may absorb moisture over time which will render it useless. To renew the charcoal simply lay it out in a single layer on a hot sunny day and allow it to dry out. Repackage the charcoal in a moistureproof container.

To learn more about storing charcoal briquettes read, Charcoal – The Biggest Bang for Your Fuel Buck. Or check out our post, Charcoal: Inexpensive Fuel for Outdoor Emergency Cooking.


Firewood has an indefinite shelf life. The energy output when burned will slowly decrease over time. Dry, seasoned firewood is a very safe storage fuel and one of my favorite options for emergency preparedness.

Learn everything you need to know about harvesting, storing, and burning firewood at All About Firewood: Great Fuel for Heating Without Electricity. 

Fuel Tablets

Fuel tablets can fuel a small cooking fire or can be used as fire starters. Most fuel tablets have an indefinite shelf life and will store safely in original packaging for many years.

Natural Gas

Natural gas has an indefinite shelf life. However; it is not a good option for home storage. The properties of natural gas do not lend itself to storage a household tank. It may be an option for some power outages as long as it is available. Consider it as a backup bonus and be prepared to use natural gas when possible.


Propane will never go bad. It has an indefinite shelf life and will not degrade through any natural process. The shelf life of propane is limited only by the container. Any expiration date on propane is referring to the gas cylinder inspection date and not the propane itself.

High quality galvanized propane tanks can last for 30 years or more. Store them correctly to prevent exterior rust from developing to extend that life. Aluminum and composite cylinders are not at risk for rust. Use only high-quality valves and fittings.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are made out of compressed wood and have an indefinite shelf life if stored in a dry place out of direct sunlight.

5-Year Shelf Life Fuels

These fuels have an average shelf life of about 5 years. Storage conditions can increase or decrease the actual useable life of the fuel.


Kerosene has a shelf life of up to 5 years when stored in original packaging or an approved container. As kerosene ages, condensation adds water to the kerosene. Bacteria and mold will create sludge and break down the fuel. The life of kerosene can be extended by adding a fuel stabilizer annually.

MRE Heaters

MRE heaters have an optimal shelf life of about 5 years. After that time, the chemical reaction will take longer to occur and it will not heat up quite as hot.

2-Year Shelf Life Fuels

The fuels in this section have a short shelf life of approximately 2 years. Storage conditions play a significant role in the actual shelf life.

Coleman Fuel/White Gas

White gas will store for 5-7 years in the original container if unopened. Once opened the fuel will remain viable for up to 2 years.


Diesel fuel has a shelf life of 18-24 months in optimal storage conditions. Exposure to water, air, and heat will shorten that shelf life. That life can be extended by using a fuel stabilizer annually. It is best to rotate the fuel within 1-5 years and replace with fresh fuel. Low Sulphur diesel fuel can last at least 5 years and possibly up to 10 years in underground storage with regular inspection and intervention with appropriate additives.

According to BP in an article on Long Term Storage of Diesel: Diesel will store for 12 months or longer at 68° F (20°C). It will only last 6-12 months at an ambient temperature higher than 86° F (30°C).

Short Shelf Life Fuel

This fuel has a shelf life of less than one year. Storing large quantities for emergencies is not practical.

Gasoline (Unleaded)

Gasoline has a short shelf life and will degrade and develop gummy resin deposits and layers of varnish. Using stale fuel can corrode system components and damage equipment.

You can count on gasoline being good for 6-9 months when stored in an airtight container. The shelf life of gasoline can be extended by adding a quality fuel stabilizer.

Best Fuel for Emergency Preparedness

The best fuel to store for emergency preparedness is the fuel that best meets your unique needs and that you can safely store until it is needed. To learn more about how to safely store popular fuels check out this post, Where Can I Safely Store Popular Fuels for Emergencies?

Whenever you have the choice, all other factors being equal, select the fuel with the longest useable storage life. Rotating fuels that you do not normally use in your daily life can be a challenge as well as expensive. Practice using both the fuel and the devices you intend to use when the power goes out.

What is your plan to fuel your world when disaster strikes? Carefully consider your options. It is important to have a viable fuel ready and waiting when you need it.

One important point to remember is that you are not trying to maintain your current lifestyle. You only need enough fuel to cover your basic needs until life can return to normal.


Thanks for being part of the solution!


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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