Adsorption of ethane onto activated carbons derived from oil palm shell, bamboo and coconut shell, three abundantly-available agricultural solid wastes, by thermal or chemical activation method was investigated in this paper. Dynamic adsorption in a fixed bed configuration showed that the activated carbons prepared by chemical activation performed better than those by thermal activation. Desorption tests at the same temperature as adsorption (298K) and at an elevated temperature (473K) were carried out to confirm the occurrence of chemisorption on the activated carbons. Surface chemistries of the activated carbons were characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and Boehm titration. It was found that uptaking ethane onto the biomass-based activated carbons was due to different mechanisms, e.g. physisorption, and/or chemisorption, depending on the activation agent and activation method.