Biothane and its raw material: Methane

Methane

In Biothane, we believe that the future is done of more of renewable energy, and less of fossil energy. And you know what? We can produce renewable energy from many waste products through methane! So we can hit two targets with one bullet! Treating our waste and create renewable energy with it.

How we do that? Well, with many years of experience, we became specialist in producing, extracting, cleaning and converting methane in heat and electricity! We can provide plenty of processes dedicated to different type of waste : food and beverage, dairy, sludge...

With such an experience, our team of engineers acquire a huge knowledge about this renewable raw material, and here we will share it with you!

In general

What is methane?

It is a simple chemical compound, known under this nickname : CH4. It is a gas under normal conditions. It is the simplest hydrocarbon, and it is quite abundant in the natural environment. The combustion of CH4 in air produces carbon dioxide CO2 :( and also water H2O :) with especially, a high energy release!

This gas has no color and no odor. It is approximately twice as light as air, CH4 is explosive in a confined environment. Most part of the time, it is transported in gaseous form, usually by pipeline, or by trucks sometimes. But here at Biothane, we prefer to use it on site! It is safer! (explosions, leaks...)

We could go deeply in questions like : what type of hybrid orbital exists in the methane molecule? Why is CH4 nonpolar? Who discovered methane? Is methane ionic or covalent? Is methane organic or inorganic? What is the CH4 Lewis structure? Well, we know, and wikipedia knows too! Let's talk about general questions and original ones!

Where does the methane come from?

There are different sources of CH4. Vast quantities of it are buried under the ground as natural gas . We can also find it on the ocean floor in the form of methane hydrates , stable at low temperature and high pressure but the quantities are difficult to evaluate.

CH4 is also formed with landfills, mud volcanoes, and also now with artic methane release due to deglaciation. The digestion of livestock, especially ruminants, releases methane. And you too produce CH4! 

Finally, methane is also the main constituent of biogas, created from the fermentation of organic animal or vegetable matter in the absence of oxygen.

How long does methane stay in the atmosphere?

Methane lifetime is rather short - less than ten years - in the atmosphere. It is destroyed by OH - hydroxyl radicals.

Is methane a greenhouse gas?

Yes. And it has much more greenhouse gas potent than CO2 : 28 exactly (global warming potential). It absorbs a portion of the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth, and thus prevents it from escaping towards space. The influence of CH4 on the climate is less important than the CO2 influence, but is still worrying. For now, at its level of concentration, CH4 is responsible for a few percent of the total greenhouse effect at work in our atmosphere. The human-made additions have more than doubled its rate since the industrial revolution, reaching 1.75 ppm (precisely 1,748 ppb in 1998). It tended to stabilize in 2006-2007 before re-growing and reaching a new record in 2012 ( 1,819 ppm , ie + 260% compared to the pre-industrial level). Thus, over a 100 - year horizon, releasing a certain amount of CH4 into the atmosphere has an effect on global warming about 9 times greater than burning the same amount of methane to carbon dioxide (CO2).

What do we do with methane?

Fossil gas reserves contain between 50 and 60% CH4, the raw natural gas is purified before being injected into the distribution network.

In Biothane, we use only renewable methane, also called biogas. It is in full development in many area's in the world. We purify the biogas also before its incineration to collect the calories and heat buildings and cities. With a strong purification, we can also inject it into the distribution network. Our installation contains various biogas generators and plenty of CH4 detectors.

In specific and original

What does methane gas smell like?

Well, as we wrote before, the CH4 itself is a colorless and odorless compound. The odor of gas that you can find at home is due to a chemical odor that is mixed with the CH4. This is done to avoid explosion, for you to smell it and shut done the valve and open the windows.

In the biogas, the odor comes mainly from hydrogen sulfide (H2S), with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs.

How much methane does a cow produce?

A single cow can issue 100 to 500 liters of CH4 daily (5% coming from flatulence and 95% from belching related to rumination ). The amount of CH4 produced varies according to the animal's diet. For example, a dairy cow produce an average of 119 kg CH 4 / cow / year.

Feces (manure barn) who continue their decomposition with a more or less anaerobic digestion depending on the context are also a source of methane.

What else?

We could speak about this theme for hours. If you have any questions, any project, please write us: biothane@veolia.com