Methane and the Environment

Natural gas, which primarily consists of methane, is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. When methane is produced from non-fossil sources such as food and green waste , it can literally take carbon out of the air. Methane provides a great environmental benefit, producing more heat and light energy by mass than other hydrocarbon, or fossil fuel, including coal and gasoline refined from oil, while producing significantly less carbon dioxide and other pollutants that contribute to smog and unhealthy air. This means the more natural gas is used, in place of coal, to generate electricity or instead of gasoline to fuel cars, trucks and buses, the less greenhouse gas emissions and smog related pollutants are produced.

However, methane that is released into the atmosphere before it is burned is harmful to the environment. Because it is able to trap heat in the atmosphere, methane contributes to climate change. Although methane’s lifespan in the atmosphere is relatively short compared to those of other greenhouse gases, it is more efficient at trapping heat than are those other gases. And while there are natural processes in soil and chemical reactions in the atmosphere that help remove methane from the atmosphere, it is important for all human activities that contribute methane to the atmosphere to be conducted in ways that reduce their methane emissions. This includes the development of processes to capture methane that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere and use it as a fuel. For example, methane from waste water treatment plants or dairies can be captured and used as a fuel to reduce the amount of methane entering the atmosphere as well as reduce dependency on fossil fuels.