Methane Gas | Properties | Uses | Facts - Elements and Compounds


Thursday, May 4, 2023

Methane Gas | Properties | Uses | Facts

Properties Uses and Facts about Methane

    What is Methane

    Methane is a chemical compound. Methane is the simplest member of the paraffin series of hydrocarbons and the simplest alkane. Its chemical formula is CH4, that is, one molecule of methane is made up of one atom of carbon and 4 atoms of hydrogen. Methane is a highly flammable gas, it is the main component of natural gas. It is also found in small amounts in the Earth's atmosphere, and is the most powerful of the greenhouse gases.

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    Properties of Methane Gas

    • Methane is a colourless, odorless and highly flammable gas.
    • Methane is a gas lighter than normal air, its density is 0.657 kg per cubic meter.
    • Methane is found in gaseous state at normal temperature. Its melting point is -182.5 °C, the boiling point of methane is -162 °C.
    • On burning methane, it produces a blue colored flame, whose temperature is about 1960 degree Celsius.
    • On burning methane, carbon dioxide gas and water are produced.
    • Methane is generally a stable gas, but 5 to 15 percent of methane in air is highly explosive.
    • Methane is somewhat soluble in water.
    • The structure of methane is tetrahedral, in which one carbon atom is located between four hydrogen atoms, the hydrogen atoms are located at an angle of 109.5 degrees to each other and are equally spaced.
    • Methane gas is not toxic.

    Uses of Methane Gas

    • Methane is considered the least polluting of all fossil fuels, so the most important use of methane is as a fuel. Methane is a very flammable gas, most of the natural gas is methane gas, so nowadays methane is used in vehicles, gas stoves, water heaters, ovens and also to keep the house warm.
    • Liquid methane along with liquid oxygen is used as a fuel in rockets. Apart from this, liquid methane is being used with liquid oxygen in place of liquid hydrogen in some spacecraft. Because hydrogen is a very light gas, the density of hydrogen is very low even in liquid state. Therefore, to keep the engines of the spacecraft running for a sufficient time, a large amount of hydrogen gas is required, which requires a very large storage tank to store it. More than 70 percent of any spacecraft is only its hydrogen tank. Methane is a much heavier gas than hydrogen, so storing the same amount or weight of methane requires a much smaller tank than hydrogen, reducing the weight and size of the spacecraft .
    • Methane is used in electricity generation, for this methane is used as fuel in a gas turbine and the turbine drives an electric generator. Apart from this, water vapor is made by burning methane and steam-turbine is run, which makes electricity by running the electric generator.
    • Incomplete combustion of methane results in carbon black, which is used in the automobile industry as a reinforcing agent in the rubber used for tyres.
    • Methane is used in the production of hydrochloric acid, methanol, chloroform, and plastics.
    • Methane is used in the production of ammonia gas, which is used in the manufacture of fertilizers and explosives.
    • Methane is also used for hydrogen production. For this, high-temperature steam (which has a temperature of about 700 to 1100 °C) and methane are reacted, resulting in the formation of hydrogen, carbon-mono-oxide and a small amount of carbon-di-oxide gas.
    • Methane is used in industries as an antifreeze component.

    Sources of Methane

    • The biggest source of methane is wetlands. More than 30 percent of the methane produced on Earth is generated by wetlands. This methane is produced by wetlands including ponds, lakes, dams and rivers. Due to the presence of water in the wetland and lack of fresh air, the vegetation and dead organic matter present in the wetland start to rot or decompose, resulting in the generation of methane gas in large quantities.
    • Another most important source of methane is termites, during the digestion process of termites, methane gas is formed. Termites eat cellulose, and termites depend on the microorganisms present in their intestines to digest it. These microorganisms produce methane gas during the digestion process, thus each termite produces a small amount of methane per day. The number of termites on the earth is very high, so about 10 to 12 percent of the total methane produced naturally on the earth is produced by termites.
    • The ocean is also an important source of methane. Microorganisms present in the oceans produce methane in large quantities. This methane produced by microorganisms mixes with sea water, which is then emitted from the sea surface into the atmosphere.
    • A large amount of methane is emitted during the mining of coal. During the formation of coal in the land, methane gas is also formed, which remains buried between the layers of coal, this gas comes out during coal mining. For this reason, methane gas is the biggest cause of fire in coal mines.
    • Producing fossil fuels also emits large amounts of methane, a naturally occurring gas beneath the Earth's surface.
    • Methane is also produced due to the cultivation of crops that require a large amount of water, because such crops are always filled with water, due to which there is a lack of oxygen and the organic matter present in the land starts decomposing. And it produces a large amount of methane gas.
    • A large amount of methane gas is also produced due to animal husbandry or animal farming, when animal waste decomposes, methane gas is also produced.
    • Methane gas is produced when any type of organic waste rots or decomposes.

    Facts about Methane Gas

    • Methane is the most potent greenhouse gas. Methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon-dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.
    • Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas produced by human activities after carbon dioxide.
    • At certain places in oceans, at low temperature and proper pressure, methane and water molecules combine to form a crystalline solid structure, which is called gas-hydrate or methane-hydrate. It is similar to white snow in appearance, but it contains a large amount of methane gas. In the depths of the oceans, its layers can be several hundred meters thick, but it is not very stable around shallower deep seas and marine sediments, as it evaporates into a gas at low pressure. Gas-hydrate is considered to be a huge source of fuel. According to an estimate, the amount of energy present in the reserves of gas-hydrates present in the Earth's oceans, can be twice the combined energy of the reserves of coal, gas and oil currently in use.

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