Methane Is An Accessible Form Of Biofuel
Methane is a highly flammable bio-compound that we can use as fuel for many applications we currently use fossil gas. It is highly accessible cheap to produce and yet not used widely enough. This article will introduce methane (or biomethane), its possible applications, how it’s made, why it is sustainable, and some chemical properties overview. With a lot in common with ethanol, it is another source of biofuel and an interesting source of renewable energy. let’s get down to it.
What Is Methane
Methane (CH4) is a bio compound, with no color. It is highly flammable and composed of carbon and hydrogen which are abundant in nature. It is released as a secondary pollutant out of many man-made processes and is considered to be a greenhouse gas. Methane is the main component in natural gas (a fossil fuel) which powers many power plants and factories.
What Benefit does Biomethane Have?
When produced in a controlled environment, we can obtain methane without waiting for million years as we use it with natural gas. The combustion of methane is relatively clean and produces carbon dioxide and water solely.
It is true that as a by-product it has negative effects on global warming. Although that if we’ll be wise enough to store and use it the potential benefits are remarkable. Biomethane could be sourced as a by-product of domestic sewage treatment and could supply the energy to make this process completely sustainable as one example of infinite options to the potential of this biofuel.
Chemistry Of Methane
It’s a compound of a single carbon atom bonded with 4 hydrogen atoms. It has no color or smells it’s not toxic and extremely flammable and for that makes a great source of biogas. In atmospheric pressure, it’s in a gas form with a boiling point of -161 degrees Celsius. It has a molar weight of 16.04 grams per mol and a density of 0.657 Kg/m^3. It forms naturally in the anaerobic digestion by bacteria.
How Can We Make BioMethane
Unlike fossil natural gas which forms under great pressure for millions of years, we produce biomethane in an anaerobic process in just a few weeks. To start with we take an organic mass from landfills food scraps or waste of water treatment plants and put it in a closed tank with those micro-organisms. This concept can be extremely powerful when implemented into a circular food production cycle. To start we heat the tank to speed up the process and mix the mash frequently without exposing it to oxygen. About four weeks into the process the majority of the mash that can be digested into methane had finished the process and we are left with a clean biogas fuel source and organic matter that we can just bring back to nature. A great video illustrating this process you can find in here.
What Can We Use It For
Since methane is the most dominant gas in what we call natural gas it has meant possible applications. We could power every power plant or factory that now runs on gas without any further adjustments. In the global current situation when we want to shift our emissions as fast as possible the fact that we don’t need to make adjustments to the production lines is a major benefit. Another great benefit is that the raw material would otherwise decompose organically in an uncontrolled environment. Meaning that the methane will just be released into the atmosphere. Since this greenhouse gas, it accumulates in natural “sinks” which later on constantly release it into the atmosphere.
We produce many organic by-products that would otherwise go through this exact process. We have a win-win opportunity to gain energy from this source and at the same time avoid the release of greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Where Do We Use Biomethane Already
As we explained before we can use biomethane for every application we use natural gas. The options are infinite from house heating to electricity production and through the transportation sector. The best example of this potential is in water treatment facilities. Our sewage contains a high volume of organic matter and as part of the treatment process, we produce biomethane. In many of those facilities, the biogas generated is later used to power the plant. It is sort of a circular economy process if you think it through. The benefits are obvious since it’s a pollutant you have to deal with and the fact process requires energy. That leads to a more circular and clean process that can possibly be energetic and neutral.
In the future, we can expect to see biomethane in use on a much wider scale. Being locally produced combined with the fact that the grid for gas transportation is already available gives it a headstart in being used in our homes without us even noticing. Add to this equation the rising prices of gas and the world energy crisis and you get the best conditions for us to adopt such a technology rapidly.
Production and Usage of Methane On A Domestic Scale
In recent years we see wider adoption of domestic biogas production, which is mainly biomethane. You don’t need much to start producing it on your own. The process is very much like domestic composting with the only difference of depriving the organic matter with airflow. Different types of organic waste could generate different amounts of biomass. But at the end of the day, you could use whatever comes in handy. As a rule of thumb, you could expect that a system will produce biogas in a volume equal to its tank. Mother Earth news suggests that a tank of about 750 liters would supply enough power to heat the cooking stove for an hour.
The underline here is that it is definitely achievable. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get off-grid or just to live a more sustainable lifestyle. This multipurpose biogas is within our reach without much of a cost besides the initial setup.
Waste biomatter is a big by-product of man-made lifestyle. Although biomethane is not the only way to deal with waste it is another great tool to deal with it. The benefits vary from cutting down on energy costs to preventing those greenhouse gases to be emitted into our environment. At the end of the day, there is no one solution that fits them all. A wide combination of all those methods could help us build the sustainable future we wish for. The fact that we can use this energy creation method locally and on all scales is a big part of its charm. Together with some of the other methods, we discuss in this blog we can together get yet another step closer to a sustainable way of living.