The methane is a hydrocarbon Which consists of four hydrogen atoms and a carbon atom. Chemical formula CH4, under normal conditions of temperature and pressure it appears as a gas.
This element is formed when organic matter decomposes. It is also generated in the mines of Coal. It is an odorless and colorless substance in which hydrogen atoms are attached to carbon through a covalent bond.
The digestion and the defecation of cattle; the bacteria present in rice plantations; the extraction of fossil fuels; and swamps are other sources of methane.
It should be noted that methane is the main component of the natural gas. This hydrocarbon is obtained from the mixture of various light gases that have a natural origin. Sometimes it is added helium, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other elements.
Employed as fuel In steam generators and turbines, methane is used by humans for the electricity generation. It is also used as a raw material to obtain methanol, hydrogen and other chemical products.
It is important to mention that methane is part of the so-called greenhouse effect. These are atmospheric gases responsible for the absorption and emission of radiation in the infrared range; The process called greenhouse effect consists of the permanence of part of that radiation in the soil, since the gases return it, and in this way increase its temperature above the natural values.
The presence of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere has grown in the last 5000 years, contributing to the global warming. It has even been detected in the atmosphere from Mars. This discovery, made in 2003, leaves open the possibility of life on that planet.
In more precise data, we can say that in a period of one hundred years, for each kilogram of methane the planet will heat up to twenty-three times more than with the same amount of carbon dioxide. To look on the positive side, we must not overlook that in the Earth’s atmosphere the proportion of carbon dioxide is much higher than that of methane, so that the latter does not contribute as much to the greenhouse effect.
Although it lacks toxicity, methane can become dangerous because it is very flammable: its ignition, therefore, can cause burns. For it to burn, there must be an ignition source and it must be mixed with air in concentrations ranging from 4.5 to 15 percent.
The fact that it is not toxic does not make it a healthy product either, but rather gives us a certain margin of exposure to it without our body being harmed. For example, if by accident or by the characteristics of our workspace we inhale it in small amounts, there are not any risk Of damage. On the other hand, if we are in a closed space and the volume of methane is considerable, it can cause us asphyxiation, since, like natural gas, it is capable of displacing air.
Many natural gas supplier companies offer gas security to avoid these risks. For example, it is common for them to add an easy-to-distinguish odor to gas so that their customers will detect leaks and contact the emergency team immediately.
The reactions Most important of methane are steam reforming to obtain synthesis gas, halogenation and combustion. These reactions are generally not easy to control, something that can be seen in particular with partial oxidation to methanol, which usually progresses to water and carbon dioxide.
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