Methane (CH4) is the principal component (97%) of natural gas. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas, which is lighter than air. It is formed by the decomposition of organic carbons under anaerobic conditions. Methane is abundant in nature and thus a desirable fuel. However, since it is a gas at normal temperature and pressure, it is difficult to transport from its source. It is generally transported in bulk by pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers.

Natural gas is found with other fossil fuels, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, and landfills. It is an important fuel source, a major feedstock for fertilizers, and unfortunately a potent greenhouse gas.

Methane gas is flammable and therefore should be monitored in enclosed or underground spaces such as mines or power plant. It also poses the danger of asphyxiation, as it displaces oxygen. Also carbon monoxide is a byproduct of methane, so proper ventilation is critical.


Gas Methane Gas Density
Chemical Symbol CH4 Detection Principle Pellistor, Infrared
PEL (ppm) LEL (%) 5
IDHL (ppm) UEL (%)
Industries Coal Mining, Power Generation, Waste Water Treatment, Boiler Rooms description


Industrial Applications

Power generation

Natural gas is often used to generate electricity by means of gas turbines and steam turbines. Most grid-peaking power plants and some off-grid engine generators use natural gas. Recently, methane from coal mines has been successfully converted to electricity.


Compressed natural gas is a cleaner alternative to other automobile fuels such as gasoline or diesel fuel. Fertilizers Natural gas is a major feedstock for the production of ammonia, via the Haber process, for use in producing fertilizers.

Chemical Industry

Methane is the feedstock of choice in the chemical industry for the production of hydrogen, methanol, acetic acid, and acetic anhydride. Other chemicals derived from methane include acetylene, and the chloromethanes (chloromethane, dichloromethane, chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride).

Syngas Production

Synthetic gas, or syngas, is a gas mixture containing varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. It can be produced by steam reforming of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, or by the gasification of coal, biomass, and in some types of waste-to- energy gasification facilities.

The name comes from its use as an intermediate in creating synthetic natural gas (SNG) and for producing ammonia or methanol. Syngas is also used as an intermediate in producing synthetic petroleum for use as a fuel or lubricant via the Fischer-Tropsch process.


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