Methane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless gas at standard pressure and is the primary component of natural gas. It's an attractive fuel source because it burns cleanly and is relatively abundant. Methane is also used extensively in industrial chemistry since it's the precursor for many chemical reactions. Methane is extracted commercially from natural gas and coal, and may also be produced from a variety of chemical reactions. Farmers also can obtain methane on a smaller scale from animal manure and compost.
Extract methane from natural gas. Natural gas is about 75 percent methane, and the extraction process consists of removing all of the other components in the natural gas. This is a complex multi-stage process that removes gases with specific properties at each stage.
Produce methane by burning coal. Raw coal contains at least 15 percent burnable material, which is called bituminous coal. Burning bituminous coal produces methane in commercial quantities along with other gases such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and benzene among many others.
Obtain methane with the Sabatier reaction. This method mixes carbon dioxide with hydrogen to produce methane and water. The Sabatier reaction can use nickel as a catalyst to speed the reaction to a commercially viable rate.
Get methane from biogas. The bacteria that ferment manure, compost and other organic matter in the absence of oxygen produce manure as a by-product. This method is generally not economical on a commercial scale but can be an efficient method of recycling waste products.
Obtain methane from alternate sources. Methane hydrates are available in vast quantities on the sea floor and may provide an economical source of methane in the future.