Methane (CH4) is a colourless and odourless gas formed by the oxygen-free degradation of organic material. Methane was detected in the 1770s by Alessandro Volta, who invented an electric capacitor, among other things.

Methane – short-lived greenhouse gas

Methane is a greenhouse gas, so it has a certain environmental impact. Methane gas accounts for 7 per cent of Finland's total greenhouse gas emissions. The gas is calculated into short-lived greenhouse gases and lasts only 8 years in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide, which means that it does not accumulate in the atmosphere. This is due to the fact that methane molecules react to the so-called 'carbon dioxide and water-producing' molecules. hydroxylic ions (OH-). Today, methane accounts for almost a third of global fossil fuel use. The growth of methane in the atmosphere has almost doubled in the last 100 years, but has been falling since the 1980s, which is believed to be due to changes in emissions.

In oxygen-poor environments – and ruminant animals

Methane is formed, for example, in oxygen-poor environments such as peatlands, rice fields and landfills. Other sources of methane include ruminant animals such as cattle. Global warming has led to the melting of methane hydrates in frozen sea bottoms and the Arctic tundra, which today is a major source of methane. Sediments at the bottom of the eastern Siberian sea contain 200 times more methane than in the atmosphere.

Areas of use

Methane is used e.g. as a fuel and in the chemical industry. Methane is highly flammable and poses a serious risk of explosion in the mines where it occurs naturally. Methane sold for commercial purposes is mixed with foul-smelling sulphur mixtures, such as ethyl mercaptan, so that it can be detected in the event of leakage. Fossil fuels also contain large amounts of methane, which is why methane is burned, for example, in oil production to reduce the risk of explosion.