Gas Library

methaneMethane (CH4)

Methane is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel. However, because it is a gas at normal conditions, methane is difficult to transport from its source.


Methane is a relatively potent greenhouse gas. The concentration of methane in the Earth's atmosphere in 1998, expressed as a mole fraction, was 1745 nmol/mol (parts per billion, ppb), up from 700 nmol/mol in 1750. By 2008, however, global methane levels, which had stayed mostly flat since 1998, had risen to 1,800 nmol/mol.[4]

Methane is used in industrial chemical processes and may be transported as a refrigerated liquid (liquefied natural gas, or LNG). While leaks from a refrigerated liquid container are initially heavier than air due to the increased density of the cold gas, the gas at ambient temperature is lighter than air. Gas pipelines distribute large amounts of natural gas, of which methane is the principal component.