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Methane Emission Control Strategies to Reduce Global Warming

Updated on May 28, 2020
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The author is postgraduate in Botany and experienced in IPR handling as well as agribusiness management with an MBA, lives in a farmhouse.

Presence of Methane in the Air

Methane is a gas originating from the oil wells. It also comes as emission from the petroleum refineries and natural gas supply lines. As such, methane is present in the environment on minute quantities, measured in the Arctic as 1850 ppb. Since we can find a historical increase of methane in the air and in the absence of concrete methods to eliminate it from the environment, we must follow a proper strategy to reduce its emissions.

Sometime back, methane was considered as the greenhouse gas, which was part of the discussions and debates. A lot of environmental groups these days are deliberating on solving this problem. Nowadays children studying in the school are also very much concerned about the consequences of methane as a greenhouse gas. Because of methane, global warming and depletion of ozone, creation and widening of the holes on the ozone layer are the matters of concern.

Greenhouse Effect

Reviews of the environmental scientists are often not holistic. The suspended gases in the air, because of suspended water vapour, act as a greenhouse. Because of the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum and other smoke emanating fuels, carbon dioxide pollution takes place. Carbon dioxide is also one among the greenhouse gases. Because of the absorption by plants, carbon dioxide is sequestered and utilized by the plants for the preparation of carbohydrates. It is considered that carbon dioxide is not becoming a culprit in the greenhouse effect, as far as the carbon dioxide is utilized by the plants.

Other Greenhouse Gases

Due to various operations of agriculture as well as burning of fossil fuels, nitrous oxide is getting added into the atmosphere. nitrous oxide is also considered a greenhouse gas because of its effect on global warming. Group of gases called fluorinated gases such as sulphur hexachloride, nitrogen trifluoride, perfluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons are also involved in the category of suspended gases in the atmosphere, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. Among these, the chlorofluorocarbons are considered as one of the most dangerous gases involved in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Methane is a major gas which is found in the suspended form in the air as well as in the water.

Sources of Methane

Leakages in oil and natural gas refinery pipelines are said to be the major source of methane, entering into the atmosphere. Use of natural gas in households in some of the countries is also attributed to the presence of methane in the air. This is estimated to be of about 2% of the entire methane emission annually. About 1% of the methane is added to the atmosphere by various high energy engine fuels also.

Landfill gas burning
Landfill gas burning

Farmer's Fields Identified as the Culprit

Cow dung and organic manure were once criticized as the sources of methane in the atmosphere. In animals such as cows, sheep and goats which are called ruminants, methane emission to the atmosphere was found during the process of digestion. During the process of rumination and eructation, methane is getting expelled to the atmosphere, through the mouth of these animals. A category of microbes called methanogens is said to be capable of releasing methane from the cow's stomach. Adding some amount of grains feed, dry hay or processor silage fodder is found to reduce the quantity of methane expelled by the cows.

Organic Farming and Methane

Contribution of methane from paddy fields, burping of ruminating cows, composting organic matters and such other farm activities are all far less responsible and low as compared to the other sources of methane. It is evident from the ecological food-web of the fields, in which living organisms are very sensitive to toxic pollutions that the environment is healthy. If there is any damage to these organisms, which will indicate unsafe environments of farmlands. So we can conclude that farmlands without any foul smell of methane are healthy as compared to the industries and are most unlikely to harm the environment. Even the cows cannot survive if they contain high amounts of methane in their digestive system. These are all promising features of the natural environment. A more detailed account on methane can be read from the related books.

Innovative solutions to climate change challenges are more vital than ever - they are the key multiplier to transformation.

— Qu Dongyu, Director General, FAO.
Puddled paddy fields were considered methane emitters
Puddled paddy fields were considered methane emitters

Uses of Methane

Methane is a highly combustible gas. It is produced in the biogas plants which is burnt as a source of fuel. In the biogas stoves, methane, butane and other gases are burnt to produce the flame. In the natural gas, methane and hydrogen mixtures are used as fuel.

Balancing between Good and Bad

According to the recent analyses from the United States of America, it has been felt that methane is not such an alarming gas, as it was depicted earlier. Its role in global warming is said to be not of such great significance. Sometimes, politically or socially, according to convenience and due to ulterior reasons, pseudosciences manipulate the data and mislead the common people. That should not cause uncertainty to the poor farmers and the hard-working class of people in the third world. They have to be spared from the pseudoscience ammunition.

Methane Emission Mapping

Based on the latest tools of satellite-based imagery, scientists are able to identify methane emission locations in different regions. Based on this the regional governments and environmental agencies can think of methane emission control.

Burning methane through biogas stove
Burning methane through biogas stove

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Future Prospects

Reduction in the burning of agricultural wastes in the field will reduce the emission of harmful gases to the atmosphere. Burning of partially dried biomass and emission of a lot of smoke adds up to the greenhouse gases, including methane and other harmful gases to the atmosphere. Taking advance precautions in the oil and natural gas industry will considerably reduce the leakage of gases like methane. Feeding the cows with a balanced diet including grains will also help in the reduction of methane emission. We must find out ways and means to contain methane emission to zero levels, so that there will not be a further addition, to the atmosphere.

Environmental Consciousness

Since everyone knows that profitable industrialization without taking environmental safety measures is always harmful. Lowering of decaying matter and properly covered composting of organic matter will lessen methane emission during decomposition of biomass with cow dung. Cow dung from the farms may be converted in biogas reactors, from which the gas is completely utilized as fuel for cooking. The methane is thus burnt away without traces forming carbon dioxide. If these minute things are taken care, then the farming sector will never find figured out in the methane emission chart. To cover up the practices of the industry, poor farmers should not be blamed. Despite doing such hard works in the field and feeding the hungry stomachs they are the targetted lot. Contain the giant ghosts, instead of blowing the whistle to tiny harmless creatures.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Halemane Muralikrishna


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