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What Is Methanation?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Methanation is the process of creating methane (CH4) by combining gaseous oxides of carbon with hydrogen gas. This process can be performed under a number of conditions but is most commonly used as a treatment for the waste gasses produced by coal-burning power plants and similar facilities as well as during one type of procedure for the manufacture of ammonia. Methanation has two benefits — it removes unwanted carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from exhaust gasses and the materials used for ammonia production, and it results in the production of a useful fuel this is similar to natural gas.

The process of methanation, which is also known as gasification, has been understood for close to a hundred years but has only become common on an industrial scale since the 1970s for removing gaseous oxides of carbon to purify raw materials used in the production of ammonia. In industrial ammonia production, ammonia is synthesized with the aid of a catalyst. The presence of even tiny amounts of carbon monoxide or dioxide in the raw materials can render the catalyst ineffective, greatly lowering production. For this reason, methanation is used to treat the raw material to keep the ammonia synthesis at peak output.

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It is also an environmentally and financially effective method for removing potentially harmful oxides of carbon that a released by coal burning power plants and factories. Hydrogen gas (H2) is introduced to the flow of exhaust gasses in a controlled environment where it combines with the oxides of carbon, producing methane and water. The process must be carefully controlled as the reaction releases a large amount of energy in the form of heat. Many different types of apparatus for methanation have been designed and built over the last one hundred years, but they all operate on the same basic principle of combining hydrogen and oxides of carbon.

The methane produced by methanation is useful as a fuel and industrial chemical. It is the main component of natural gas, a naturally occurring mixture of fossil fuel hydrocarbons that are extracted from the Earth and used as fuel. Methane produced by methanation is known as syngas which denotes its similarity to natural gas without its normally-occurring impurities. It can be used in the same way that natural gas is used.

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