What is methane and what applications does it have?

Methane (CH4) is a simple alkane hydrocarbon and the main component of natural gas. It is an attractive fuel that fits well to the existing infrastructure. For instance, it may be used directly to heat homes and commercial buildings by feeding into the existing gas network which in many countries has significant gas storage capacity.

Methane may also be used in the generation of electric power or as a transportation fuel in gas vehicles. Because of its simplicity and lack of additional compounds, methane is cleaner than other hydrocarbon fuels to combust. It has the highest energy density per carbon atom and therefore produces the least amount of carbon dioxide per unit of energy. In addition, unlike other fuels, methane combustion results in basically no nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, or particulate matter being released into the atmosphere. As a result, methane can be considered a sustainable alternative for substituting fossil fuels, as well as a more attractive choice than other biofuels.

Methane can be produced from inputs of carbon dioxide and hydrogen

Methane may be produced by reacting carbon dioxide and hydrogen in a Sabatier reaction: CO2 + 4H2→ CH4 + 2H2O. This reaction chain can be catalyzed by two alternative ways: biologically at lower temperatures by hydrogenotrophic methanogens or inorganically at elevated temperatures and pressures in the presence of a nickel catalyst. Our technology is based on biological conversion.

Methanation is particularly attractive in that the reaction occurs with the aid of CO2, which is consequently not discharged into the atmosphere during the production cycle but converted into methane. The unique reactor design of Q Power enables a highly efficient gas transfer and biological efficiency without the use of pressurizing or mixing.

Globally the most energy-efficient technology for methane production

The process is both energy and cost-efficient: the bioreactor does not require mixing, pressurizing or constant fluid pumping. The temperature of the process is only around 50 to 70 °C (120 to 160 °F), while catalyst technologies, for instance, require a temperature of several hundred degrees. There is also no need for constant laboratory surveillance.

The technology has excellent energy efficiency. 83 % of hydrogen inputs’ energy gets transformed into methane by the microbes. Methane also solves the need for storing renewable energy: it functions as a gas storage from which energy can be fed back to the power grid through a generator. Its utilization level is also superior to other methanation technologies, and it is more efficient in storing electricity than battery technology.

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