Methane Analyzer and its Importance for Landfill/Biogas Applications

 Methane (CH4) is a chemical compound composed of one part carbon and 4 parts hydrogen in its molecule. It is the main component of natural gas and is an attractive fuel source due its abundance. However, methane is a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide. Being a combustible gas, methane can be recovered as an energy source. Methane is also of great interest in many analytical applications. The most common requirements for methane analyzer occur in landfills, biogas and syngas applications.

How methane is used in industrial processes

  • Electrical generation – by burning it as a fuel in a gas turbine or steam boiler.
  • Vehicle fuel – methane in its compressed form is used as vehicle fuel and considered to be far more environmentally friendly than fuel sources like gasoline and diesel.
  • Domestic cooking – methane is piped into homes for domestic heating and cooking purposes usually known as natural gas or LNG.
  • Rocket fuel –liquid methane is currently selected for the active development of bipropellant rocket engines
  • Chemical industry – methane is converted into synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen through steam reforming.

Methane analyzer at landfills

Landfill gas is a type of biogas that originates from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills. Agricultural waste and effluent from wastewater treatment facilities are also sources of biogas. The process referred to as anaerobic digestion produces primarily methane and carbon dioxide aside from several other gases. Anaerobic digestion is a multi-stage process comprised of microbes and chemical reactions. However, the production of methane in this process presents some challenges due to its global warming potential, its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere and the large amounts produced by human activities. It is for this reason why countries require methane analyzer so that levels of methane gas can be monitored at all landfills and biogas sites.

Safety hazards of methane

Methane is non-toxic but it is extremely combustible and may form explosive mixtures with air. Methane can also be an asphyxiant as it can displace oxygen in an enclosed space. Methane can penetrate buildings and homes near landfills and can expose the resident to significant amounts of methane that can have possible health effects in breathing. Methane in a landfill can be utilized as an energy source to power stationary combustion engines which can generate electricity. The methane analyzer system is frequently required somewhere between the output of the gas supply line and the input of the receiving process to know in advance the specific makeup of the gas.

The methane analyzer will provide a percent by volume reading of methane and carbon dioxide levels. The oxygen readings on the analyzer are also useful in determining if there is an inbound air leak during the collection system.  An analyzer that is equipped with carbon dioxide analysis may be useful in detecting a subsurface fire. Based on the results from the methane analyzers, steps can be undertaken to restore safe conditions and optimize the heating value of the gas produced. 

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