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Saturated Hydrocarbons

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To Burn or Not to Burn

To Burn or Not to Burn

Credit: First Image: Ashley Felton Second Image:John Messina
Source: COMPOSITE IMAGE OF 2 IMAGES: FIRST IMAGE Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Landfill_face.JPG Second Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FISHERMEN_ON_LAKE_GRANDE_ECAILLE_WITH_NATURAL_GAS_WELL_IN_BACKGROUND_-_NARA_-_546001.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The photo on the left is a landfill. The photo on the right is a natural gas well. What do they have in common? The answer is methane.

Why It Matters

  • Methane is a saturated hydrocarbon. One source of methane is decomposing trash in landfills. Methane is also the main component of natural gas, a fossil fuel that is burned for energy.
  • Credit: net_efekt
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/3084756924/sizes/l/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Cows also produce methane through the natural digestion of grasses [Figure2]

     

  • If methane escapes into the atmosphere, it is a very potent greenhouse gas. Like other greenhouse gases, it contributes to global warming. That’s the main reason that methane is captured from landfills. You can learn about capturing methane from landfills by watching this video:

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/12/06/north-texas-landfill-capturing-greenhouse-gas/

Show What You Know

Learn more about methane at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What percent of all human-related methane emissions in the U.S. come from landfills? What proportion of U.S. landfills capture methane?
  2. What happens to methane that is captured from a landfill?
  3. Besides landfills and natural gas wells, what is another major source of methane?
  4. Burning methane produces less pollution than burning other fossil fuels. However, like other combustion reactions, it produces carbon dioxide, which is also a greenhouse gas. Explain which is better for the environment: capturing and burning methane or letting it escape into the atmosphere.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: First Image: Ashley Felton Second Image:John Messina; Source: COMPOSITE IMAGE OF 2 IMAGES: FIRST IMAGE Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Landfill_face.JPG Second Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FISHERMEN_ON_LAKE_GRANDE_ECAILLE_WITH_NATURAL_GAS_WELL_IN_BACKGROUND_-_NARA_-_546001.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: net_efekt; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/3084756924/sizes/l/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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