What Are the Uses of Methane?

Methane is utilized as fuel and in chemical reactions to produce commercially used chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride, carbon black and as a source of hydrogen. Methane reacts at high temperatures with steam to yield the hydrogen used in the manufacturing of explosives and ammonia-based fertilizers.

Chemical reactions with this compound also yield carbon tetrachloride, methanol, chloroform and carbon black. Carbon black is used in the rubber of tires as a reinforcing agent. Chloroform is utilized in applications such as coolant and spot remover. Carbon tetrachloride is the active ingredient in fire extinguishers.

Methane is extremely flammable and used as fuel to produce light and warmth. When levels of the invisible gas are as low as 5 percent, the compound is explosive. Odorless, this compound is hazardous due to difficulty in detecting it. Some commercial operations add a chemical scent to methane or monitor for sulfur odors, which indicates methane has reacted with hydrogen sulfide, and levels of the flammable compound are unsafe.

Produced by distillation of bituminous coal, coal carbonation or obtained from natural gas, this compound is an important source of hydrogen. Methane is produced in natural environments by decomposition processes in marshes. Natural pockets of methane exist underground, where it remains for many years unless disturbed. When released, methane evaporates quickly.