Recycling natural gas is the process where newly created methane is used to supplement the commercial natural gas supply. Natural gas is 97% methane and is normally obtained from wells tapping a deep deposit thousands of years old.
New Sources of Methane
We also have sources of methane that occur naturally in a matter of days or a few years. One major source is produced by various farm animals, such as cattle. Beside the methane produced by the animal itself, the manure quickly produces more. Farmers and feed lot operators are using recovery methods to recycle the manure methane to run farm equipment or heat buildings. Municipal waste treatment plants also produce large amounts that can be treated and used on site or sold to a distributor. Breweries also produce methane as a by-product of their processes.
In today's world we have landfills where the cast off garbage and waste are disposed of. After years of receiving that waste they eventually are full and must be covered up with earth and replaced. But that landfill is still active, decomposing the garbage and waste for the next 20 years or so, and through that process creating methane gas, the main component of natural gas. You may have driven past such a landfill at night and seen small blue flames scattered about the surface where they are burning off the naturally created methane.
While all landfills create methane, not all are conducive to capturing and recycling the gas. Older, or less well designed landfills are presently impracticable to reclaim, but with new technologies being developed that may change. Newer landfills are designed to be used in such a recycling program and may be used to produce usable quantities of methane for many years to come. Just like normal natural gas, the bio waste supply contains impurities and must be cleansed of them before being injected into the normal supply of natural gas.
Why Recycle Natural Gas?
While natural gas is 97% methane and is the cleanest burning fossil fuel compared to coal and petroleum, unburnt methane is a great contributor to greenhouse gasses. In addition to the previously mentioned processes, methane is released in the production and processing of petroleum products. Recycling natural gas reduces the overall cost of natural gas to the consumer.
Each of these processes requires a different approach to solve their particular problems, but all are addressable. We might think of this form of methane production as a renewable resource caused by humans, but also usable by humans.