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What is CH₄?

Methane which has the molecular formula of CH₄

Methane is a colorless, odorless, flammable gas that is the simplest hydrocarbon and is the major constituent of natural gas. Like carbon dioxide, methane is exchanged naturally between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere, however, methane is lighter than air and is removed from the atmosphere primarily through chemical processes involving the chemical hydroxyl radical, OH. These chemical interactions finally produce water and carbon dioxide. A small amount of methane is also absorbed directly by soils. Methane is present in the Earth's atmosphere at low concentrations and acts as a greenhouse gas. Methane, usually in the form of natural gas, is used as feedstock in the chemical industry (e.g., hydrogen and methanol production), and as fuel for various purposes (e.g., heating homes and operating vehicles). Methane is produced naturally during the decomposition of plant or organic matter in the absence of oxygen, as well as released from wetlands (including rice paddies), through the digestive processes of certain insects and ruminant animals such as termites, sheep and cattle. Methane is also released from industrial processes, fossil fuel extraction, coal mines, incomplete fossil fuel combustion, and garbage decomposition in landfills.

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