There are several different sources of methane that contribute to climate change. In this article we look at specifically the main sources of man-made methane. We discuss how methane emissions can be reduced, or methane harvested. If methane is collected it can then be used to produce electricity or as gas in people’s homes.

Fossil fuel production, use and distribution

The production of fossil fuels is the largest human contributor of methane emissions. The extraction of coal, natural gas and petroleum each emits a level of methane as part of that extraction process.

Coal is surrounded by methane gas, when the coal is being mined, distributed or crushed the methane gas is released into the atmosphere.

Natural gas is composed of a number of different types of gas, but predominantly methane. When natural gas is being extracted from the ground through drilling some of the gas can escape into the atmosphere. This gas that escapes has a high percentage of methane content. Natural gas is one of the main contributors of methane emissions, every time the gas is extracted, used or distributed some escapes into the atmosphere which can lead to a significant level of pollution.

Oil is another natural resource when extracted or transported can contribute to methane emissions. Oil wells contain methane gas, when extracted this gas is released into the atmosphere.

In order to reduce the methane gas pollution from the production, distribution and use of fossil fuels organizations need to take responsibility for any leaks. They must also closely monitor methane gas levels during these procedures and take steps to minimize their methane emissions. Equipment should be upgraded to reduce the risk of methane leaks, old or worn equipment will be more prone to leaks. Monitoring solutions should also be put in place to help identify any leaks and resolve issues quickly.


Agriculture or more specifically farming using cattle is another huge producer of methane emissions. Cows produce methane as part of their normal digestive process. Methane is also produced from cattle waste and other animal waste.

To reduce the amount of methane cows produce, farmers can use innovative dietary supplements. These supplements are added to the livestock diet to help reduce the amount of methane they produce naturally.

In addition to dietary supplements, farmers can recycle waste produced by cows and other farm animals using anaerobic digestion plants. This is the process in which animal waste and other forms of organic matter are added into a container. The container of waste and lack of oxygen uses anaerobic digestion to break down the matter. As a result of this process methane is produced and can be contained. This methane can be cleaned and used for powering generators to produce electricity or added back into the gas network.

Landfill sites

Landfill sites are another huge producer of methane waste. Landfill waste contains organic matter which degrades and produces methane as part of this process. The methane gas that is produced in landfill sites can be collected through a landfill gas collection system. A landfill gas collection system works by placing pipes, otherwise known as wells directly into the landfill waste below the surface where the majority of methane gas is produced. These wells collect and suck in the gas that the landfill produces. The gas is then taken away from the landfill site into a plant where it can be processed and used as a source of energy.

Many landfill sites still choose not to use landfill gas collection systems and instead flare the gas by burning it on site. This process not only contributes to global warming through the carbon dioxide emissions, but it also is a waste of the methane gas that could have been used to generate power. Flaring is chosen where the methane gas produced is not enough to make it viable to install a landfill gas collection system.

Monitoring methane emissions

As part of each of these processes, methane emissions must be closely monitored to avoid polluting the atmosphere. Landfill sites must also monitor methane production to comply with legislation and avoid dangerous explosions. Surface emission monitors are used to check the levels of gas at the surface of the landfill site. This technology enables quick and easy monitoring of the amount and type of gas being emitted from the landfill. At QED we have a number of gas analyzers and gas detectors suitable for a range of industries and applications.

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