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Methane gas is also known as landfill gas. It contains about 40 - 60% of methane and the remaining is mostly carbon dioxide. Methane gas may also contain various amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, hydrogen sulphide, and other contaminants. The other contaminants can be divided into two types:
Non-Methane organic compounds – they are present in small amounts (less than 1%). They mostly contain various alkanes and other hydrocarbon molecules.
Non-Methane inorganic compounds – they mostly contain mercury. Sometimes radioactive contaminants such as tritium can be found in methane gas.
The methane gas production is mainly due to the chemical reaction and the action of the microbes on the waste materials that is present in the landfill. There are many factors that influence the rate of production of the landfill gas. Some of them are:
We cannot predict most of these factors. For example the chemical composition may vary every time. Thus it makes the production of the landfill gas more difficult to predict and control.
We may have many risks associated with the production of the landfill gas. But the main two risks are
Risk of fire and explosion
Risk of contamination of groundwater
Risk of fire and explosion: The gases may come in direct contact with the atmosphere because of the continual production of the landfill gas. This is because the pressure increases within the landfill. It may not only cause the problem of fire accidents but also cause problem to environmental hygiene. Many accidents have occurred due to the production of landfill gas. So we have to monitor the production of landfill gas.
Risk of contamination of groundwater: the gas migration in the subsurface may lead to the contamination of the groundwater. The organic compounds present in the landfill gas pollutes the groundwater and make it unfit for drinking.