Methane (CH4) is the principal component of natural gas, a significant source of energy for heating buildings or producing electricity. It also has its downsides as it is found in coal mines where it presents dangers because it burns and can be explosive at certain levels. Methane is also emitted from animals like cows and sheep that chew their grass (ruminant animals), and it is discharged from landfills from the decomposition of garbage, both of which emissions contribute to global climate change. While methane traps heat more than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), by weight, it lasts for a shorter period of time in the atmosphere, from 9-15 years, in contrast to CO2 that lasts for hundreds to thousands of years.
Recently methane has received a good bit of attention as a result of a documentary, Gasland, which investigated a process of extracting natural gas called fracking and where it was shown that water from faucets caught fire as a result of methane infiltrating the homeowner’s water source. A recent study has found methane contamination of drinking water attributed to shale-gas extraction in Pennsylvania and New York. Dissolved methane in drinking water is not currently classified in the United States as a health hazard by ingestion (very little research has been done on this issue) but it is an asphyxiant in enclosed spaces (like coal mines) and is an explosion and fire hazard.
Companies are currently exploring the possibility of fracking in Ireland.
Some further ideas to explore on Methane:
Identify the areas in Ireland that are potentially subject to fracking.
What environmental laws and regulations apply to methane emissions from animals and fracking.
How can methane contamination of drinking water be prevented or remedied if it occurs.
“Fracking” See entry in iePEDIA section of irish environment and the article “The Pennsylvania Experience With Methane Extraction, or Fracking,” by Jim Morris in the Articles section of irish environment.
Osborn, SG, A Vengosh, NR Warner, RB Jackson, “Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (May 17, 2011). www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172
Robert B. Jackson, Brooks Rainey Pearson, Stephen G. Osborn,
Nathaniel R. Warner, Avner Vengosh, Research and Policy Recommendations for Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale-Gas Extraction (Duke University)
See, also, “Enteric Fermentation,” in the iePEDIA section of irish environment