What is methane?
SORPA bs. has produced methane from the landfill gas that forms at the landfill at Álfsnes since the year 2000.
In Iceland, as in the rest of the world, methane is known to be a safe, environmentally friendly and economical fuel alternative.
Methane is also used around the world for heating, cooking and electrical power generation. Methane (biomethane) can be produced from all aboveground organic matter. SORPA bs. has produced biomethane vehicle fuel since the year 2000, using the landfill gas that forms when organic matter degrades in its landfill at Álfsnes. Methane is also the main compound in natural gas. Methane fuel extracted from natural gas can also be called prehistoric methane, as it forms in strata from organic matter that once was on the surface. The energy content and properties of the compound (CH4) are the same, regardless of how the compound is formed.
Natural methane is a gas formed when bacteria degrade organic matter in the absence of oxygen (O), in a process known as anaerobic biodegradation (fermentation) of the organic matter. Among the places where these conditions are present are marshes (marsh gas) and wetlands and landfills where oxygen does not reach buried biomass. At SORPA’s landfill at Álfsnes, gas, known as landfill gas, is formed as waste degrades in the landfill. The chemical content of the landfill gas in Álfsnes is usually around 57% methane (CH4), 41% CO2 and 2% other gases.
Around the world, biomethane is produced in special plants from biological waste from households, companies, agriculture and other industries. Energy crops are also widely grown for biomethane production, in which case all of the crop’s biomass can be utilised. Residues from biomethane production are nutrient-rich and can be successfully used for land reclamation or the next generation of energy crops (as fertiliser). Thus, the biomass is utilised to the full and the process is sustainable.
Methane is defined as a greenhouse gas, as each methane molecule (CH4) has approximately 21 times the greenhouse effect of a CO2 molecule. This means that there is a considerable environmental advantage in collecting landfill gas, which is 57% methane, at the waste disposal site, thus preventing methane from entering the atmosphere and causing increased warmth. When landfill gas has been collected, the methane is isolated in a treatment plant, using a special water scrubber technology, resulting in a top-grade, 125–130 octane biomethane fuel for vehicles, with up to 98% purity.
By using Icelandic methane fuel to power vehicles instead of fossil fuels (petrol and diesel), the amount of CO2 which otherwise would have been emitted is reduced considerably. There is no scientific dispute regarding the advantages of using Icelandic methane.