What is methane?

  • Methane is a gas. One molecule of methane contains one carbon atom, surrounded by four hydrogen atoms.

  • Methane is a greenhouse gas, and is produced by cows and landfill sites.

  • Methane from farms and landfill can be used as a fuel for cooking and heating, and to generate electricity.

A case study video explaining how methane can be produced and used.

What is the impact of methane?

Methane is a compound containing two elements, carbon and hydrogen. It exists naturally as a molecule. Each methane molecule has a central carbon atom joined to and surrounded by four hydrogen atoms. The chemical formula of methane is CH₄.


Cows and other farm animals produce methane, and so does landfill waste. Methane also escapes into the air when coal, oil and natural gas are extracted from the Earth. Humans put more and more methane into the air every year. This is not good news for climate change: methane is a greenhouse gas, so we need to put less of it into the air to slow down global warming.


Some farmers collect methane gas from animal waste. The methane can be pumped into the mains gas system, where it goes to houses for cooking and heating.

Some methane from animal and landfill waste is used to heat water to make steam; this steam drives turbines and generates electricity. If we keep using waste to generate electricity, we will be able to use fewer fossil fuels, which are bad for the environment.