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I've always wondered if it was any better (in terms of emissions reduction) to burn methane that would otherwise be released in the atmosphere? I suspect it would be, given that methane is a more potent GHG than the CO2 released in the combustion of said methane. Can somebody provide a quantified comparison of both outcomes in terms of CO2e released? Thank you.

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    If you don't get a good answer here, this question would also be welcome on Earth Science.
    – gerrit
    Aug 17, 2022 at 14:53

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That's easy.

Methane molecule is 16.042 grams and carbon dioxide molecule is 44.01 grams. Burning methane produces one carbon dioxide molecule per one methane molecule.

If you burn 16.042 grams of methane, you get 44.01 grams of carbon dioxide. Or in other words: if you burn 1 kg of methane, you get 2.7434 kg of carbon dioxide.

If you release the methane, you have to consider the timescale.

In a very long timescale, over 10000 years, methane converts to carbon dioxide when in the atmosphere so it's 2.7434 kg of carbon dioxide.

But for most interesting timescales, 20 and 100 years, it's 86 in 20 years and 25-30 in 100 years.

I think the most important timescale is 20 years due to the fact that dangerous climate change is happening way too fast, and in that timescale, 1 kg of methane is worth 86 kg of carbon dioxide.

I'd pick burning it (2.7434 kg of carbon dioxide) over releasing it (86 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent).

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  • Wonderful, thanks a lot!
    – pea
    Aug 18, 2022 at 10:45

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