Overview of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels were formed millions of years ago when plants, animals and other creatures died and buried under the earth. Their remains gradually changed over the years due to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust and formed to coal, oil and gas. These are the 3 major forms of fossil fuels and were formed from the organic remains of plants and animals. Since, they took million of years to form, that’s why they are also called as non-renewable energy sources. This means that they cannot be used again once they are expired. Over several years, these decomposed plants and animals were converted into black rock substance called and coal and thick liquid called oil or petroleum, and natural gas.

Substances that release energy when burnt are called fuels, and the process of burning is called combustion. Heat is the process that makes the release of energy possible when combustion takes place. A fuel may be a solid, a liquid or a gas and the energy from it may be used either directly, as in warming a house, or indirectly under a boiler to make steam for driving an engine. Sometimes the fuel is burn in the engine.

Much of the fuel used in the world is coal. Coal can be used in lumps or ground to powder and taken through pipes to the furnace as is sometimes done in factory and power station boilers. Wood is important in countries without coal. Charcoal is wood that has been charred by heating in an oven without air and is sometimes used for cooking because it is smokeless. Peat is partly formed coal dug out of bogs and marshes. It burns rather like wood but gives more energy. When it burns, it leads to air pollution which is one of the major disadvantage of fossil fuels.

Formation of fossil fuels took millions of years but they disappear within seconds. They are being extracted from all over the world. Coal is one the fossil fuels that is used extensively in the production of electricity. Oil is used to power our vehicles. We all use fossil fuels in our daily in some or other way. like every other thing, fossil fuels too have negative effect on our environment. Carbon dioxide is on the by product of fossil fuels. When burnt they release carbon dioxide and some other gases. Carbon dioxide is one the primary reason for formation of global warming. We are polluting our environment by extracting these fossil fuels and burning them at fast pace. They can’t be utilized again as they are non-renewable. The solution to the above problems is using renewable energy sources including solar, wind and geothermal.

Examples of Fossil Fuels

Petroleum

The most important fossil fuel comes from petroleum, which is natural oil found underground. It is not much used in its natural state but made into fuels such as petrol, paraffin, kerosene, vaporizing oil and diesel oil. These are obtained through the process called distillation. Benzole is a liquid fuel like petrol obtained when is made into gas. The fuel called natural gas, often found where there is petroleum, is a compound of hydrogen and carbon known as methane.

Natural gas was found beneath the North Sea in 1965, and provides about half of all Britain’s gas requirements. The uranium used in nuclear in nuclear reactors is called “fuel” even though the process is not one of combustion. A fuel cell combine’s hydrogen with oxygen in a way that converts the chemical reaction is the same as if there were combustion. Petroleum is one of the most commonly used fossil fuels. The word means “rock oil”. Petroleum and its products are of great use in today’s life. These products include motor fuels, kerosene, diesel oil, wax etc. petrol, of course is used in motor cars. Kerosene is used in oil lamps, farm tractors, jet engine aircraft etc. In villages, kerosene has a very important usage. Diesel oil is used in diesel engine buses, tractors, Lorries, ships and many more vehicles use it. Lubricants are also made from the by-products of petroleum. This is needed to make machinery of any kind run smoothly and easily. Bitumen is used in asphalt and for water proofing

Natural Gas

Another important and widely used fossil fuel is natural gas. It is chiefly methane, sometimes known as marsh gas. Natural gas is normally found underground along with petroleum and coal but sometimes occur by it and are pumped out through pipelines. Once pumped out, they are transported to storage areas or for domestic use. It has been a source of domestic gas for many years. Many people use this gas to heat their homes. It contains a strong odor that makes it easy to smell if there is a leak. They produce comparatively little pollution as against other fuel sources. Since, they are in a liquid state, it is easy to transport them through pipelines. The main drawback of this fuel is that it is highly inflammable. The greatest producers of natural gas are United States of America and Russia.

Coal

Another very important fossil fuel is coal. It is the poor man’s petrol. It has been formed by the deposition of vegetative remains for thousands of years. The fossilized form of the decayed plants and other vegetation has formed coal. Coal is hard black rock solid like substance that need to be dug as compared to oil and natural gas that need to be pumped out. There are huge coal reserved all around the world and it’s easier to find coal then oil or gas.

It is made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur. There are various methods to dig coal from underground. One of the most popular method is to build a horizontal shaft like system and coal miners travel via lifts or trains to dig the coal deep underground. In United States, coal still produces more than 50% of electricity. Once dug, coal is then shipped to coal power stations by trucks or trains. Coal power stations require huge reserves of coal to generate electricity on a constant basis.

Summary

Fossil fuels have been serving as the source of energy for almost all practical purpose of today’s life. They are inevitable in all domestic purposes like cooking, transportation and have many other advantages. However, these are all non-renewable sources of energy. This means there is a limited stock of this fossil fuel. With the increase in population and consequently their consumption, the stock of fossil fuel seems to be approaching its end

Every year millions of tonnes of coal and gallons of oil is used to extract energy from them. The extraction process is done by burning these fossil fuels. Due to the combustion of these fuels, the environment gets highly polluted. The constituents of fossil fuels are sulphur and nitrogen. They are produced in their oxide forms and cause the pollution. This led to the global warming and extinction of these precious resources. Another effect of this is that when coal is dug from the coal mines, it affects the surrounding ecosystem and pose serious hazard to the health of mine workers. However, they are still popular as they are cheaper than any other alternative sources of energy.

References:

http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter08.html

http://home.clara.net/darvill/altenerg/fossil.htm

http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/n_renew/fossil.htm

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.