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How is fossil fuel formed?

Generally speaking, oil and gas are formed from the organic remains of marine organisms
which become entrained within sea-floor sediments. Coal, by contrast, is typically formed
in non-marine settings from the remains of land vegetation.
Oil and gas formation begins with the accumulation of organics on the sea-floor; these are
the dead remains of organisms living in the water column, such as microscopic plankton,
which rain down on the sea floor below. This will only occur in rather unusual settings,
where the sea floor is stagnant such that there is no oxygen present to break the organic
remains down and no sea-floor dwelling organisms present that might feed on the
organics. A high sediment accumulation rate may also help to bury the organics before the
action of decay can break them down. As the sediment pile becomes deeper the organics
within it are subjected to heat and pressure which leads to formation of oil and then gas.
For oil and gas extraction, it is important that the source rock is not 'over-cooked' or the
hydrocarbons will be destroyed. There must be suitable reservoir-rock, such as a porous
sandstone, into which the hydrocarbons can migrate and accumulate. This must be
overlain by an impervious cap-rock, such as a clay, which prevents the hydrocarbons from
escaping to the surface. Finally, the geometry of the reservoir and cap-rock bodies must be
such that the hydrocarbons become trapped; usually folding will suffice.
Coal typically forms on land from vegetation in lowland, swampy, mire environments.
Stagnant waterlogged soil prevents the accumulated plant debris from breaking down. The
recognizable remains of plants are often visible within coals and associated shales,
confirming their plant-origin. The picture above shows a piece of coal containing a network
of fossilized fern leaves - clear evidence that it was formed from vegetable remains.
The accumulated plant debris initially forms a material known as peat. The geological
processes of burial beneath later sediment and alteration by heat and pressure convert the
peat to coal; a process known as coalification. Fossil fuels are burnt to release energy in
the form of heat. This energy can be used to power cars, produce electricity, heat homes,
cook food to name but a few.

Environmental impact of fossil fuel

The most obvious environmental impact from the oil and gas industry is the burning of oil,
which releases several smog- causing pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to
global warming. However, the act of exploration and drilling for oil and gas also poses a
major threat to fragile ecosystems throughout the world. In recent years, we have seen oil
spills destroy communities, soil beaches, and kill countless numbers of birds, marine
mammals, fish, and other wildlife. Though it happened over two decades ago, the Exxon
Valdez spill continues to affect the ecology of Alaska. Worse yet, we still do not know the full
extent of the damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite these disasters, as our energy demands continue to grow, we continue seeking oil
and gas offshore, putting coastal communities, wildlife, and ecosystems at great risk.
Onshore, the building of roads, drilling facilities, and pipelines to support oil recovery
operations can severely impact the local ecosystem by fragmenting public lands, displacing
wildlife, and destroying habitat. Oil spills, fires, and other pollution contaminate surface and
ground water.
Onshore pipelines cause severe erosion that damages rivers and tributaries and threaten
fish species. Offshore drilling poses several risks to the environment including severe
disturbances to marine ecosystems, oil spills, and oil tanker accidents. Oil spill incidents
near drilling platforms kill marine organisms and birds and lead to coastal contamination.
Seismic testing during oil and gas exploration also has particularly harmful impacts to
whales and fisheries.

Burning fossil fuels, especially coal, is a dirty process. Incomplete combustion of


coal and oil produces particulate matter. Heavier particulates produce an annoying
dirty grit, and lighter particulates can be inhaled deeply and become a health
hazard. In addition to the desired combustion of organic molecules, impurities such
as sulfur also burn and produce potentially dangerous oxides. Since the air is made
of 80% nitrogen, nitrogen is combusted along with the fuel at high temperatures,
releasing nitrous oxides. Since fossil fuels are composed mainly of carbon by
weight, all fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide when burned. In the atmosphere, the
sulfur and nitrous oxides produce sulfuric acid and nitric acid, respectively, which
can lead to acid rain. The carbon dioxide helps trap heat in the atmosphere
contributing to the potential warming of the earth. In this lecture-discussion we will
examine major local, regional, and global environmental effects of burning fossil
fuels. These are respectively particulates, smog and acid rain, and global warming.
The importance of particulates has long been acknowledged, and major particulate
emissions control measures have been launched in many countries. Evidence for
acid rain is readily available, and the effects from impact on forests and lakes to
crumbling ancient Greek structures have confirmed its presence, but its overall
environmental/economic importance remains a matter of controversy. It is now
widely accepted that human activities have contributed to a noticeable average
global warming trend in the twentieth century. However, there are differential
impacts of this global trend on regional climate, agriculture, storm damage, and

other effects in different parts of the world. This complicates both the assessment of
global effects of atmospheric emissions and international negotiations over requisite
changes in fossil fuel use.
Social impact of fossil fuel
It has a lot to do with society. Most of our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.
Obviously, electricity has a large impact on our society. It fuels a vast majority of our forms
of transportation, like cars, buses, trains, airplanes, etc. It is used in products like
toothpaste, make up and others (you might want to look into that deeper). Basically, a good
portion of energy is used by combusting fossil fuels.

How Hydropower Works


Hydropower plants capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity.
A turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy.
Then a generator converts the mechanical energy from the turbine into
electrical energy.
Parts of a Hydroelectric Plant

Most conventional hydroelectric plants include four major components (see


graphic below):
1. Dam. Raises the water level of the river to create falling water. Also
controls the flow of water. The reservoir that is formed is, in effect,
stored energy.
2. Turbine. The force of falling water pushing against the turbine's
blades causes the turbine to spin. A water turbine is much like a
windmill, except the energy is provided by falling water instead of
wind. The turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into
mechanical energy.
3. Generator. Connected to the turbine by shafts and possibly gears so
when the turbine spins it causes the generator to spin also. Converts
the mechanical energy from the turbine into electric energy.
Generators in hydropower plants work just like the generators in other
types of power plants.
4. Transmission lines. Conduct electricity from the hydropower plant to
homes and business.
Advantages of hydroelectric power plants
No pollutants
The first benefit of the hydropower is that no air or water pollutants are produced. The
water used does not contaminate the air or water by producing harmful wastes. No
poisonous bi-products are produced. If we compare it to the a nuclear source which
produce electricity from a radioactive substance in a nuclear reactor, then we notice
that no pollutants are produced from a hydropower source as compared to the nuclear
wastes and radioactive rays which are damaging the life on earth. These wastes from
nuclear reactors then reach water due to power system and this is how water pollution
takes place, not only affecting humans but also aquatic life.
Say no to greenhouse gases
No greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are produced which makes this source of
energy environment-friendly. It prevents us from the danger of global warming.

Saving natural resources


The hydropower does not use any fuel or fossil fuels. The natural balance in an
ecosystem is not disturbed. The fossils are non-renewable so their saving is very
important to make sure that they do not deplete.
Renewable
It is a renewable resource as it can be pumped again and again and water is recycled on
the earth naturally and artificially both through the water cycle. Water never actually
completely depletes. It dominates other renewable resources like wind energy because
it has a predictable nature. The forecast can tell us about the rainfall and we can keep
ourselves prepared for water collection
Dames as reservoir
Another benefit of dams is that they not only produce electricity but also saves and
reserves water so that the water is not wasted into oceans and seas. So it is like two
advantages in a single packet.
Constant source of energy
The prices of fuels keep on increasing on and off. Due to which the cost of electricity
also keeps on changing but due to rainfalls the rate of hydroelectricity remains constant
somewhat and does not increase much. Hydropower source can lighten the country
24/7 whole year.
Controllable source of energy
The rate of electricity produced can be changed by varying the speed of water flow. The
faster it would flow, the more energy it will have to run the turbines. So ultimately
turbines convert the comparably greater amount of energy. So hydropower is
sustainable and long-lasting source of energy. It produces a great amount of electricity.
Economical advantage
This source not only assists environment but also the economy. As no fuel is used and
we also know that the prices of fossil fuels are raising very high so not much cost in
made on the production of electricity. Other than that, no imports are needed to be
made which saves money. The cost of this electricity is less than electricity produced
from fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Disadvantages

1. Environmental Consequences
The environmental consequences of hydropower are related to interventions in
nature due to damming of water, changed water flow and the construction of roads
and power lines.

Hydroelectric power plants may affect fish is a complex interaction between


numerous physical and biological factors. More user interests related to exploitation
of fish species, which helps that this is a field that many have strong opinions on.
Fish habitats are shaped by physical factors such as water level, water velocity and
shelter opportunities and access to food. Draining would be completely devastating
to the fish. Beyond this, the amount of water may have different effects on the fish
in a river, depending on the type and stage of the lifecycle. Not all unregulated river
systems are optimal in terms of fish production, because of large fluctuations in
flow.

2. Expensive
Building power plants in general is expensive. Hydroelectric power plants are not an
exception to this. On the other hand, these plants do not require a lot of workers
and maintenance costs are usually low.

3. Droughts
Electricity generation and energy prices are directly related to how much water is
available. A drought could potentially affect this.

4. Limited Reservoirs
We have already started using up suitable reservoirs for hydroelectric power plants.
There are currently about 30 major power plants that are expected to generate
more than 2.000 MW under construction. Only one of these projects was started in
the last two years.
Advantages of solar energy

1. The abundance of Solar Energy.


Even in the middle of winter each square meter of land still receives a fair
amount of solar radiation. Sunlight is everywhere and the resource is
practically inexhaustible. Even during cloudy days we still receive some
sunlight and it is this that can be used as a renewable resource.
2. You dont pay for sunlight.
Sunlight is totally free. There is of course the initial investment for the
equipment. After the initial capital outlay you wont be receiving a bill every
month for the rest of your life from the electric utility.
3. Solar energy is getting more cost effective.
The technology for solar energy is evolving at an increasing rate. At present

photovoltaic technology is still relatively expensive but the technology is


improving and production is increasing. The result of this is to drive costs
down. Payback times for the equipment are getting shorter and in some
areas where the cost of electricity is high payback may be as short as five
years.
4. Solar energy is non-polluting.
Solar energy is an excellent alternative for fossil fuels like coal and petroleum
because solar energy is practically emission free while generating electricity.
With solar energy the danger of further damage to the environment is
minimized. The generation of electricity through solar power produces no
noise. So noise pollution is also reduced.
5. Accessibility of solar power in remote locations.
Solar power can generate electricity no matter how remote the area as long
as the sun shines there. Even in areas that are inaccessible to power cables
solar power can produce electricity.
6. Solar energy systems are virtually maintenance free.
Once a photovoltaic array is setup it can last for decades. Once they are
installed and setup there are practically zero recurring costs. If needs
increase solar panels can be added with ease and with no major revamp.
Advantages of energy conservation

Reduced surface and ground water pollution


Extracting fossil fuels like coal and oil from underground disturbs and
contaminates underground water supplies. This contamination pollutes the
water and can render it unsuitable for human or animal consumption.

Reduction in land and wildlife disruption


The buildings, equipment and roadways necessary for extracting fossil fuels
and producing useable energy are a significant disruption to wildlife and the
natural environment. Habitat is diminished at the site of extraction as well as
in the areas surrounding roadways and railways erected to transport the raw
materials to where they will be processed and used.

Fewer opportunities for oil spills during transportation


The potential for oil spills is a well-known hazard of our dependence on fossil
fuels. By reducing the amount of energy we consume we are also reducing
the amount of oil that must be transported around the world.