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Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbon fuels formed by anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms
by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust. Since they are formed from the organic
remains of dead organisms, the major content found in them is Carbon.

The age of the fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years.
The age they were formed is called the Carboniferous Period. Typical examples of fossil fuels are
Coal, Petroleum and natural gas.

Oil and gas have low carbon-hydrogen ratio and are volatile. They are formed from the organic
remains of marine organisms which become entrained within sea-floor sediments. Coal, by
contrast, is pure form of carbon and is non-volatile. It I believed to have been formed by non-marine
settings i.e. the remains of land vegetation.

Fossils fuels- Energy from the sun

The fossil fuels have energy preserved in them, which they harnessed from sunlight, prior to their
burial. Coal is formed by dead plants and trees which used photosynthesis to form energy and the
energy was still stored in them when they died. Similarly, oil and gas are believed to be formed by
diatoms- organisms which were capable of producing energy from sunlight-. So, when these fuels are
burnt, the same chemical energy is released which can be harnessed to produce electricity, power
vehicles, heat homes, cook food and much more. They are also used in the production of important
materials such as plastics.

What are they and how were they formed

Crude Oil/Petroleum
Oil and gas formation began 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 accumulated
on the sea floor below. This happened in an unusual setting where there was stagnation of water and
absence of organisms which could feed on these dead microbes. Moreover, the organisms were buried
deep before they could be decomposed. As the sediment pile becomes deeper the organics within it
were subjected to heat and pressure which led to formation of oil and then gas

The term petroleum, meaning rock oil, is applied to these bituminous fluids found
in the earth.
Many varieties of petroleum, and perhaps all, become thicker by exposure to the air,
and finally solid, resembling asphaltum.

Higher temperatures usually produce lighter petroleum. Lower temperatures

create a thick material, like asphalt. At temperatures above 500 degrees
Fahrenheit, the organic matter is destroyed and neither oil nor gas is formed.
Petroleum is much lighter than water, of a dark green or black color. It is
commercially divided into two kinds, the heavy or lubricating oil, and the light
oil. The former is more dense and used, without preparation, for lubricating
machinery. The light oil, before it can be used, is submitted to several purifying
processes, the most important of which is distillation.

Fractional Distillation
The crude petroleum is heated and changed into a gas. The gases are passed
through a distillation column which becomes cooler as the height
increases. See the figure. When a compound in the gaseous state cools below its
boiling point, it condenses into a liquid. The liquids may be drawn off the
distilling column at
various heights.

See detail of products in Book

Natural Gas
Natural gas was found in same way as the crude oil. After the formation of crude oil, the further high
cooking resulted in the formation of a gas which accumulated over the crude oil reserves

Natural gas is lighter than air. Natural gas is mostly made up of a gas called methane.
Natural gas is cleaner fuel than other fuels but has low compression ratio in
combustion engine

Coal was formed in swamps covered by sea water. As the trees and plants died, they sank to the
bottom of the swamps. They formed layers of a spongy material called peat. Over many
hundreds of years, the peat was covered by sand and clay and other minerals, which turned
into a type of rock called sedimentary. More and more rock piled on top of more rock, and it
weighed more and more. It began to press down on the peat. The peat was squeezed and
squeezed until the water came out of it and it eventually, over millions of years, it turned into

Coal is a hard, black colored rock-like substance. It is made up of mostly

carbon, then hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and varying amounts of Sulphur.
There are three main types of coal which are also the three stages. Fist peat is
formed, then lignite and sub-bituminous and finally converted to anthracite

Anthracite: Anthracite coal is the hardest and has more carbon, which
gives it a higher energy content
Lignite: Lignite is the softest and is low in carbon but high in hydrogen and
oxygen content.

Top coal producers are china, USA, India

Top coal reserve holders are USA, Russia, and China

Coke is a solid carbonaceous residue derived from low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous


Metallurgical coke is used as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore in a
blast furnace

The coking coal should be low in Sulphur and phosphorus

The product is cast iron and is too rich in dissolved carbon, and so must be treated
further to make steel.

Coal gasification can be used to produce syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide

(CO) and hydrogen (H2) gas.

Coal can also be converted into liquid fuels using the Fischer-Tropsch process.
Renewable Sources
Renewable energy is the energy which comes from natural resources and can be
naturally replenished. It is being used in 4 major areas: power generation, space
heating, transport fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services

About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with
10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and
3.4% from hydroelectricity, 2.6% from other sources which are growing very

The share of renewables in electricity generation is around 19%, with 16%

coming from hydroelectricity and 3% from new renewables

Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices and increasing
government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation,
incentives and commercialization

Renewable energy sources include

o Hydro-electric
o Tidal
o Micro-Hydro
o Run-of-the-river systems
Solar Energy
Wind Energy
Tidal Energy
Geo-Thermal Energy
Biomass Energy

Hydropower Energy
Hydropower uses energy of water to create energy that can be captured and turned into
Hydro-electric energy: The most common type of hydropower is hydro-electric
power plants. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it,
which activates a generator to produce electricity.

The major components of a hydroelectric dam are as follows:

1. Dam: A barrier built across a watercourse to hold back the flow of water and
create a reservoir. The reservoir that is formed is, in effect, stored energy.

2. Penstock: A pipeline used to convey water, under pressure, from the reservoir to
the turbines of a hydropower plant.

3. Turbine: It is a machine that is turned by the force of the fast moving water
pushing against its blades. Turbines convert the kinetic energy of the water to
mechanical energy.

4. Generator: Connects to the turbine and rotates to produce the electrical energy.
5. Transformer: Converts electricity from the generator to usable voltage levels.

6. Transmission Lines: Conduct electricity from the hydropower plant to the

electric distribution system. Transmission line voltages are normally 115 kilovolt or

Micro hydro systems are hydroelectric power installations that typically produce up
to 100 kW of power. They are often used in water rich areas as a remote-area power supply
Run-of-the-river systems derive kinetic energy from rivers and oceans without
using a dam


Dams can be very expensive to build.

There needs to be a sufficient, and powerful enough, supply of water in the area to produce

Wind Power
Wind energy harnesses the power of the wind to propel the blades of wind turbines.
The rotation of turbine blades is converted into electrical current by means of an
electrical generator. Minimum wind speed for wind energy production is 10mph.
Turbines are grouped together to make a Wind Farm. Wind Turbine usually consists
of following parts:

1- Tower: To mount the assembly

2- Blade: It rotates when winds pressure gradient moves it
3- Generator: Converts mechanical energy into electrical energy
4- Controller: Used to monitor the wind speed, and other functions. Stops the
turbine above 65 mph because generator might heat up
5- Anemometer: Used to measure wind speed, feeds it to controller


Wind power is intermittent. Consistent wind is needed for continuous power

generation. If wind speed decreases, the turbine lingers and less electricity is
Large wind farms can have a negative effect on the scenery.

Solar Power
It works by using solar cells which trap the sun's rays into solar cells where this
sunlight is then converted into electricity.

Solar Cells or photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. When
energy from the sun comes in contact with the cell, electrons in the two different
semiconductors absorb the energy and use it to move around, creating an
electrical current. Photovoltaic cells that are linked together to create a useful
energy flow are called modules, which hold about 40 cells. About 10 of these
modules can be mounted together to form a large array. Arrays can be used
to generate electricity for a single building or, in large numbers, for a power plant
which can power a town or even many towns.

Solar power does not produce energy if the sun is not shining. Nighttime and
cloudy days seriously limit the amount of energy produced.
Solar power stations can be very expensive to build

Geothermal Energy
Literally, geothermal means "earth heat." Geothermal energy harnesses the heat
energy present underneath the Earth, due to the volcanic activity taking place
inside the crust from time immortal. Hot rocks under the ground heat water to
produce steam. When holes are drilled in the region, the steam that shoots up is
purified and is used to drive turbines, which power electric generators.

Three types of power plants are used to generate power from geothermal

Dry Steam:
Take steam out of fractures in the ground and use it to directly drive a
turbine that spins a generator
Take hot water, usually at temperatures over 200 C, out of the ground,
and allows it to boil as it rises to the surface then separates the steam
phase in steam/water separators and then runs the steam through a
The hot water flows through heat exchangers, boiling an organic fluid that
spins the turbine.

The condensed steam and remaining geothermal fluid from all three types of plants
are injected back into the hot rock to pick up more heat


If done incorrectly,
geothermal energy can produce
Improper drilling into the earth
can release hazardous minerals
and gases.
Geothermal sites are prone to
running out of steam.

Biomass Energy
Biomass energy is energy produced by burning biomass. Biomass is a broad
category of material encompassing all the living matter in an area. Wood, crops
and crop waste, and wastes of plant, mineral, and animal matter comprise much of
an area's biomass. Although burning of biomass does produce CO2, a pollutant, but
this CO2 will be produced in any case by degradation of biomass naturally

Biomass is the only renewable energy resource which can be converted into
energy-providing biofuels, such as biogas, ethanol and Bio-diesel.
Ethanol is made by fermenting any biomass high in carbohydrates
through a process similar to brewing beer. Normally, it used as an additive
with diesel to reduce emission of CO
Bio-diesel is an ester made using vegetable oils, animal fat, and algae. It
can be used as an additive to diesel, or all by its lonesome to power a

However, the biofuel production process is more expensive than the

conventional fossil fuel processes.

Some crops, such as sugar cane, sorghum, ocean kelp and various species of
trees, are grown specifically to be burned for biomass energy