Fossil fuels mainly consist of hydrogen and carbon bonds and are the important sources of energy since time immemorial. Man’s energy needs in every aspect are being served by fossil fuels only. These fuels are basically derived from the organic remains and decomposition of prehistoric animals and plants.
These organic remains are several million years old and are converted to carbon-containing fossil fuels by the extreme pressure and temperature of the Earth’s crust. These fuels produce a huge amount of heat and energy to meet man’s every need. Coal, petroleum and natural gas are considered to be the three most important fossil fuels. Let us discuss the four main types of fossil fuels known so far:
Petroleum, also known as crude oil or condensate is one of the most widely used fossil fuel. The word petroleum is derived from the Latin words petro and leum. Petro means rock and leum means oil. This fuel is highly valuable for mankind and almost every industry is dependent on this fuel. Hence it is also known as the “black gold”.
Petroleum is a liquid fuel that is made of hydrocarbons compounds inclusive of other liquid organic compounds. It is extensively used as fuel for automobiles, jets and to produce electricity. Its derivatives are also utilized in the plastic and medicine industries.
Petroleum products are derived from refined crude oil. Unprocessed crude oils that occur naturally are also referred to as petroleum products. Petroleum demand has been increasing year after year and which has immensely contributed to the water and air pollution worldwide. Because this is a stored reserve and due to high demand the oil field is depleting every year by around 2.5 per cent.
Coal is a flammable organic and one of the rich source of fossil fuel. It is usually brown or black in colour. About one-quarter of the total world’s energy and 40 per cent of the world’s electricity production is provided by coal. Several iron and steel industries in India and around the world are highly dependent upon coal.
Owing to its high use and demand coal reserves are also declining steeply and is on the verge of extinction within a few years from now. Hence we must find some alternative sources of energy that will serve the same purpose. Some of the alternative energy resources like solar energy, wind energy and hydro energy are being used widely, but the usage needs to be increased more.
Natural gas is a colourless gas and is a mixture of several hydrocarbon gases like methane, ethane, propane and butane. It is a combustible, convenient and efficient source of energy. Methane (CH4) is the main component of natural gas. It has two parts: conventional gas- which can easily be extracted and unconventional gas- which requires more advanced technologies for extraction.
Natural gas also helps in the generation of electricity and is widely used for industrial, commercial and residential purposes. Unlike any other fossil fuels, natural gas usually causes less pollution as this is comparatively cleaner. But like any other fossil fuel, this energy resource is also depleting rapidly.