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 fuels. The word petroleum is derived from the Latin words petro and ileum. Petro means rock and oleum mean 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 percent.
Coal is a flammable organic and one of the rich sources of fossil fuel. It is usually brown or black in color. About one-quarter of the total world’s energy and 40 percent 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 user needs to be increased more.
Natural gas is a colorless 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.
Fossil Fuels: Meaning, Types, Formation, And Importance
Fossil fuels can be defined as natural fuels (such as gas or coal), formed in the past from remains of various living organisms (animals and plants). In other words, fossil fuel is an organic substance, present under the ground in the form of deposits, created in an earlier geological period and used widely as a significant source of electricity and energy.
Fossil fuels can be found is almost any product that we humans use on a daily basis. They satisfy 90 percent of the world’s electricity demand.
Types of fossil fuels:
Four types of fossil fuels are present in the world. They are:
- Natural Gas
Formation of fossil fuels
The formation of fossil fuels takes place when organic matters buried deep under the earth’s surface receive continuous pressure and heat for millions of years. When it comes to natural gas and oil, the organic matters responsible for the creation of these fossil fuels have their source in the marine ecosystem. Coal, on the other hand, owes its formation to peat forests of ancient times.
Importance or uses of fossil fuels:-
The three main types of the above-mentioned fossil fuels exist in three varied states of matter. Oil is present in liquid form, coal is solid, and natural gas exists in the form of gas. Let us have a look at the ways in which we can use these fossil fuels.
- Uses of oil
The petroleum of crude oil is commonly known as black gold. The uses of oil are many and in various fields. It is required for the generation of electricity and also used by the transportation industry as fuel for jets and automobiles. Apart from that, oil has several byproducts that are used widely in the production of tars, plastics, waxes, lubricants, chemicals, and medicines also most of the fertilizers and pesticides available in the market either use oil or any of its byproducts.
- Uses of natural gas
Natural gas is basically a gaseous fuel, the main ingredient of which is methane. One advantage of using natural gas is that it is comparatively cleaner than coal and oil. We use natural gas in cooking appliances such as fuel stoves, in air conditioning, in heat appliances required for heating homes, water, and buildings. Natural gas also provides electricity and produces paints, dyes, plastics, and fertilizers. Manufacturing companies and industries such as steel foundries, aluminum smelters, and glass foundries also rely on natural gas to a great extent. Apart from the uses mentioned above, natural gas also has its use in transportation as LNG or CNG.
- Uses of coal
Coal is a fossil fuel that is present in the environment in a solid-state. It is made up of five key elements, namely, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. There are three types of coal-based on their properties, namely, anthracite, bituminous, and lignite. As opposed to the other two, anthracite is hard and the carbon content is high, therefore, producing the highest energy.
An interesting fact about coal is that it can exist for more than 200 years. In ancient times, people used coal to smelt metal ores. There are several countries that cannot afford oil or natural gas as they are extremely expensive and thus, rely solely on coal for generating energy. Another usage of coal is the generation of electricity and as a component in electrical utilities.
Coal and its byproducts are also found in products such as aspirin, plastics, solvents, dyes, and soaps. The steel industry, cement manufacturing industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and the paper manufacturing industry also makes use of coal or its byproducts for manufacturing several essential products of daily use.
Eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels
This was just a brief description of fossil fuels and their uses in our life. The increasing use of coal and other fossil fuels in construction, industry, and transportation release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that plays a key role in increasing the temperature of the planet. Fossil fuels also take millions of years to form. This is the reason why we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and rely more on renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, tidal, solar, hydro-electric, and bio-fuels.
Benefits of Solar Energy: Diverse Applications (Part 2)
With countless gadgets and technologies that can leverage solar power in the modern world, it is important to learn the benefits of solar energy and its diverse uses. My previous post about the diverse uses of solar energy offers an in-depth discussion of how this form of energy could be used at homes, holiday properties, and central power stations. Here are other applications of solar energy.
Solar water heating systems
In a home or business, hot water systems for kitchens, space heating, and bathrooms are nearly universal. What most people don’t know is that they can leverage solar power to get enough hot water in their homes and commercial buildings. Property owners can user thermal panels along with storage tanks to store the hot water. When needed, this water can circulate to a heater, shower or sink.
The modern ‘in floor’ heating systems and the traditional baseboard heating systems offer solar heat as the pre-heater to a traditional hot water tank or furnace. This will serve as the backup to your solar thermal system.
One of the common benefits of solar energy is the diverse industrial applications associated with it. For decades, solar energy has been the primary power supply of choice for many industrial applications, especially where power is needed in a remote area. In these applications, solar energy is cost-effective. This is because many individual uses need just a few kilowatts of electric power.
Solar energy is also used on transportation signalings such as lighthouses, offshore navigation buoys, road traffic warning signals, and aircraft warning lights. It is also used to power environmental or situation monitoring tools and even corrosion protection systems for well-heads, bridges, pipelines, and more. For huge electrical loads, it is cost-effective to configure the hybrid power system and link to a PV with a sizeable diesel generator.
The benefits of solar energy here include the reliability and minimal maintenance needed. That makes this form of energy ideal in regions that are hard to get to.
Lighting, water pumping, and heating in the developing world
In addition to off-grid properties, remote buildings such as clinics, schools, and community halls can benefit from solar power. It can power telephones, different pieces of refrigeration equipment, TV, and more. WHO (World Health Organization) requires every clinic to have these devices. Rather than having a base solar power generator for each dwelling, it is possible to configure a central power plant. The plant power homes through a local wired network. It can also serve as a battery charging station where the member of the entire community can charge their batteries here.
On a commercial building, atria can be effectively covered with PV modules. These modules are semi-transparent to offer shaded light. In factories, the large roof areas offer a perfect location for solar modules. Besides, the vertical walls of commercial buildings can offer opportunities for PV incorporation.
Whether it is charging a wireless speaker or powering a renewable, the list of uses and benefits of solar energy is endless.
Advantages of Solar Energy: Diverse Applications (Part 1)
There is a reason the advantages of solar energy have become a trending topic in discussions regarding renewables. Though it has been criticized for being less efficient and expensive, solar energy has proved to be beneficial. It is eco-friendly and financially affordable. Advancement in technology has made it easier to harness this form of energy.
Solar energy has an array of uses in both commercial and residential applications. Here are some of the most popular ways humans can use solar power.
Every household needs hot water and electric power. These basic needs are the top goals of solar thermal and solar PV systems. Over recent years, there has been an increase in the number of PV installations to buildings that connect to an electricity grid.
The demand for these systems has been stimulated partly by the government subsidy programs notably Germany and Japan. Also, the green pricing strategies of utilities or electric service providers have led to an increased demand for PV systems. The central driving force comes from the desire of companies or individuals to get their electric power from an eco-friendly, renewable source for which they pay low premiums.
In grid-connected systems, an effective PV system supplies electric power to the building, and all day-time excesses are exported to the power grid. These systems don’t require batteries as the grid can also offer additional power when necessary. But if you intend to be independent of the grid power supply, you need a battery to store power.
One of the most preferred energy solutions for holiday properties is Photovoltaic Systems. These systems have no access to the central electricity grid system. They are configured to meet power requirements less costly than extending the electricity grid to reach your holiday home.
Remote properties in sunny regions can get reliable electrical power for their radios, televisions, and lighting using a simple PV system. They also need a rechargeable battery to store all the power harnessed during the day, a charge controller, and wiring and switches. This system is often referred to as solar home systems (SHS).
The power storage capacity of the battery and the size of the PV module are designed to offer enough power and storage to meet the home’s energy requirements. This is commonly known as the ‘sizing’ system. Every system with battery storage must use the right battery design and specification for the system. That means a car battery shouldn’t be used!
Also, it is important to use high-quality fluorescent lamps as poor quality lumps will quickly blacken, dropping their light output. The charge regulator quality is also a critical factor in the overall reliability of the system. The PV modules can be mounted on the roof or a pole.
Central power stations
One of the advantages of solar energy is that central power stations can use it. In this case, applications use solar energy in a similar configuration to that a utility would utilize a power station. This is different from ‘distributed power’ applications or power distributed in low aggregate amounts.
To wrap up, the advantages of solar energy and its uses are unlimited.
Check the second part of this post here
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