fossil fuels



We explain what fossil fuels are, how they are formed and examples. Uses, importance and the environmental impact they generate.

Fossil fuels are the main source of energy throughout the world.

What are fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels (such as Petroleum, coal and natural gas) are those that come from the natural decomposition of the organic material (plants, microorganisms, bacteria and algae) after a transformation process that can last more than 600 million years.

They are called non-renewable energies because they are limited natural resources since to form they require an extensive period of weather and specific conditions. There is no other way to generate them and, despite this, they are the main source of Energy worldwide due to its high calorific value compared to other sources such as wind power wave solar energy.

Formation of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are obtained through excavation processes.

The organic material accumulated over millions of years beneath the layers of the Earth crust and at the bottom of lakes and seas suffers various alterations due to increased Pressure and the temperature of I usually.

It is then transformed into different types of sedimentary rock or fossils that contain concentrated heat. This is how substances such as oil, coal or natural gas originate that, through excavation processes, can be extracted from the depths of the ground. Then, through treatments, they can loosen that Energy concentrated to become fuels.

Examples of fossil fuels

Four types of fossil fuels are distinguished:

  • Coal. It is a dark black sedimentary rock, rich in carbon and other chemical elements as hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. The extraction of this mineral can be carried out in two ways: through open-pit mining (when the coal is less than 60 meters deep) or through underground mining.
    Between the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, trains, ships and industrial machinery worked thanks to the energy of this fuel. Despite having been surpassed by oil in terms of its energy capacity, today coal is used for the production of plastics and oils, among other uses.
  • Petroleum. Is a liquid oily compound of carbon and hydrogen (a conjunction called hydrocarbon) that is extracted from a well, between 600 and 5000 meters deep. To obtain it, drilling towers are installed that can be located on the land surface or on platforms in the sea. Plastic, printing inks, rubber for the manufacture of tires, gasoline, among its main uses, can be produced from oil.
  • Natural gas. Is a mixture of hydrocarbons in gaseous state (mostly methane and to a lesser extent nitrogen, carbon dioxide, butane, among others). It is extracted with drilling towers and, through pipes designed to transport gases on a large scale, it is directed to the power plants for their subsequent transport by sea. Natural gas has no odor and is colorless, that is, we cannot perceive it with the senses. For this reason, a product with a smell is added to detect it in cases of leakage.
  • Petroleum liquid gas. It is composed mainly of butane and propane, gases that are compressed to become liquids, and is obtained as a by-product of process refining oil or natural gas. It is used primarily as an alternative fuel for gasoline-powered automobiles. Despite generating less power than gasoline, its differential advantages are the economic price and the lower emission of carbon dioxide.

Uses and importance of fossil fuels

Derivatives of oil and natural gas are used as fuel for automobiles.

Fossil fuels were discovered thousands of years ago. However, it was from the Industrial Revolution (in the middle of the 18th century) when they began to be used on a large scale in transport and machinery.

Today fossil fuels are the main source of energy for the societies because they release a large load of heat, they can be easily transported and their production cost is more economical in comparison to other alternative sources. They are used to generate electric power and, mainly, mechanical energy (for machinery, cars, airplanes, etc.).

They have multiple uses, such as:

  • Residential. Derivatives of oil and natural gas can be used in equipment such as the water heater, the kitchen, the carafe, the electric generator, among others.
  • Commercial. They can be used in a similar way to residential but on a larger scale. For example, in central heating systems.
  • Agricultural. They are used for equipment that generates air hot in greenhouses, for pumps irrigation, the machinery that works the land, among the main ones.
  • Industrial. Natural gas is used in production machinery, such as furnaces, dryers or boilers.
  • Transport. Derivatives of oil and natural gas are used as fuel for automobiles, to facilitate a combustion cleaner for engines or as a coolant.

Environmental impact

Oil spills affect marine animals through direct contact.

The process of extracting fossil fuels is detrimental to the environment. Drilling work operates 24 hours a day, disrupting the order of business. habitat Almost completely. The following problems can occur:

  • Ecological damage. The increase in vehicle traffic, the deployment of work machinery and the activity of workers harm the fauna Alterations have been recorded in the relationship between predators and prey, as well as the interruption of communication between songbirds in the nesting and breeding season.
  • Spills The liquids used during the excavation process are discarded in parallel pits for later treatment. However, sometimes they are partially spilled and their long-term impact can cause damage to the ground and affect the Health Of the inhabitants. Offshore oil spills affect marine animals through direct contact, inhalation, and ingestion of the liquids.
  • Changes in the landscape. The construction of roads to move the necessary machinery to the excavation area causes the partial or total elimination of vegetation and increases the erosion ground. This wear, which is carried out in an accelerated manner, causes damage that impacts the farming local: causes flooding and generates loss of the nutrient-rich upper layers of sleep, among the main problems.
  • Water contamination and from air. Parallel pits used for dumping waste are open pits that can contain waters residuals, chemical products, petroleum hydrocarbons and other substances that compromise the safety of the drinking water. Pipe and well explosions sometimes occur, despite having been properly drilled. This causes the contamination of aquifers and the air, by the release of methane gas and carbon dioxide that in large quantities are harmful to the atmosphere and for the local environment.
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