The Fossil Fuels in Our Lives

Topics: Natural gas, Fossil fuel, Nuclear power Pages: 6 (2343 words) Published: May 30, 2013

Chemistry essay
The Fossil Fuels in Our Life


Fossil fuels are fuels that are formed by natural processes. The process responsible for the formation is mostly anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. Fossil fuels have a high percent of carbon atoms. It takes millions of years for the dead animals to decompose to fossil fuels. [1] FORMATION OF FOSSIL FUELS

Coal is formed form dead plant material. Crude oil and natural gas are formed form dead marine organisms. Crude oil is found trapped in some of the sedimentary rocks of the Earth’s crust. Millions of years ago, huge numbers of microscopic animals and plants died and fell to the bottom of the sea. Their remains were covered by mud. As the mud sediment was buried by more sediment, it started to change into rock as the temperature and pressure increased. The plant and animal remains were ‘cooked’ by this process, and slowly changed into crude oil. [2]

Basically there are three different types of fossil fuels. Coal is a solid fossil fuel formed over millions of years by decay of land vegetation. When layers are compacted and heated over time, deposits are turned into coal. Coal is quite abundant compared to the other two fossil fuels. Coal is usually extracted in mines. [3] Oil is a liquid fossil fuel that is formed from the remains of marine microorganisms deposited on the sea floor. After millions of years the deposits end up in rock and sediment where oil is trapped in small spaces. It can be extracted by large drilling platform. Oil is the most widely used fossil fuel. Crude oil consists of many different organic compounds which are transformed to products in refining processes. It is applied in cars, jets, roads, and many other. [4] Natural gas is a gaseous fossil fuel that is versatile, abundant and relative clean compared to coal and oil. Like oil, it is formed from the remains of marine microorganism. It is relatively new type of energy source. As an energy source natural gas has overtaken coal in developed countries. Natural gas mainly consists of methane (CH4). It is highly compressed in small volumes at large depths in the Earth. Like oil, it is brought to the surface by drilling. Natural gas reserves are more evenly distributed around the globe than oil supplies. [5]

Fossil fuels are one of the greatest threats to the environment today. Their burning contributes heavily to global warming, the pollution of the air, water and land, as well as the production of acid rain. When fossil fuels are burned huge amounts of carbon are released into the air. This contributes to the greenhouse effect, causing the Sun’s warmth to be excessively trapped in the atmosphere. When this occurs, global temperatures rise. Melting of the polar ice caps causes ocean levels to rise as well. This reduces the salinity of the ocean, endangering many organisms that are dependent upon a certain level of salt concentration to be able to live. It also poses a serious risk of many cities and settlements located close to sea level entirely disappearing under water. [6]

Energy gained from burning fossil fuels is converted to electricity and heat in commercial power plants. When fossil fuels are burned carbon and hydrogen react with oxygen in air to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). During this reaction heat is released which further amplifies the reaction. Electricity is generated by transforming mechanical energy (heat) to electrical energy in a turbine or generator. Power plants are very expensive to build, but once they are present efficiency in converting fuel to energy is very high. Most of the time more electricity is created than is actually needed, because electricity cannot be stored. Electricity demands vary throughout the year and provision must meet the peak load, which means the highest possible demand within a year. If demands significantly exceed a power plant's...
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