Fossil Fuels earth science

Topics: Coal, Natural gas, Petroleum Pages: 7 (1771 words) Published: January 4, 2015
Fossil Fuels

Josh Farrar

The three types of fossil fuels that are used for energy provision are coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil Fuels are the remains of once living organisms, but it takes centuries to form the organic matter. Coal is millions of years of decaying land vegetation (dead plants) that will form the solid fossil fuel under intense pressure. Oil is formed on the sea floor from the remains of marine microorganisms and is deposited between small spaces in between rock and sediment in liquid form. Natural gas is also formed from the remains of microorganisms but is in the gaseous form. Natural gas mostly is made up of methane (CH4) and is highly compressed in small volumes deep within the earth. Coal is highly abundant compared to oil and natural gas. Some analysts predict that the use of coal will increase as oil supplies decline. The coal supplies that we have now could last up to 200 years or longer. Undeveloped countries can not afford oil and natural gas so they depend on coal as their main source of energy. Coal is usually mined. The less expensive method of mining is surface mining; it produces the majority of coal in the United States. Surface mining is the act of stripping the top soil and layers of rock up to 200 feet underground to come in contact with coal. Once the coal is removed from the pit, miners return the dirt and rock to the pit and replant the vegetation. Another form of mining is in which miners ride elevators up to 1,000 feet below surface to an underground mine. Machines then dug out the coal and then the coal was brought out using rails and rail carts. This method of mining was called underground mining or deep mining. Before the coal is shipped out it is mined and processed. Shipping coal can actually cost more than mining it itself. The many ways of transporting coal includes by train, barge, ship, truck, and even by pipeline. When coal is transferred through pipelines, it is ground up and mixed with water and then pumped miles and miles to fuel power plants and other industries. To lower transportation costs, sometimes a coal-fired electric power plant is built near the coal mine. The majority of the United State’s coal is transported, which is about 72% of the coal. There are four groups into which coal can be put into depending on how much heat energy can be produced, the amount of carbon, and the type of carbon it contains. The higher types of coal produce more heat energy than the lower types of coal. The highest type or rank of coal is anthracite which is less than 1% of the coal mined in the United States and is also the hardest of the others. Anthracite coal has from 86-97% carbon and has the highest heating value because it is the oldest of all coals. This type of coal has been being heated and pressured deep within the earth for over millions of years. The only mines that mine for anthracite are all in northeastern Pennsylvania. A step lower from anthracite is bituminous, which is also formed with high heat and pressure but is only 100-300 million years old. Bituminous is the most plentiful type of coal in the U.S. with 45-86% carbon. Bituminous coal is just about half of the United States’ coal production, best mined in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. To steel and iron industries, this type of coal is an important raw material for their energy source. The third highest rank of coal is called sub bituminous. Sub bituminous of coarse has a lower heating value than bituminous because it only contains 35-45% carbon and is at least 100 million years old. Wyoming produces the most sub bituminous coal from the 44% in the United States. The lowest but not the least produced coal in the U.S. is lignite. Out of all the coal, lignite makes up only 7% of it and is produced from 20 lignite mines in the United States, where Texas and North Dakota lead in the production. Lignite is mainly used...

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