There are a lot of arguments nowadays between scientists, engineers, environmental conservationist and so on about what the future of energy holds with most of the arguments being highlighted towards the end of fossil fuels. Yes, for sure fossil fuels have an end as there is nothing on earth that will forever be but do not expect it too imminent. With respect to the world’s proven Oil and gas reserves, it is estimated that not up to 50% of the reserves have already been drilled and produced from hence, a thing to think about. Many writers and media are out to distract your way for stepping into this prestigious industry, do not let yourself get deceived by such people.
This article highlights and clarifies all the doubters and researchers on what the future of fossil fuels hold as well as how it is generated, types and so on.
Facts about Fossil Fuels
Since the birth of Industrial Revolution in England in the 1700’s, fossil fuels (mostly coal as of those days) has been a very important and most useful source of energy in industrialization until the early twentieth century when oil and natural gas came into play and took power as the major primary source of energy.
Many people nowadays argue that fossil fuels have a non-biological origin despite all scientific proves. Of course it has a non-biological origin (accumulation of dead animals and plants parts as deposited matter) which by proportion is around 1% or less, what do you think? For sure it should be considered negligible.
Typically speaking, fossil fuels are formed biologically by the anaerobic decomposition of dead animals as well as dead plants with a very large proportion of the organisms (Phytoplankton and Zooplanktons) settled deep beneath the sea usually under anoxic conditions and forming the most of the fuels.
There are three main types of fossil fuels namely; coal, petroleum and natural gas. Global statistics shows that fossil fuels provide more than 85% of the world’s annual energy.
For anything to be called a fossil, it must be older than ten thousand years. This means that fossil fuels are formed from very old remains of death plants and animals approximately in the carboniferous period (around 360 to 286 million years ago) of the Paleozoic era after which before dinosaurs came into existence.
Fossil fuels (crude oil) are typically found in underground traps generally call reservoirs which are now tapped by man and converted into other forms of energy or products such as electricity and gasoline.
A combustible form of fossil fuel called coal is dark in colour and is usually found running down the veins of the rock containing it. This therefore mean that with respect to the fact that rocks mostly have their lowest portions buried beneath the earth surface, some coal can only be gotten only by mining and hence coal mine is the path through which miners get through to get the coal from the rocks root.
Another fossil fuel called natural gas is usually found trapped in pockets in areas where plant decomposition has occurred. Fossil fuels are generally not a renewable source of energy and can be transformed into electricity or used to power up vehicles upon burning. As being non-renewable, fossil fuels cannot be produced or generated by humans.
Fossil fuels is considered by mankind as the most common source of energy as it is easier to convert it into other forms of energies as they are all made of hydrocarbons which requires mostly burning to release the desired type of energy. It should be noted that to convert one form one fossil fuel to another is not an easy process. Estimates show that it could take up to 25 tons of raw petroleum to generate one liter of gas..
The burning of fossil fuels brings about the release of toxic gases which are harmful to both man’s health and the environment (global warming).
A cost effective method predicts that it is more preferable to mine and process fossil fuels than converting them into other energy sources.
Fossil fuels is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, water and air pollution , acid rain and so on that mankind keep dealing with day to day. It would be surprising to hear that one of the most common and highly produced and used commodity is on the other hand the sole killer of mankind and its environment.
Fossil fuels are generally not clean as compared to the renewable energy sources. All fossil fuels are made of hydrocarbon (a compound composed predominantly of carbon and hydrogen as the name implies) which typically store energy in the form of strong atomic bonds. Hence burning is essential to break the bonds producing energy. Because fossil fuels come from death plants and animals, and plants on their part uses sunlight in the process of photosynthesis to produce their food, this means the fossil fuels generally get their energy from the sun.
The drilling of fossil fuels in the seas and oceans usually disturb and damage marine habitats as well as marine life especially during leaks, blowouts causing oil spills. Many industrial and experimental processes have shown that coal can be transformed into coke in a closed chamber away from air. The coke can later be used to produce Iron and steel.
Other very important sources of fossil fuels include oil shales and tar sands which can yield valuable energy sources.
The United States of America contains the largest proven oil shale and tar sand reserves and by estimation, one ton of shale would contain about 10 to 100 gallon of kerogen which is the waxy material which upon heating in the absence of air breaks down to oil.
Generally, energy sources are classified either as renewable or non-renewable sources, but because this article is concerned with fossil fuels which is mainly non-renewable, we shall be discussing just that here.
Non Renewable Energy Sources
Non renewable energy sources can be said of as those which after being consumed, cannot be renewed into the same or any other form by any physical or chemical means.
There are well known fossil fuels to think about which are; coal, natural gas, petroleum (oil) and nuclear energy made mostly from Uranium. All these forms of non-renewable energy sources are usually gotten from the ground upon drilling a reservoir or mining the ore containing it and they usually happen to occur either as liquids, solids or gases. For example natural gas is a gas, uranium is a solid and petroleum is a liquid.
It is very important to understand that, not all the aforementioned non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels and that should be Uranium.
In some instances, earth minerals as well as metal ores are also usually considered as non-renewable sources of energy.
Let get to know each of these sources of energy better.
To understand the theory of fossil fuels, get back to facts about fossil fuels above.
Metal Ores and earth minerals
They are usually formed beneath the earth surface which requires mining them. Geologists generally search for environments with high concentration in such minerals and ore which could be economically viable for the miners to extract. They are usually concentrated in tectonic margins, plate subsiding zones because of the high pressure, high temperature occurring in such zones. Because of their localized positions beneath the crust, in human time frame, it is considered non-renewable upon extraction.
The process of burning fuel is referred to as combustion. The burning fuels have a lot of effects on the environment, climate, humans as well as the air. Fuels are being burned so as to produce energy, for example electrical energy as well heat energy. Burning of fuel is an exothermic reaction involving the fuel and most especially oxygen to liberate gaseous products.
Some of the most common examples of fuels with high burning or combustion rate are natural gas, propane, wood, charcoal, petrol, kerosene and so on.
It is important to note that, combustion of liquid fuels occur only in one phase being the gaseous phase which is oxygen. This burning process, the liquid phase will ignite only after attaining its flash point.
On the other hand, the burning of gaseous fuels can take place in four different means namely diffusive and premix flames, detonation, auto ignite reaction front. This means to say that, the type of burning which could occur will depend on the degree of heating two reactants which are the burning fuel and oxygen.
Never the less, burning of solid fuels also exist and involve three phases which are the solid phase which occurs when the output of flammable gases from the material very low to cause ignition and persistent flame, the preheating phase and the distillation phase.
The pros and cons of fossil fuels
Nowadays the most commonly used form of fossil fuel is crude oil also petroleum. With fossil fuels being the most highly used source of energy this day, there is a lot of debate out there such as; should we reduce or cut down the annual use of fossil fuels? It is safe to use fossil fuels? While on the other hand debate on is it right to use these fuels? With increase in debate, nowadays innovation has brought in alternatives to fossil fuels as a source of energy such as hydroelectric plants, solar and wind plants.
Pros/Advantages of fossil fuels
- They can be easily found anywhere beneath the earth’s crust
- Man is able to generate electricity from a single fossil fuel location in unlimited quantity.
- They are economically viable and cost effective, for example Coal.
- Because petroleum and natural gas can bypass oil tankers and or road or rail transport to get to their destination or sales point through pipelines, it makes the job of the oil producing company simpler.
- It is easier to construct power plants which use fossil fuels as far as the fossil fuel can make it up to the plant.
- Fossil fuels because of their combustible nature can produce very large amount of energy.
- Because fossil fuels are made mostly of hydrogen and carbon, this implies they are stable and consistent. Due to their stability and consistency, they can easily be stored in suitable containers and transported.
- With its high calorific value it suffice to say that it is and will still be the most highly demanded energy source because the higher the calorific value, the higher is its effect.
- The extraction does not need a lot of investment.
- Fossil fuels are very cheap and reliable compared to the other sources of energy.
Cons/ Disadvantages of fossil fuels
- The most highly acceptable and primary disadvantage of fossil fuel is pollution. Burning and usage of fossil fuels generally bring about pollution of the environment at atmosphere, hence global warming.
- Also, burning fossil fuels bring about human health problems
- The mining of fossil fuels require vast land surface area and hence destruction of food chain and food web.
- During the extraction of fossil fuels, a lot of accidents happen some of which led to the dead of the workers
- They are non-renewable.
- Can lead to dangerous accidents which could require a lot of investment to counter it. For example Oil spill.
When Will Fossil Fuel Run Out?
To me it should be forbidden to say that fossil fuels will soon run out. Base on international reports from all oil producing nations, it is estimated that it fossil fuels will run out after 75 years or so with regard to the current rate of usage which is not imminent to say. However, this estimated time period is only based on the proven fossil fuel reserves. The question to ask here is; does it mean humans would not go out for further search on new fossil fuel reserves? Does it mean there will be no improved technology for efficient drilling and production of these fuels or are we going to continue using fossil fuels at this rate?
It suffices to say that, who so ever think the down slump of fossil fuels is near is dump because the reality is that, the search for new reserves will continue to add to the already discovered reserves. Again, as the fossil fuel reserves become scarce, their prices in the market will rise and hence pulling back their consumers to alternative sources of energy hence increasing the life span of fossil fuels. As well, as increase in technology is always there to lay a hand on improve efficiency of production.
This therefore implies that fossil fuels will last even longer than the estimated 75years maybe to around 200 years to come. This implies the question of when will fossil fuel run out remains unanswered.
Supply and Demand of Fossil Fuel in America’s Future
It was predicted in 2015 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that the consumption of liquid fuels in United States of America will increase by 3.3% between 2013 and 2020, followed by a decline before 2040.Natural gas consumption is expected to increase between 2013 and 2040 by about 13.4% while coal consumption could be at 5.6%.It is foreseen by the EIA that fossil fuels will still be the main source of energy in the United States till 2040 which could be supplying up to 80% of the country’s total energy production.