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Uses of Fossil Fuels

Different Ways We Use Fossil Fuels: A Brief Introduction

Prehistoric remains of plants and animals generally create fossils. There are three types of fossil fuels namely natural gas, coal and oil/petroleum. Petroleum is the most broadly used fossil fuel. Petroleum originates from two Latin words petrowhich means rock and leum which means oil. On the other hand, coal is an abundant resource that is responsible for almost 40% of the electricity generated worldwide. Natural gas is another most efficient and convenient source of energy. Generally, natural gas is used in the industrial sector. In the next few segments, it is aimed to explain where fossil fuels are used. 

Uses of Fossil Fuels: An In-depth Analysis

Before moving on to fossil fuel applications, it must be clarified that three forms of fossil fuels exist in three distinguished forms. Oil is found in liquid form, coal is found in solid form and natural gas is found in gaseous form. The various uses of fossil fuels are described in the following three segments:

a) Uses of Oil

b) Uses of coal

c) Uses of natural gas  

Uses of Oil:

Crude oil or petroleum is also termed as ‘black gold’. Petroleum is used in different ways. Generating electricity, transportation as fuel for automobiles and jets etc are the various ways in which petroleum is used. Various chemicals, plastics, lubricants, tars, wax, medicines etc are produced from the by-products of oil. Different types of fertilizers and pesticides are produced either by oil or by its by-products. Oil is also the source of the fuels used in industries.

Uses of Coal:

Fossil fuel in its solid state is known as coal. Coal is composed of five elements namely sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. There are three varieties of coal according to different energy properties. Those are anthracite, bituminous and lignite. Among the three types of coals anthracite is the hardest form of coal which consists of more carbon and the highest energy. Coal can exist for more than 200 years. Coals are generally extracted from the mines. The use of coal has doubled after the 20th century. Most of the countries are dependent upon coal as the other two fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) are generally more expensive. Electrical utilities, various products such as dyes, aspirins, soap, fibres, plastics and solvents are made of coal or by-products of coal. There are various uses of coal in different industrial sectors such as the steel industry, pharmaceutical industry, cement manufacture, manufacturing of paper etc. 

Uses of Natural Gas:

Natural gas is gaseous fuel and is mainly composed of methane. It is much cleaner than the other two fossil fuels. Natural gas is used in air conditioning, cooking appliances such as fuel stoves and heat homes and establishments, heating water etc. There are several uses of natural gases in the industrial sectors such as steel foundries, glass foundries, other manufacturing sectors, aluminium smelters etc. Paints, fertilisers, plastics and dyes are also produced by natural gases. Another significant use of natural gas is in transportation such as CNG or LNG. 

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Structure of LP Gases

LPG stands for liquefied petroleum gas. Like all fossil fuels, it is a non-renewable energy source. Derived from petroleum and natural gas. LPG is composed of hydrocarbons with 3 or 4 carbon atoms. The general components of LPG  are propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10). Small amounts of other hydrocarbons may also be present. 

 

The  LPG burns easily in the air and has the same energy content as gasoline and twice the thermal energy of natural gas. This makes it the perfect fuel for heating, cooking and transportation fuel.


Structure of Coal

The plants from which coal is derived are composed of a complex mixture of organic compounds such as cellulose, lignin, fats, waxes and tannins. As the formation and coalification of peat progresses, these compounds, which have a more or less open structure, are decomposed to form new compounds (mainly aromatics like benzene). In vitrinite, these compounds are linked by cross-linking molecules such as oxygen, sulphur, and methylene. During the coalification, volatile phases rich in hydrogen and oxygen like carbon dioxide,  methane, water, are formed and escape from the mass. Therefore, coal gradually becomes rich in carbon.


How do we Use Fossil Fuels in Everyday Life?

There are various fossil fuels applications in our day to day life. Fossil fuel uses in our daily life are given in the following table:

Examples of Fossil Fuels List

What do Fossil Fuels Provide us in Day-to-Day Life? 

Oil

Chemicals, lubricants, tars, waxes, medicines, fertilizers, pesticides etc

Coal

Electrical utilities, different products such as dyes, aspirins, soap, fibres, plastics and solvents etc

Natural Gas

Air conditioning, a cooking appliance such as fuel stoves and heat homes and establishments, heating water etc.

   

Uses of Fossils:

Various uses of fossils are given below:

  • Dates of sedimentary rocks are determined by the fossils.

  • Different time periods of the processing of earth are derived by the fossils. 

  • Earth’s history can be identified with the help of fossils.

Uses of Fuel:

The uses of fuel are given in the following:

  • Gasoline is one of the most significant fuels for transportation.

  • Natural gas is used in heating and cooking.

  • Coal is an essential thing to generate electric power.

  • Alcohol is blended with gasoline to boost up the production of fuels.

Did You Know?

The uses of fossil fuels are massive in the production of medicines in the world. Petroleum and health care are very closely related to each other. Coal is also used for producing different types of medicines. Since coal is originated from the remains of plants and animals, various useful medicines are manufactured from coal.

So, now you know what do fossil fuels provide us with. Practically, our daily life will become come to a standstill in the absence of fossil fuels.


Summary

There are three types of fossil fuels namely natural gas, coal and oil/petroleum. Generally, natural gas is used in the industrial sector. Oil is found in liquid form, coal is found in solid form and natural gas is found in gaseous form. Generating electricity, transportation as fuel for automobiles and jets etc are the various ways in which petroleum is used. Different types of fertilisers and pesticides are produced either by oil or by its by-products. Most of the countries are dependent upon coal as the other two fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) are generally more expensive.

FAQs on Uses of Fossil Fuels

1. How is Uranium used as Fossil Fuel?

Uranium can be considered as fuel as it is consumed by nuclear power plants and energy is also extracted from it. It is a non-renewable source of energy also like coal and other fuels. The only difference between uranium and other fossil fuels is that the former produces heat in the course of radioactive decay. One of the major demerits of uranium is that sometimes it produces dangerous radioactive reactions and waste products that continue to possess radioactive power for thousands of years. Uranium is capable of producing 1 million times of energy through weight for weight process.

2. What are the types of Coals? 

Coal is categorised into three subcategories according to the percentage of carbon and the amount of producing energy. The types of coal are Anthracite, Bituminous and Lignite. 

  • The percentage of carbon in Anthracite coal is around 86-92% and the percentage of dry volatile content is around 3-14%. 

  • The percentage of dry carbon in Bituminous coal is around 76-86% and the percentage of dry volatile content is around 14-46%. 

  • The percentage of dry carbon in Lignite coal is around 65-70% and the percentage is of dry volatile content is around 53-63%. 

Anthracite coal is considered the highest quality of coal. 

3. What are the environmental issues that arise due to fossil fuels?

Burning fossil fuels releases a large amount of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere and cause global warming. The average temperature in the world has already risen by 1 ° C. Above 1.5 ° C, there is a risk of sea level rise, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, species extinction,  food shortages and worsening health and poverty for millions of people around the world.

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