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Most of this air pollution is caused due to the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline to produce electricity, heat and to power our transportation vehicles.


What are fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels are fuels obtained from old, dead life forms that have decomposed over extremely long period of time. The three most important fossil fuel sources are coal, oil and natural gas.

These fuels are called fossil fuels because they are mined or extracted from underground. Fossil fuel is a general term for entombed combustible deposits comprising of organic materials, formed from decayed life-forms such as plants and animals, that have been transformed to crude oil, heavy oils, coal, or natural gas, by exposure to pressure and heat within the Earth's crust over a lenghty period of hundreds of millions of years.

Oil and gas are known as hydrocarbons, having molecules that have only hydrogen and carbon in them. Coal is mostly comprised of the element carbon.

Lumps of coal

What are fossil fuels used for?

Out of all of the energy resources that are found on earth, fossil fuels are the most widely used. They are considered as a reliable source of energy and there is a huge demand for them to fulfill the energy requirements of our world. The main advantage of fossil fuels is that that they are readily available, multi-purpose and can be transported easily from one location to another.

Production of Electricity
Most of the materials we burn, to create energy, are fossil fuels. A major use is to create electricity. In many power stations, fossil fuels, usually coal and gas, are burned in order to heat water so it turns into steam. The steam is used to drive turbines that spin the electrical generators, which then produce the electricity. A large quantity of fossil fuel, particularly coal, is being burned for generating electricity. Coal is the main source of fuel used in thermal power plants all accross the world. And only some of them also use natural gas or oil as fuel.

All the major forms of transportation rely heavily on fossil fuels, whether it is road transport, rail transport, air transport or water transport. Fossil fuels are required for powering the engines of millions of vehicles. Petrol (Gasoline) is obtained by refining crude oil is used as fuel in motor cars. Diesel, which is derived from crude petroleum, is widely used in other modes of transport such as trucks, vans and trains. Aviation fuel is a. higher quality, specialised type of petroleum based fuel used to power aircraft. Ships generally use three types of fuels - Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (LSFO) and diesel oil. Transporrtation that uses electricity such as trains and some cars still contribute to the demand for fossil fuels - The electricity that is generated for them.


Home & workplace heating
Most commonly used in more developed nations is natural gas which is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane and varying amounts of other higher alkanes. It's generally very clean when burned, giving off only carbon dioxide and water vapour. Propane, the lightest fraction of petroleum gas, is often used as fuel in kitchens for cooking where there is no natural gass supply. During winters, fossil fuels such as coal or gas are used for heating homes. Kerosene, a byproduct of crude petroleum, is also used for the same purpose.

Manufacturing of products
Fossil fuels are not only used as a source of energy, having many other uses as well. The heavier fractions derived during the processing of petroleum have superb lubricant properties and are used as lubricants. Examples of lubricants are motor oil, hydraulic fluid, petroleum jelly and grease.

Petrochemicals are usually obtained from petroleum and sometimes coal are the source of plastic and polyester materials. Plastics are widely used for making bottles, containers, bags and so many more useful household items plus in all kinds of manufacturing of products. Polyester is a strong and durable fabric material used for clothing and many other purposes. Many useful organic chemicals are extracted from fossil fuels, such as benzene which is used as a vital ingredient in manufacture of synthetic rubber, dyes, solvents and pesticides, etc. plus medicines and food products.

These are just some of the most important uses of fossil fuels. The big problem is that fossil fuels are a non-renewable source of energy and raw materials - Which may in fact be a blessing in disguise. Due to rapid pace of global modernisation, the demands for fossil fuels are ever increasing, but it takes millions of years to produce new sources fossil fuels. It is now becoming more essential than ever we reduce fossil fuel and raw material usage and use technology to seek out new alternatives.

How are fossil fuels obtained?

Fossil fuels are obtained in a variety of ways. Each way has it's advantages and dis-advantages along with a long list of controversies and self interests.

The raw materials used to form fossil fuels are extracted them from the ground. Coal is formed by natural causes of decomposition and pressure of plant and animal life the earths crust as a layer called a coal seam; mining is the only way to extract it, whether it’s close to the surface or deep underground. Oil and natural gas are preserved inside rocks which contain and trap them in the earth. We locate these by using seismic reflections in which vibrations reflect off layers within the earth, which show the locations. They are extracted by drilling into the ground. Wells are constructed to draw the oil and gas from the ground. Once all these raw materials are obtained, they are sent to processing plants and transformed into fossil fuels that are usable by consumers.

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