Fossil Fuels

Created by Ellen Dugan

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Fuels and EnergyA "FUEL" is a substance that provides energy such as heat, light, electricity, or motion as the result of a chemical change.


CombustionFuels contain stored chemical energy, which can be released by burning. The process of burning a fuel is called combustion. When gasoline is burned in a car engine, it undergoes a chemical change...THIS SOUNDS REALLY COMPLICATED BUT THE COMBUSTION OF GASOLINE CREATES A CHEMICAL CHANGE THAT CONVERTS SOME OF THE STORED CHEMICAL ENERGY INTO THERMAL ENERGY.....THEN THE THERMAL ENERGY IS CONVERTED TO MECHANICAL ENERGY THAT MOVES THE CAR.


PRODUCTION OF ELECTRICITYEnergy stored in fuels can be used to generate electricity. Watch this short video with a brief explanation:


FOSSIL FUELSLike they mentioned in the video fossil fuels are energy-rich substances formed from the remains of once-living organisms. There are three major fossil fuels.


COALCoal is formed from plant remains. People have burned coal for thousands of years. Coal fueled the huge steam engines that powered trains, ships, and factories during the industrial revolution. Today coal provides 23% of energy used in the United States.


Coal MiningBefore it can be used, coal has to be removed from the ground, or mined. Coal mining can be a very dangerous job. Thousands of miners have been killed or injured in accidents in the mines. Many more suffer from black lung disease caused by breathing in coal dust.


OilOil is a thick, black, liquid fossil fuel. It is formed from the remains of small animals, algae, and protists that lived in oceans and shallow inland seas hundreds of millions of years ago. Petroleum is another name for oil.


Locating and refining oilOil is located deep below the surface, so finding oil is difficult. Scientists can use sound waves to test an area for oil without drilling.
When oil is pumped out of the ground, it is called crude oil. A factory where crude oil is separated into fuels and other products is called a refinery.
Petrochemicals are compounds that are made from oil.


NATURAL GASThe third major fossil fuel is natural gas - a mixture of methane and other gasses. Natural gas forms from the same organisms as petroleum.
Natural gas has several advantages. It produces large amounts of energy, but lower levels of pollutants than coal and oil. It is easy to transport. is highly flammable. A gas leak can cause a violent explosion or fire.


FUEL SUPPLY AND DEMANDSince fossil fuels take hundreds of millions of years to form, they are considered nonrenewable. Earth's oil reserves took 500 million years to form. If fossil fuels continue to be used more rapidly than they are formed, the reserves will eventually run out.

New sources of energy are needed to replace the decreasing fossil fuel reserves.
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