Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, fuel oil natural gas or primarily coal that formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. The term fossil fuel also involves hydrocarbon that contains natural resources, it is not derived from animal or plant sources.
A fuel formed by natural processes, such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing energy originating in ancient photosynthesis is called fossil fuel.
Such fossil fuels typically have an age of millions of years. It contains high percentages of carbon and includes coal, petroleum and natural gas. Commonly used derivatives of fossil fuels include propane and kerosene.
Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low C-H ratios (like C2H4), to liquids (like petroleum), to nonvolatile materials composed OF pure carbon, like coal. Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields either alone, in the form of methane or associated with oil.
The fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to pressure and heat in the Earth’s crust over millions of years.
The use of fossil fuels damages the environment. The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tones of CO2 per year. It is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10 billion tones of atmospheric CO2 per year. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that increases global warming along with ocean acidification.
The utilization of fossil fuels has also help for the large-scale industrial development and largely supplanted water-driven mills, as well as the combustion of peat or wood for heat.
The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of emissions of CO2. It is one of the greenhouse gases that also contribute to global warming.
A small portion of hydrocarbon fuels are biofuels that derived from atmospheric CO2, and thus do not increase the net amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Properties of fossil fuel
There is a wide range of hydrocarbon or organic compounds in any fuel mixture. The specific mixture of hydrocarbons gives a fuel its specific characteristic or properties, such as melting point, boiling point, density, viscosity, e.t.c. Some fuels like natural gas contain only very low boiling. But diesel or gasoline contains high boiling components.
Importance of Fossil Fuels
- Fossil fuels are important because they can be burned (oxidized to carbon dioxide and water) and producing significant amounts of energy per unit mass.
- Deposits of natural gas are also the main source of the helium element.
- The wide-scale use of fossil fuels, coal, and petroleum, to fire steam engines enabled the Industrial Revolution.
- Gas lights that using coal gas or natural gas were coming into wide use.
- The invention of the internal combustion in the engine and its use in automobiles greatly increased the demand for gasoline and diesel oil, both made from fossil fuels.
- Other forms of transportation, aircraft, and railways, also required fossil fuels.
- The other major use for fossil fuels is in producing electrical power. The tar from petroleum extraction is used in the construction of roads.