Coal, oil and natural gas are three of the most common types of fossil fuels. Basically, they are naturally occurring hydrocarbons that contain large quantities of carbon and hydrogen molecules. They are formed when the organic matter like plants and animals that are buried under the surface of the earth for millions of years undergo anaerobic decomposition under high temperature and pressure. Fossil fuels are combustible substances and are burned to obtain usable form of energy. The calorific value of fossil fuels is extremely high, which means that enormous amount of heat is generated when these substances are burned.
Common Fossil Fuel Uses
Among all the resources of energy that are found on the earth, fossil fuels are the most popular. It is considered as a reliable source of energy and it is in great demand to fulfill the energy requirements all across the globe. The main advantages of fossil fuels are that they are readily available and can be carried from one place to another. Fossil fuels are used for various purposes. Some of them are discussed below.
All the major means of transportation depend on fossil fuels whether it is road transport, rail transport, water transport or air transport. Fossil fuels are used to power the engines of millions of vehicles. Gasoline obtained from refining of crude oil is used as fuel in cars. Then there is diesel, derived from crude petroleum, that is used in other modes of transport like trucks and trains. Even airplanes and ships use petroleum based transportation fuels.
Production of Electricity
A significant amount of fossil fuel, particularly coal, is being used up for generating electricity. You may be surprised to know that coal is the source of fuel in maximum number of thermal power plants all over the world. A few of them also use natural gas or oil as fuels. In the fossil fuel power plants, water is converted into steam by the heat generated by burning fossil fuels. The steam thus produced spins the turbines, which then operate the electrical generators.
Propane which happens to be the lightest fraction of petroleum gas is used as fuel in our kitchens as cooking gas. During winters, we use fossil fuels in the form of coal or gas in heaters for heating our homes. Kerosene which happens to be a byproduct of crude petroleum is also used for the same purpose. Similarly, the cooling systems in our houses are directly or indirectly dependent on the fossil fuels for energy.
Fossil fuel uses are not confined to as a source of energy only. They have a number of other uses as well. The heavier fractions obtained during the processing of petroleum have excellent lubricant properties and are used as lubricants. Some common examples of such lubricants are motor oil, hydraulic fluid, petroleum jelly, etc. Petrochemicals that are obtained from different fossil fuels are a source of plastic and polyester materials. Plastics are used for making bottles, containers, plates, boxes, bags and so many more useful household items. Polyester is a strong and durable fabric material which is used for clothing and various other purposes. Various useful organic chemicals are extracted from fossil fuels. One such important chemical is benzene. This chemical is used as a vital ingredient in manufacture of synthetic rubber, dyes, solvents, pesticides, etc. It is also a component of several medicines and food products too.
These were some of the most prominent uses of fossil fuels. The biggest disadvantage of fossil fuels is that it is a nonrenewable source of energy and we cannot afford to use it on a large scale. However, due to fast pace modernization, the demands for fossil fuels are ever increasing, while it takes millions of years to produce new fossil fuels. Therefore, we must make efforts to cut down on fossil fuel usage and look for an alternative source of energy.