Fossil fuels are responsible for providing the energy needed worldwide for many household and industrial purposes today. Deposits of fossil fuels are found throughout the world deep inside the earth. Fossil fuels are the carbon rich remains of ancient vegetation and other organisms that have endured intense heat and pressure inside the earth over periods of millions of years. Severe heat and pressure over time convert these organic remains into fossil fuels, which collect in reservoirs that are sought after by oil focused companies such as as well as investors for extraction. Though quite a few types of fossil fuels exist, here we examine three main types that are widely utilized for energy production and many other products: petroleum, coal and natural gas.
-Petroleum: Also called crude oil, the term petroleum encompasses multiple types of hydrocarbons, which are compounds consisting primarily of hydrogen and carbon but possibly containing other elements as well. Petroleum forms mainly from marine vegetation and bacteria that lived in the oceans or other saltwater environments millions of years ago. Petroleum deposits are often found in the same locations as natural gas, each of which can be extracted for energy production. Petroleum is used in the production of plastic and medications among many other products.
-Coal: Coal forms from plants such as ferns, moss and trees which lived near shorelines and in swamps and bogs millions of years ago. When these plants die, they are slowly covered with sediment and over time pressed deep into the earth where they are affected by mounting heat and pressure. Under these conditions, the organic matter becomes richer in carbon and hydrogen, and increasingly deprived of oxygen. Coal goes through various stages of development based on its increasing carbon content, and coal containing higher levels of carbon burns cleaner than those with lower levels. The purest form of coal is graphite, which consists almost entirely of carbon.
-Natural Gas: Natural gas forms mainly from the remains of plankton, or a type of small water organisms including algae. Consisting mostly of methane, natural gas is often found on top of deposits of petroleum due to its lower density, and is extracted in the same process. However, deposits containing only natural gas do exist. Natural gas is desirable in part because it burns cleaner than coal and petroleum. Natural gas is commonly used in residential applications for home heating and has a myriad of other applications.