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Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner.

Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air.


Other processes used to convert fuel into energy include various other exothermic chemical reactions and nuclear reactions, such as nuclear fission or nuclear fusion.

Fuels are also used in the cells of organisms in a process known as cellular respiration, where organic molecules are oxidized to release usable energy.

Hydrocarbons are by far the most common source of fuel used by humans, but many other substances, such as radioactive metals, are currently used as well.


Natural Gas

There are three major forms of fuels


Coal is hard, black coloured-rock-like substances. It is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and varying amounts of sulphur Coal is classified into four categories based on how it responded to increasing heat and pressure over long periods of time and how much carbon it contains


The Four Major Categories of Coal




Lignite (soft). Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, or Rosebud coal by Northern Pacific Railroad, is a soft brown fuel with characteristics that put it somewhere between coal and peat.

Lignite is brownish-black in color and has a carbon content of around 2535%, a high inherent moisture content sometimes as high as 66%, and an ashcontent ranging from 6% to 19% compared with 6% to 12% for bituminous coal.

The energy content of lignite ranges from 10 - 20 MJ/kg (9-17 million BTU per short ton) on a moist, mineral-matter-free basis. Lignite has a high content of volatile matter which makes it easier to convert into gas and liquid petroleum products than higher ranking coals. However, its high moisture content and susceptibility to spontaneous combustion can cause problems in transportation and storage.

Because of its low energy density and typically high moisture content, brown coal is inefficient to transport and is not traded extensively on the world market compared with higher coal grades. It is often burned in power stations constructed very close to any mines, such as in Australia's Latrobe Valley andLuminant's Monticello plant in Texas.

Primarily because of latent high moisture content of brown coal, carbon dioxide emissions from traditional brown coal fired plants are generally much higher than for comparable black coal plants, with the world's highest emitting being Hazelwood Power Station, Victoria.

Subbituminous coal is a type of coal whose properties range from those of lignite to those of bituminous coal and are used primarily as fuel for steam-electric power generation.

Sub-bituminous coals may be dull, dark brown to black, soft and crumbly at the lower end of the range, to bright jetblack, hard, and relatively strong at the upper end. They contain 15-30% inherent moisture by weight and are noncoking (undergo little swelling upon heating).

The heat content of sub-bituminous coals range from 8300 to 11,500 BTu/lb or 19,306 to 26,749 kJ/kg. Their relatively low density and high water content renders some types of sub-bituminous coals susceptible to spontaneous combustion if not packed densely during storage in order to exclude free air flow.

A major source of sub-bituminous coal in the United States is the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Sub-bituminous coals, in the United States, typically have a sulfur content less than 1% by weight, which makes them an attractive choice for power plants to reduce SO2 emissions under the Acid Rain Program.

Bituminous coal or black coal is a relatively soft coal containing a tarlike substance called bitumen.

It is of higher quality than lignite coal but of poorer quality than Anthracite. It is usually formed as a result of high pressure on lignite.

Bituminous coal is an organic sedimentary rock formed by diagenetic and sub metamorphic compression of peat bog material.

Bituminous coal has been compressed and heated so that its primary constituents are macerals vitrinite, exinite, and so on. The carbon content of bituminous coal is around 60-80%; the rest is composed of water, air, hydrogen, and sulfur, which have not been driven off from the macerals.

The heat content of bituminous coal ranges from 21 million to 30 million Btu/ton (24 to 35 MJ/kg) on a moist, mineral-matter-free basis.

Bituminous coal is usually black, sometimes dark brown, often with welldefined bands of bright and dull material. Bituminous coal seams are stratigraphically identified by the distinctive sequence of bright and dark bands and are classified accordingly as either "dull, bright-banded" or "bright, dull-banded" and so on.

Bituminous coals are graded according to vitrinite reflectance, moisture content, volatile content, plasticity and ash content. Generally, the highest value bituminous coals have a specific grade ofplasticity, volatility and low ash content, especially with low carbonate, phosphorus, and sulfur.

Plasticity is vital for coking as it represents its ability to gradually form specific plasticity phases during the coking process, measured by coal dilatation tests. Low phosphorus content is vital for these coals, as phosphorus is a highly deleterious (damaging) element in steel making.

Coking coal is best if it has a very narrow range of volatility and plasticity. This is measured by the free swelling index test. Volatile content and swelling index are used to select coals for coke blending as well. THE USES OF BITUMINOUS Volatility is also critical for steel-making and power generation, as this determines the burn rate of the coal. High volatile content coals, while easy to ignite often are not as prized as moderately volatile coals; low volatile coal may be difficult to ignite although it contains more energy per unit volume. The smelter must balance the volatile content of the coals to optimize the ease of ignition, burn rate, and energy output of the coal.

Low ash, sulfur, and carbonate coals are prized for power generation because they do not produce much boiler slag and they do not require as much effort to scrub the flue gases to remove particulate matter. Carbonates are deleterious as they readily stick to the boiler apparatus. Sulfide contents are also deleterious in some fashion as this sulfur is emitted and can form smog, acid rain and haze pollution. Again, scrubbers on the flue gases aim to eliminate particulate and sulfur emissions.

This type of coal has the highest carbon content and the lowest moisture and ash content. Anthracite burns slowly and makes good heating fuel for homes

Anthracite is the most metamorphosed type of coal (but still represents lowgrade metamorphism), in which the carbon content is between 92.1% and 98%. The term is applied to those varieties of coal which do not give off tarry or other hydrocarbon vapours when heated below their point of ignition. Anthracite ignites with difficulty and burns with a short, blue, and smokeless flame. The properties of Anthracite differs from ordinary bituminous coal by its greater hardness, its higher relative density of 1.31.4, and lustre, which is often semi-metallic with a mildly brown reflection.

It contains a high percentage of fixed carbon and a low percentage of volatile matter. It is also free from included soft or fibrous notches and does not soil the fingers when rubbed. Anthracitization is the transformation of bituminous into anthracite. The moisture content of fresh-mined anthracite generally is less than 15 percent. The heat content of anthracite ranges from 22 to 28 million Btu per short ton (26 to 33 MJ/kg) on a moist, mineral-matter-free basis. The heat content of anthracite coal consumed in the United States averages 25 million Btu/ton (29 MJ/kg), on the as-received basis (i.e., containing both inherent moisture and mineral matter).

Note: Since the 1980s, anthracite refuse or mine waste has been used for steam electric power generation.

Anthracite may be considered to be a transition stage between ordinary bituminous and graphite, produced by the more or less complete elimination of the volatile constituents of the former, and it is found most abundantly in areas that have been subjected to considerable earth-movements, such as the flanks of great mountain ranges.

Anthracite is a product of metamorphism and is associated with metamorphic rocks, just as bituminous is associated with sedimentary rocks.

For example, the compressed layers of anthracite that are deep mined in the folded (metamorphic) Appalachian Mountains of the Coal Region of northeastern Pennsylvania are extensions of the layers of bituminous coal that are strip mined on the (sedimentary) Allegheny Plateau of Kentucky and West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania.

In the same way the anthracite region of South Wales is confined to the contorted portion west of Swansea and Llanelli, the central and eastern portions producing steam coal, coking coal and domestic house coals.

Structurally it shows some alteration by the development of secondary divisional planes and fissures so that the original stratification lines are not always easily seen.

The thermal conductivity is also higher, a lump of anthracite feeling perceptibly colder when held in the warm hand than a similar lump of bituminous at the same temperature.

The chemical composition of some typical anthracites is given in the article coal.


Coal forms from the accumulation of plant debris, usually in a swamp environment. When plant debris dies and falls into the swamp the standing water of the swamp protects it from decay.

Swamp waters are usually deficient in oxygen, which would react with the plant debris and cause it to decay. This lack of oxygen allows the plant debris to persist. In addition, insects and other organisms that might consume the plant debris on land do not survive well under water in an oxygen deficient environment.

To form the thick layer of plant debris required to produce a coal seam the rate of plant debris accumulation must be greater than the rate of decay. Once a thick layer of plant debris is formed it must be buried by sediments such as mud or sand. These are typically washed into the swamp by a flooding river.

The weight of these materials compacts the plant debris and aids in its transformation into coal. About ten feet of plant debris will compact into just one foot of coal.

Plant debris accumulates very slowly. So, accumulating ten feet of plant debris will take a long time. The fifty feet of plant debris needed to make a five-foot thick coal seam would require thousands of years to accumulate.

During that long time the water level of the swamp must remain stable. If the water becomes too deep the plants of the swamp will drown and if the water cover is not maintained the plant debris will decay. To form a coal seam the ideal conditions of perfect water depth must be maintained for a very long time.

If you are an astute reader you are probably wondering: "How can fifty feet of plant debris accumulate in water that is only a few feet deep?" The answer to that question is the primary reason that the formation of a coal seam is a highly unusual occurrence.

It can only occur under one of two conditions: 1) a rising water level that perfectly keeps pace with the rate of plant debris accumulation; or, 2) a subsiding landscape that perfectly keeps pace with the rate of plant debris accumulation.

Most coal seams are thought to have formed under condition in a delta environment. On a delta large amounts of river sediments are being deposited on a small area of Earth's crust and the weight of those sediments causes the subsidence.

For a coal seam to form perfect conditions of plant debris accumulation and perfect conditions of subsidence must occur on a landscape that maintains this perfect balance for a very long time.

It is very easy to understand why the conditions for forming coal has occurred only a small number of times throughout Earth's history. The formation of a coal requires the coincidence of highly improbable events.

Car Fuel Petroleum Platform

Cooking gas



Eventually, concentrations of natural gas became trapped in the rock layers like a wet sponge traps water

Natural gas is generally considered a nonrenewable fossil fuel. (There are some renewable sources of methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, also discussed in this factsheet.)

Natural gas is considered a fossil fuel because most scientists believe that natural gas was formed from the remains of tiny sea animals and plants that died 300 to 400 million years ago

NATURAL GAS When these tiny sea animals and plants died, they sank to the bottom of the oceans where they were buried by layers of sediment that turned into rock.

Most scientists believe that the pressure, combined with the heat of the Earth, changed this organic mixture into petroleum and natural gas.

Over the years, the layers of sedimentary rock became thousands of feet thick, subjecting the energy-rich plant and animal remains to enormous pressure.

Raw natural gas is a mixture of different gases. The main ingredient is methane, a natural compound that is formed whenever plant and animal matter decays.

By itself, methane is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. As a safety measure, natural gas companies add a chemical odorant called mercaptan (it smells like rotten eggs) so escaping gas can be detected.

Natural gas should not be confused with gasoline, which is made from petroleum.

The world's largest gas field is Qatar's offshore North Field, estimated to have 25 trillion cubic meters (9.01014cubic feet) of gas in place enough to last more than 420 years at optimum extraction levels.

The second largest natural gas field is the South Pars Gas Field in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.

Located next to Qatar's North Field, it has an estimated reserve of 8 to 14 trillion cubic meters[7] (2.81014 to 5.01014 cubic feet) of gas.

Power generation

Natural gas is a major source of electricity generation through the use of gas turbines and steam turbines. Most grid peaking power plants and some offgrid engine-generators use natural gas. Natural gas dispensed from a simple stovetop can generate heat in excess of 2000F (1093C) making it a powerful domestic cooking and heating fuel.

Domestic use


Gasoline/petrol vehicles converted to run on natural gas suffer because of the lowcompression ratio of their engines

THE USES OF NATURAL GAS Natural gas is a major feedstock for the production of ammonia, via the Haber process, for use in fertilizer production.



Russian aircraft manufacturer Tupolev is currently running a development program to produce LNG- and hydrogenpowered aircraft.


Natural gas is also used in the manufacture of fabrics, glass, steel, plastics, paint, and other products.

Petroleum (L. petroleum, from Greek: petra (rock) + Latin: oleum (oil)) or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling. This latter stage comes after the studies of structural geology (at the reservoir scale), sedimentary basin analysis, reservoir characterization (mainly in terms of porosity and permeable structures).

It is refined and separated, most easily by boiling point, into a large number of consumer products, from petrol and kerosene to asphalt and chemical reagents used to makeplastics and pharmaceuticals. Petroleum is used in manufacturing a wide variety of materials.

An oil well produces predominantly crude oil, with some natural gas dissolved in it. Because the pressure is lower at the surface than underground, some of the gas will come out of solution and be recovered (or burned) as associated gas or solution gas.

A gas well produces predominantly natural gas. However, because the underground temperature and pressure are higher than at the surface, the gas may contain heavier hydrocarbons such as pentane, hexane, and heptane in the gaseous state.

At surface conditions these will condense out of the gas to form natural gas condensate, often shortened to condensate. Condensate resembles petrol in appearance and is similar in composition to some volatile light crude oils.

The proportion of light hydrocarbons in the petroleum mixture varies greatly among different oil fields, ranging from as much as 97% by weight in the lighter oils to as little as 50% in the heavier oils andbitumens.

One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make things like: Solvents Ink Upholstery Bicycle Tires Dresses Cassettes Motorcycle Helmet CD Player Curtains Vitamin Capsules Dashboards Putty Percolators Skis Tool Racks Mops Umbrellas Roofing Denture Adhesive Speakers Tennis Rackets Nylon Rope Water Pipes Shampoo Guitar Strings Antifreeze Clothes Combs Vaporizers Heart Valves Enamel Anesthetics Dentures Cold cream Fan Belts Refrigerators Diesel fuel Floor Wax Sweaters Sports Car Bodies Tires Dishwasher parts Caulking Faucet Washers Food Preservatives Antihistamines Cortisone Dyes Life Jackets TV Cabinets Car Battery Cases Slacks Yarn Toilet Seats Linoleum Plastic Wood Rubber Cement Candles Hand Lotion Wheels Luggage Football Helmets Toothbrushes CD's & DVD's Balloons Crayons Pillows Artificial Turf Model Cars Movie film Car Enamel Golf Balls Motor Oil Ballpoint Pens Boats Nail Polish Golf Bags Tool Boxes Petroleum Jelly Antiseptics Basketballs Purses Deodorant Panty Hose Rubbing Alcohol Shag Rugs Epoxy Insect Repellent Fertilizers Fishing Rods Ice Cube Trays Electric Blankets Fishing Boots Trash Bags Roller Skates Paint Rollers Aspirin Awnings Ice Chests Paint Brushes Sun Glasses Parachutes Dishes Artificial limbs Folding Doors Soft Contact lenses Shaving Cream Toothpaste Bearing Grease Football Cleats Insecticides Fishing lures Perfumes Shoe Polish Transparent Tape Clothesline Soap Shoes Footballs Refrigerant Linings Electrician's Tape Paint Oil Filters Hair Coloring Lipstick Synthetic Rubber Glycerin Dice House Paint Surf Boards Shower Curtains Safety Glasses Eyeglasses Footballs Detergents Tents Telephones Cameras Bandages Hair Curlers Drinking Cups Ammonia Gasoline

Lipstic Umbrella Ballon Wheel Hand Lotion Shampoo CD player

When burned, petroleum releases carbon dioxide; a greenhouse gas. Along with the burning of coal, petroleum combustion is the largest contributor to the increase in atmospheric CO2. Global Warming Atmospheric CO2 has risen steadily since the industrial revolution to current levels of over 380ppmv, from the 180 - 300ppmv of the prior 800 thousand years, driving global warming


Oil extraction is simply the removal of oil from the reservoir (oil pool). Oil is often recovered as a water-in-oil emulsion, and specialty chemicals calleddemulsifiers are used to separate the oil from water.


Oil extraction is costly and sometimes environmentally damaging, although Dr. John Hunt of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution pointed out in a 1981 paper that over 70% of the reserves in the world are associated with visible macroseepages, and many oil fields are found due to natural seeps.

Offshore exploration and extraction of oil disturbs the surrounding marine environment.

Crude oil and refined fuel spills from tanker ship accidents have damaged natural ecosystems in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, Franceand many other places. Oil spills at sea are generally much more damaging than those on land, since they can spread for hundreds of nautical miles in a thin oil slick which can cover beaches with a thin coating of oil.

Oil spills

This can kill sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms it coats.