Fossil Fuels

Definition of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are energy resources derived from the altered remains of living organisms that were buried by sediments and exposed to elevated pressures and temperatures for millions of years. Fossil fuels can be: solids, as in the case of coal which is derived primarily from land plants; liquids, such as oil or tar sands; or gas, such as methane. Oil and gas hydrocarbons are derived primarily from the remains of marine plants.

There are three basic forms of fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and petroleum (crude oil). Because of the long time it takes to create these materials, they are non-renewable, meaning that more will not be made during anyone's lifetime, or even during modern civilization of humanity on the Earth.

How are fossil fuels obtained?
To obtain the raw materials that we make into fossil fuels, we need to find them and then extract them from the ground. Coal is preserved by the earth in a rock layer called a coal seam; mining is the only way to remove it whether it’s near the surface or deep underground. Oil and natural gas are preserved inside rocks which contain and trap these fluids in the earth. We locate these fluids using seismic reflections in which vibrations reflect off layers within the earth, and show where there are light fluids such as oil and gas. We gain access to them through drilling and then set up wells to draw them up to the surface. Once all these raw materials are gathered, they are sent to processing plants to become fossil fuels that are usable by consumers.

What are fossil fuels used for?
Fossil fuels are used for just about everything. They take the form of many different types of fuels—for heating, cooking, and transportation. Also, they are used to make many everyday products and used as raw materials too!