Where Fossil Fuels Come From

April 20, 2016

Energy Quest

The information on this page comes from Energy Quest.

Where Fossil Fuels Come From:
There are three major forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. All three were formed many hundreds of millions of years ago before the time of the dinosaurs – hence the name fossil fuels. The age they were formed is called the Carboniferous Period. It was part of the Paleozoic Era. "Carboniferous" gets its name from carbon, the basic element in coal and other fossil fuels.

Read more at: http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter08.html

Oil or Petroleum:
Oil is another fossil fuel. It was also formed more than 300 million years ago. Some scientists say that tiny diatoms are the source of oil. Diatoms are sea creatures the size of a pin head. They do one thing just like plants; they can convert sunlight directly into stored energy.

In the graphic on the left, as the diatoms died they fell to the sea floor (1). Here they were buried under sediment and other rock (2). The rock squeezed the diatoms and the energy in their bodies could not escape. The carbon eventually turned into oil under great pressure and heat. As the earth changed and moved and folded, pockets where oil and natural gas can be found were formed (3).

Oil has been used for more than 5,000-6,000 years. The ancient Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians used crude oil and asphalt ("pitch") collected from large seeps at Tuttul (modern-day Hit) on the Euphrates River. A seep is a place on the ground where the oil leaks up from below ground. The ancient Egyptians, used liquid oil as a medicine for wounds, and oil has been used in lamps to provide light.

Read more at: http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter08.html

Natural Gas:
Sometime between 6,000 to 2,000 years BCE (Before the Common Era), the first discoveries of natural gas seeps were made in Iran. Many early writers described the natural petroleum seeps in the Middle East, especially in the Baku region of what is now Azerbaijan. The gas seeps, probably first ignited by lightning, provided the fuel for the "eternal fires" of the fire-worshiping religion of the ancient Persians.

Natural gas is lighter than air. Natural gas is mostly made up of a gas called methane. Methane is a simple chemical compound that is made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. It's chemical formula is CH4 – one atom of carbon along with four atoms hydrogen. This gas is highly flammable.

Natural gas is usually found near petroleum underground. It is pumped from below ground and travels in pipelines to storage areas. The next chapter looks at that pipeline system.

Read more at: http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter08.html

 

 

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