Coal and Natural Gas

Crude oil, coal and natural gas formed from the prehistoric matter of plants, animals, zooplankton and other life that was buried sometimes miles deep inside the Earth and subjected to high temperatures and high pressure over millions of years. These three so-called fossil fuels include a wide assortment of carbon-based substances. Humans have known about petroleum, or crude oil, from centuries, but the substance wasn’t considered terribly interesting until the mid 1800s, when it was distilled into kerosene and found to be a good, cheap alternative to burning whale oil in oil lamps. At that time, only the wealthiest could afford whale oil, which was preferred over candles or animal fats. Americans and others worldwide quickly adopted petroleum and learned to make an unending stream of useful products from it. Simultaneously, a worldwide obsession with striking oil was born. In 1885 Robert Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner, which mixes gas with air to produce a steady flame for heat or cooking. Widespread household use of natural gas waited until the mid-twentieth century, when thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines were built across the country. Today, natural gas is a popular fuel for heating homes, cooking, and powering clothes dryers, as well as for power plants and industries. Some vehicles are powered by natural gas as well. Like petroleum, natural gas is a starting material for many other goods like plastics, chemicals, and even hydrogen. Natural gas is an especially efficient fuel when burned in combined-cycle power plants, where electricity is produced in two stages. The combusted natural gas itself runs gas turbines, and then the leftover heat is used to heat water for steam-turbines. In recent years, geologists have revised upwards their ideas of how much natural gas we can recover, increasing estimates by 11 percent between 2008 and 2009 alone, though there has been some contention that these estimates are inflated. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s cheap, readily mined domestically and generated almost half of all electricity in the country in 2009 as well as more than 40 % of electricity produced globally. Though American coal is a domestic affair we don’t need to import it the fuel has caused substantial air pollution, as well as ground and surface water pollution from mercury and acid rain. Coal is also the source of countless mining and steady supply of greenhouse gases.

  • Clean coal options
  • Production of SNG from coal
  • Coal processing
  • Oil and gas diversification
  • LNG market - Issues and trends

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