Non-renewable fossil fuels (crude oil, natural gas, coal, oil shales and tar sands) currently supply Australia with more than 95 percent of our electrical energy needs. Non-renewable energy is energy produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal. They are non-renewable because there are finite resources of fossil fuels on the planet. If they are continually used, one day they will run out. Just as plants do today, those living millions of years ago converted the sun\’s light energy into food (chemical) energy through the process of photosynthesis. That \’solar\’ energy was and is transferred down the food chain in animals. This energy provides living things with the energy to grow and live. When living organisms die the energy contained within them as chemical energy is trapped. It is estimated that the total amount of energy gained from fossil fuels since the start of civilization is equivalent to the same amount of energy we receive every 30 days from the sun. Fossil fuels are formed by the burying, and subsequent pressure and heating, of dead plant and animal matter or biomass (organic matter), over millions of years.
This is how coal, oil and natural gas are formed. The trapped energy can be released and utilized when the fuels are burnt. There are a few major advantages with non-renewable energy. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas are abundant in Australia so this means they are a relatively cheap fuel and readily available. Australia has enough fossil fuel resources to last for hundreds of years. Also very large amounts of electricity can be generated from fossil fuels. A typical coal-fired power station generates electricity by burning coal in a boiler that heats up water, which is converted into superheated steam. This steam drives a steam turbine that in turn drives a generator that produces electricity. A single coal-fired power station unit can power many thousands of houses as well as large industry. Fossil fuels are non-renewable and will eventually run out because we are using them much faster than they can be restored within the earth. Burning fossil fuels produces photochemical pollution from nitrous oxides, and acid rain from sulphur dioxide.
Burning fuels also produce greenhouse gases including vast amounts of carbon dioxide that may be causing the phenomenon of global warming that the planet is currently experiencing.
Non-renewable resources are resources for which there is a limited supply. The supply comes from the Earth itself and, as it typically takes millions of years to develop, is. Categories of Non-Renewable Resources Non-renewable resources can generally be separated into two main categories; fossil fuels and nuclear fuels. Fossil fuels are derived from organic matter which has been trapped between layers of sediments within the Earth for millions of years. The organic matter, typically plants, have decomposed and compressed over time, leaving what are known as fossil fuel deposits. These deposits, and the materials produced from them, tend to be highly combustible, making them an ideal energy source. They are difficult to obtain as they are typically retrieved through drilling or mining, but fossil fuels are worth the effort for the sheer amount of energy they produce. Crude Oil/Petroleum Crude oil is a non-renewable resource that builds up in liquid form between the layers of the Earth s crust.
It is retrieved by drilling deep into the ground and pumping the liquid out. The liquid is then refined and used to create many different products. Crude oil is a very versatile fuel and is used to produce things like plastics, artificial food flavorings, heating oil, petrol, diesel, jet fuel, and propane. The top three oil-producing countries are Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Gas Natural gasses gather below the Earth s crust and, like crude oil, must be drilled for and pumped out. Methane and ethane are the most common types of gasses obtained through this process. These gasses are most commonly used in home heating as well as gas ovens and grills. Russia, Iran, and Qatar are the countries with the largest recorded natural gas reserves. Coal Coal is the last of the major fossil fuels. Created by compressed organic matter, it is solid like rock and is obtained via mining. Out of all countries, China produces the most coal by far. According to the Statistical Review of World Energy, published in 2011 by BP, they produced an astounding 48. 3% (3,240 million tons) of the world s coal in 2010, followed by the United States who produced a mere 14. 8%.
Coal is most typically used in home heating and the running of power plants. The other form of non-renewable resource used to produce energy, nuclear fuels, is primarily obtained through the mining and refining of uranium ore. Uranium is a naturally occurring element found within the Earth\’s core. Most uranium deposits occur in small quantities which miners gather together, refine, and purify. Once gathered, the uranium is brought together and compounded into rods. The rods are then submersed into tanks of water. When it reaches critical mass, uranium begins to break down and release energy which heats the water it is immersed in. This is known as \”fission. \” The heated water then creates pressure and it is this pressure which drives the turbines that generate the electricity we use everyday. Nuclear fuels are key to maintaining the Earth\’s environment since they are the cleanest of all non-renewable resources.