Fossil Fuels

What do you need to know about Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are the ancient deposits of decomposed animal and plant remains found in the earth’s crust. They are of three major types: coal, oil and natural gas. The extracted deposits are rich in hydrocarbon compounds. Also, fossil fuels have been the primary energy source for producing heat and electricity. Three notable examples are natural gas for heating, crude oil for transportation and coal-fired electricity. However, as you can see, these fuels have been part of our life for a long time. But unfortunately, there is natural resource depletion around the globe. Also, they are a non-renewable source of energy which adds to the disadvantage. So it is essential to save the remaining fossil fuel deposits for the future.

Pollution caused by the combustion of fossil fuels is more lethal than predicted.

Pollution from fine particulates caused by the combustion of fossil fuels caused the premature death of people in 2018. Based on this, Harvard University, the University of Birmingham, and Leicester University conducted research. The researchers discovered that pollution from fossil fuel combustion killed 8 million prematurely worldwide.

According to reports, three hundred fifty thousand people have died in the United States alone. The primary causes were chronic medical conditions such as lung cancer, heart attacks, and dementia. Similarly, pregnant women and low-income people are more prone to the risk of fine particulate pollution. Thus, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels would improve our health and stimulate the economy by creating new job opportunities.

Burning of Fossil Fuels Causes

Warming Planet: Burning these fuels emits a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). Oil, coal, and gas combustion meet our energy needs but contribute to global warming. These emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, causing climate change. The transportation and power sector utilises these burned fossil fuels the most. They account for roughly three-quarters of carbon emissions in the United States.

Forms of air pollution: The burning of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide and other harmful gases. Such as coal-powered plants generate 35 per cent of toxic mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions in the United States. These emissions have contributed to acid rain and soot particles in the atmosphere. Also, poisonous gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide released by fossil-fuel-powered vehicles cause smog on hot days. They can lead to respiratory illnesses if exposed for an extended period.

Ocean acidification: By burning oil, coal, and gas, we change the ocean’s chemistry, making it more acidic. Our oceans can absorb up to a quarter of all carbon emissions. The oceans have become 30% more acidic since the industrial revolution. There is also a decrease in calcium carbonate from the sea. It is a substance which helps marine creatures to form new shells. In addition, increased acidity causes slower growth rates and weakened shells. As a result, the entire aquatic food chain is in chaos.

Phasing out fossil fuels

It is undeniable that using fossil fuels has disastrous effects. The melting of ice caps, rising sea levels, extreme heat, and cold weather are all consequences of fossil fuel consumption. These impacts on both people and the economy will cause more delays in the transition process of phasing out fossil fuels.
Governments, businesses and communities are increasingly imposing the need for a quicker transition. But unfortunately, each group are setting a higher expectation for the other.

There is also an increased urge from companies to use environmental, social and corporate governance targets and metrics based on ESG investments. All of these are reshaping the financial and economic standards. These organisations are decarbonising their operations. Banks, insurers, and institutional investors are steering toward the “net-zero concept“. Financial systems are also rapidly emerging as critical enablers of the phasing-out process.
Many changes are happening due to the phasing out of fossil fuels. But there is a risk of delay in the process. The sectors are more or less dependent on each other, and the cost of decarbonisation is high. All these complications also delay the transition phase as people tend to postpone taking action and prefer a more convenient alternative.

Transition to Renewable energy

While renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal are starting to replace fossil fuels in certain sectors. It still seems far-fetched that the world’s rapid use of fossil fuels can end sooner. However, according to experts, the progress can become a reality with providing enough time and initiatives.

U.S. energy sources, their primary uses, and their percentage shares of total U.S. energy consumption in 2020

All these require massive changes in transportation alternatives. Still, the most challenging issue would be shifting power supply frameworks. 

If renewable resources compete significantly with the fossil fuel industry, we need to begin subsidising them more than fossil fuels. 

Fossil fuel companies and utility companies deal with politics since they carried out electricity in the early 1900s, making it challenging to unravel their hold over the energy market since so many stakes are at play.

Since the intention behind these effects is to improve the world, there are a lot of green energy laws and policies that promise to deliver accurate results. Therefore, people seem to think the “green transition” status is active.

At this transition rate, it’s no longer practical for the rich and powerful to deny the reality of global warming and other environmental challenges. 

The “green initiatives” are picking up pace, pointing to the worldwide interest in investing in renewable energy and other green advancements over the past decade. 

When you look at the raw numbers, they seem to provide some backing for the argument. Global investment in renewables led by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to come in at US$367 billion in 2021—up from $359 billion in 2020 and $336 billion in 2019. That’s a lot of new wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric power stations.

Bioenergy

Bioenergy, a type of renewable energy, is an essential substitute for modern potential’s ozone-depleting substance (GHG). All resources are sustainable energy, usually utilized for a bioenergy framework. Specific ongoing frameworks and key future advancements, such as perennial cropping systems, waste and livestock manure utilization, and technologically advanced transition systems, can deliver an 80 per cent to 90 per cent discharge reduction in carbon emission compared to fossil fuel standards.

Direct combustion is the most widely recognized strategy to convert biomass into utilizable energy. Steam turbines provide power by burning biomass, which also includes electricity for industrial processes and buildings.

Direct and Indirect land conversion is taking place due to the rising demand for biomass. This conversion is causing an increase in GHG emissions. The practices of land alterations impact the carbon emissions and vegetation of the soil by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Strategies to mitigate the effects of land use change are increasing the number of energy crops grown on low-carbon pastureland and utilizing agricultural and forestry waste. Crops that provide nutrients and fibre and are a source of bioenergy can be planted in an integrated production system reducing the land-use effects and enhancing the land’s usefulness.

The goal of increasing biofuel output will be aided by the evaluation of innovative production and management techniques, crops, cropping systems that are responsive to local conditions, and policies that promote environmentally beneficial outcomes.

Processes and Techniques in Treating Biomass

Scientists are working on different techniques to foster alternate ways of converting and utilizing more biomass energy.

Thermochemical conversion of biomass incorporates pyrolysis and gasification. Both are thermal deterioration processes in which biomass feedstock materials are heated in shut, compressed vessels called gasifiers at high temperatures. They vary in the process temperatures and measures of oxygen present during the cycle. Pyrolysis involves heating organic materials to 800-900°F(400-500℃) when almost oxygen-free. Biomass pyrolysis produces fuels like charcoal, bio-oil, diesel, methane and hydrogen.

Hydrotreating is utilized to process bio-oil (created by rapid pyrolysis) with hydrogen under elevated temperatures and pressures with the activator to produce renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Gasification involves processing organic materials to 1400-1700°F (800-900℃)with infusions of a controlled percentage of oxygen and steam into the vessel to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen-rich gas called synthesis gas or syngas. Syngas can be utilized to fuel diesel motors, heat, and generate electricity in gas turbines. Similarly, it can be processed to extract the hydrogen from the gas; the hydrogen can then be burned or used in fuel cells. The Fischer-Tropsch method can be applied to the syngas to process them further and create liquid fuels.

Transesterification is a chemical process that converts unsaturated fat”methyl esters” (FAME) from vegetable oils, animal fats, and lubricants into biodiesel.

Biological conversion incorporates a fermentation process to convert biomass into ethanol and anaerobic processing to produce renewable natural gas. Renewable natural gas, also called biogas or biomethane, is produced in anaerobic digesters at sewage treatment with plants, dairy and livestock activities. It also forms or could be captured from solid waste landfills. Properly treated renewable natural gas has similar purposes to non-renewable natural gas. 

Bioenergy Forecasts (2021-2022) EIA reports

In 2020, biomass provided around 4,532 trillion British thermal units (TBtu), or about 4.5 quadrillions Btu, equivalent to 4.9% of total U.S. primary energy consumption. Of that sum, around 2,101 TBtu were from wood and wood-derived biomass, 2000 TBtu were from biofuels (essentially ethanol), and 430 TBtu were from the biomass in municipal wastes.
The sum in TBtu and percentage shares of total U.S. biomass energy use by the consuming sector in 2020 were:
Industrial—2,246 TBtu—(50%)
Transportation—1,263 TBtu—(28%)
Residential—458 TBtu—(10%)
Electric power—424 TBtu— (9%)
Commercial—141 TBtu—(3%)
Industrial and transportation represent the most extensive amounts. In terms of energy content, Wood products and paper ventures use biomass in consolidated intensity and power plants to process heat and produce power. Liquid biofuels (ethanol and biomass-based diesel) represent a large portion of the transportation area’s biomass consumption.

Shares of total U.S. energy consumption by major sources in selected years (1776-2020)

The residential and commercial use firewood and wood pellets for heating. In some cases, the retail sector sells the additional renewable natural gas produced at municipal sewage treatment and waste landfills.
The purpose of these impacts is to change the world with green energy laws and activities to draw attention to the effects. Unfortunately, people are still unaware of the green transition and its impact.
At this transition rate, it’s no longer practical for the rich and powerful to deny the reality of global warming and other environmental challenges.
The “green initiatives” are picking up pace, pointing to the worldwide interest in investing in renewable energy and other green advancements over the past decade.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is teaming up with industries to develop next-generation biofuels made from wastes, cellulosic biomass, and algae-based resources. BETO is focused on developing hydrocarbon biofuels-otherwise called drop-in fuels, which can act as petrol substitutes in refineries, tanks, pipelines, pumps, vehicles, and smaller engines.

Bioethanol

  • Ethanol is renewable hydrolysis or sugar fermentation fuel derived from bioresources (biomass).
  • It is alcohol based blending agent with gas to build octane and cut down carbon monoxide and other smog-causing emanations.
  • The most common ethanol blend is E10 (10% ethanol, 90%gasoline), compatible with most conventional fuel-controlled vehicles up to E15 (15 per cent ethanol, 85 per cent gas).
  • Flex Fuel Vehicles can run on ethanol-blended gasoline. They can run on E85, an elective fuel with a much higher ethanol content than regular gas (a gas ethanol mix containing 51 per cent -83 per cent ethanol, depending on geography and season). In the United States, ethanol accounts for 97 per cent of all fuel.
  • Plant starches and sugars are the major sources of producing ethanol. Yet, researchers are proceeding to foster innovations that would consider the utilisation of cellulose and hemicellulose, the non-consumable fibrous material that comprises the bulk of plant matter.
  • The usual method of changing from biomass to ethanol is ageing; during ageing, microbes utilise plant sugars and produce bioethanol.

Biodiesel

  • Biodiesel is a fluid fuel from vegetable oils and animal fats.
  • It is a cleaner consumption substitution for oil-based fuel. Hence, It is non-toxic and biodegradable
  • Usually made by mixing alcohol with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease.
  • It is fuel compression-ignition (diesel) engines like petroleum-derived diesel.
  • Usual blends of biodiesel mixed with petroleum diesel includes B100 (pure biodiesel) and the most common blend, B20 (a blend containing 20% biodiesel and 80% petrol diesel).

Renewable hydrocarbons “Drop-In” fuels

  • Gas, diesel and Jet fuel contain a combination of hydrocarbon particles burned to produce energy.
  • Hydrocarbons produced from biomass sources through organic and thermochemical processes are sustainable.
  • Biomass-based sustainable hydrocarbon fuels are almost identical to the petroleum-based energy source designed to replace them.
  • They’re viable with today’s engines, pumps, and other infrastructure.

India’s Initiatives

India has over two decades of experience in planning and implementing bioenergy programs. These programs have undergone changes, reflecting the elements of the policy environment.

Due to rapid economic development, India has one of the world’s fastest-growing energy markets. By 2035, India aims to be the second-largest contributor to global energy demand, accounting for 18% of the increase in global energy consumption.

  • In 2020-21, the per-capita energy consumption was 0.6557 Mtoe, excluding conventional biomass use.
  • The energy intensity of the Indian economy is 0.2233 Mega Joules per INR (53.4 kcal/INR). 
  • Net energy import dependency was 41.2 in 2020-21. 

India’s developing energy demands and limited domestic oil and gas reserves, the nation has ambitious projects to grow its sustainable and nuclear power program. 

India has the world’s fourth-biggest wind power market and plans to add around 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022. India also plans to increase its contribution towards nuclear power for overall electricity generation capacity from 4.2% to 9% within 25 years. The nation has five nuclear reactors under development (third highest in the world) and plans to build 18 additional atomic reactors (2nd highest in the world) by 2025. During the year 2018, India’s total investment in the energy sector was 4.1% (US$75 billion) of US$1.85 trillion worldwide investment.

In November 2021, the nation promised to arrive at net-zero emanations in 2070. It declared a target of 45% by 2030 to reduce its CO2 emission intensity of GDP, yet the reference used for this target has not been revealed. In its most memorable NDC, India designated a decrease of its CO2 power by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005. 

The nation also aims for 40% of the total electricity capacity based on non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 (32% in 2020). In 2019, the public authority declared a 100% railway electrification target in 2030 as part of its strategy to deduct the country’s Co2 emissions.

The experience shows that in spite of several financial incentives and favourable policy measures, the rate of effect of Bioenergy Technologies (BETs) is low because of the industrial, technical, market and credit barriers.

Initiatives and policies barriers to “BET”

  • Rational and Economic tariffs.
  • Inducement to promote private sector participation.
  • Motivating institutions and empowering the community.
  • Financial support for the large-scale presentation programs and for focused research and development
  • Land tenure arrangements to produce and promote biomass.

The worldwide mechanism for addressing environmental changes like the Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)  is an incentive promoter for BETs.

Strategy to reduce Fossil Fuel Consumption

  • Elimination of fossil fuel subsidies creates $35 billion from the taxpayer’s reserves fund allotted for future sustainable projects.
  • Increase the social cost of carbons (SCC). It has been unaccounted for damage to the ecosystem through carbon emission for years. U.S. Federal government uses SCC to evaluate the climate impacts of policies. 
  • A government clean power standard requires a percentage of electricity sold by the utilities to come from clean electricity sources. Such a standard exists in a few states and usually involves a share of clean energy on the electric grid, increasing over time.
  • Price to be paid on carbon emission by the emitters. Carbon pricing policies can strategise in various ways, which in return help to cut down the emission in the long run. Trading off the emission is also a way which is similar to the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Initiative, in which the market decided on a carbon cost. Thus, all these initiatives will decrease the emission of Co2 and create a new income stream for clean energy investments.

In short, all these changes would affect our planet. We habitants are responsible for taking initiatives accordingly so that we and our future generations don’t have to face the worst possible outcomes. Also, If we do not change ourselves to better alternatives, we might run out of resources faster than we all anticipated. So, it’s crucial for a dynamic change that might help us preserve the remaining fossil fuel for best use and switch to a better world of renewable energy sources.

Decide you are not going to give up our planet without a struggle – Act now!!!