The SEAI reports that about 90% of the energy produced in the UK comes from the burning of fossil fuels. This startling fact underlines the dire situation the UK faces as it’s commitments to the EU loom closer.
The ‘binding’ EU targets, are for the UK to have 16% of all energy coming from renewable sources and 10% of energy used in the transport sector from said renewables.
So where do we stand now? Well, in 2017 we made huge strides achieving the primary target mainly down to an increase in wind energy and increase in awareness at the domestic level.
There has been a significant interest in modern heat pump heating systems with a significant number of homeowners taking up grants under the SEAI scheme.
But those in government aren’t under any illusions and more has to be done to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The most common fossil fuels are coal, oil, and natural gas. Peat, a very young form of coal, and oil shale are types of fossil fuel. These fuels were formed millions of years ago from plants and animals that died and decomposed beneath tons of soil and rock.
These fossil fuels are not fossils like the bones of prehistoric creatures. Prehistoric fossils are hard and made of stone. Stone cannot burn. Fossil fuels contain the remains of dead plants and animals, not stone, and can burn.
The Different Fossil Fuels
The different fossil fuels formed in different ways. Peat is formed the partially decomposed remains of plants, which has grown in a swamp or marsh. Over a long period of time, peat will form coal.
Coal was formed from plant debris. It is thought that 10 feet of plant material is needed to form 1 foot of coal. Natural gas and oil were formed from tiny organisms that settled to the bottom of ancient seas and rivers.
Oil and gas need special conditions to prevent them escaping to the surface. A ‘trap’ must exist to prevent the upward movement of the fluid. The main feature of the ‘trap’ is an impermeable cap-rock. This stops the oil and gas seeping to the surface.
Fossil fuels are vitally important in today’s world. In the UK, about 90% of our total energy requirements are supplied by fossil fuels. This is down from 98% in 2003 and with the increasing levels of efficiency seen in oil and gas boilers, the move to electric cars and an increasing focus on renewables, the British government expects this number to continue to drop.
Fossil fuels can be used to produce more than just energy. Not only can oil be refined into fuels to power engines, it can also be processed into petrochemicals from which plastics, medicines, and paints can be made.
Fossil Fuels & Petrochemicals
The Petrochemical Industry is an industry that makes chemicals from petroleum, another name for oil. Many types of fertilisers that are used to grow our food are made from fossil fuels. Many types of plastic are made from fossil fuels and this plastic is used for many things, eg. glasses, mobile phones.
You might be wearing glasses made of plastic. The mobile you should not be looking at is also made of plastic. The synthetic fibres that are used to make fabrics for our clothes are produced from fossil fuels. Photographic film for our cameras is also made from petroleum, as are many medicines.