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Fossil fuels.
Extraction of oil

Treatment of fossil fuels

Plantation for the production of biofuels

Non-renewable Energy

Non-renewable energy

Non-renewable energies are the methods of obtaining energy using an exhaustible energy source.

Non- renewable energy consumes some type of fuel (oil, coal, uranium ...). In turn, renewable energy uses other types of energy resources (sun, wind, water, etc. etc.). However, in the future some fuels could be considered inexhaustible. For example, hydrogen.

The concept of non- renewable energy is taken into account at the scale of human life. Some processes have taken up to five hundred million years. For example, carbon accumulation.

The purpose of this type of energy is generally the generation of electrical energy and mechanical energy. They are also used to produce mechanical energy (automobiles).

The energy efficiency of non-renewable sources is very low. Especially if we compare it with the efficiency of clean energy. No combustion process is perfectly efficient.

Most non-renewable sources involve the emission of greenhouse gases. In this way, they contribute to worsening the climate change situation.

Definition of non-renewable energy

We define non- renewable energy as energy sources that tend to run out. The speed with which these resources are consumed is greater than the speed with which they regenerate.

Non- renewable energy types

There are two types of non-renewable (or exhaustible) energy sources:

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels have been formed from organic matter. This matter has been subjected to high temperatures and pressure for millions of years before turning into one of the following forms:

  • Coal. Coal is a type of rock specially made of carbon.
  • Oil. It is a mixture of organic compounds. It has also been formed from organic matter. Under normal pressure and temperature conditions it is a bituminous liquid.
  • Natural gas. Natural gas is a hydrocarbon mixture of light gases of natural origin. Its main compound is methane.

Unconventional energy sources

  • Agrofuels, biofuels. They are cultivated fuels.
  • Nuclear fuels (uranium and plutonium) used in nuclear power plants.

Geothermal energy, in general, is considered as renewable energy. However, there is a certain type of geothermal energy that uses hot water. Depending on the ability to regenerate these hot springs, geothermal energy could be a non-renewable energy.

Pros and cons of non-renewable resources

Different methods of generating electricity have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of renewable energy sources.

  • Constant production. Power plants powered by fossil fuels or nuclear fuels are reliable sources of energy. This means that they can provide power when needed.
  • Low fuel cost. The price of fuel for this type of power plant is relatively cheap.

Disadvantages of non-renewable energy resources.

  • They are not renewable. Fossil fuels took millions of years to form. Also, they cannot be replaced once they have been used. If we continue to use these fuels, they will run out.
  • They harm the environment. When fossil fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One of the main causes of climate change and global warming is the excessive use and burning of these fuels.
  • Sulfur dioxide emission. Coal and natural gas also release sulfur dioxide when burned. This gas can cause respiratory problems for living things. It is also an important part of acid rain.
  • The cost of the facilities is high. Power plants are expensive to build. It is also very expensive to dismantle old nuclear power plants and store their radioactive waste.

What is fossil energy?

Fossil energy is part of the energy that is not renewable. We refer to fossil energy as the energy that is generated by fossil fuels.

The main sources of fossil fuels are coal, oil, and natural gas. These resources are called conventional fossil resources.

There are also unconventional fossil resources. These are not presented in their current form. They are present in deposits that are difficult to access.

What are non-renewable resources?

Non-renewable energy source: coal as a fossil fuel

Non-renewable resources are all those resources that the rate of consumption is higher than the rate of generation. 

The concept of non-renewable energy is closely related to that of non-renewable resources.

Non-renewable resources include non-renewable energy, but also materials and minerals.

Terrestrial minerals and metallic minerals

Terrestrial minerals and metallic minerals are examples of non-renewable resources.

The metals themselves are present in large quantities in the Earth's crust. The extraction of these metals by humans only occurs when they are concentrated by sufficient natural geological processes to be economically viable to extract.

The general processes that generate metals are due to:

  • Heat, thermal energy.
  • The pressure.
  • Organic activity.
  • Weathering.
  • Other processes.

These processes generally take tens of thousands to millions of years to develop.

Localized deposits of metallic minerals near the surface, which can be economically mined by humans, are not renewable on a human scale. That is, they regenerate, but they take millions of years.

There are certain rare earth minerals and elements that are scarcer and more exhausting than others. These materials are in high demand in the industry, particularly for electronics.

Most metallic minerals are considered much easier to supply than fossil fuels. The reason is that the conditions for fossil fuels to form are more difficult and limited than the conditions for metal ores to form.

Examples of non-renewable energy

Some examples in which non-renewable energy is used:

  • Gasoline or diesel vehicles. They use petroleum-derived fuels.
  • Cargo ships. They use diesel.
  • Planes. They use petroleum derivatives.
  • Nuclear power plants. They use uranium for nuclear fission reactions.
  • Gas boilers. They use natural gas.

Summary

Non-renewable energies are energies that use non-renewable resources. These resources are consumed faster than they regenerate naturally.

These energy sources are mainly fossil fuels and uranium.

Fossil energy is energy generated from fossil fuels. They generate greenhouse gases. They contribute negatively to climate change.

References

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Published: May 17, 2016
Last review: May 22, 2020