Fossil Fuels Summary

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Summary No doubt fossil fuels have been and will remain as the most important source of energy. Much of today’s technology has come about because of the availability of cheap and abundant fossil reserves. Unfortunately, in a relatively short time, we have managed to consume nearly half of our estimated conventional oil and much of our coal and natural gas resources. It is particularly noteworthy that by 1970, over half of the globe -- Africa, ME, Asia (except Japan)-- did not essentially use any oil. Th is is becoming particularly diffi cult as the demand for oil is increasing in much of the world. Developed countries, at least in foreseeable times, will consume more. As developing nations strive for bett er economic conditions, they will demand more share of the energy resources. Similarly, as Middle Eastern countries become industrialized, they will use more of their resources locally, leaving less available for export. Furthermore, with a majority of OPEC members in the Middle East, the political instability in this region can easily disrupt the fl ow of oil, increasing global confl icts and the potential for even more military interventions and war. Th is will have a spiraling eff ects of higher prices of petroleum, economic downturn, and even more confl icts. Unless we make drastic adjustments in our patt erns of use, we may not be able to enjoy these resources for much longer. Fortunately, there is hope that new sources of energy will become available at reasonable prices. Nuclear energy can off set rising demand for a short period. Tar sands and oil shale can extend the life of petroleum for some FYI ... The Deadly Lake Lake Kivu on the border between Congo and Rwanda is unique in the world in one important way: it conceals an enormous quantity of water -- 65 billion cubic meters -- lying dormant at the bottom of the cold lake.i Furthermore, the lake is continually being recharged with the gas, giving Rwanda an almost inexhaustible source of relatively clean energy. The source of this gas is believed to be tiny single-celled microorganisms called archaea that consume dissolved carbon dioxide from two nearby active volcanoes to produce methane. Some methane is also formed through bacterial fermentation of acetate in the lake bed sediments. Deeper waters can trap methane to higher concentrations. If water is brought to the surface, either by a pump or naturally through mixing or siphoning, it will lose its ability to hold the methane, releasing it in form of gas bubbles that can be collected and piped away. Methane, being 25 times less soluble in water than carbon dioxide, is bubbled first leaving carbon dioxide dissolved in the water. If water is saturated and the buildup of methane gas is allowed, it can form an explosive danger with catastrophic consequences. A fiery disaster or be a blessing in disguise for the 2 million people who live along the shore ii i Halbwachs, M., et al. “Investi gati on in Lake Kivu aft er the Nyiragongo Erupti on of January 2002,” European Community Humanitarian Offi ce, Communauté européenne – ECHO 1 rue de Genève B- 1049 Bruxelles. iI Bavier, J., “Deadly Mix of Gases Lurks in Congo’s Lake Kivu; Explosive Methane Could Be Tapped To Generate Power,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2007. 167 Chapter 7 - Fossil Fuels time. Similarly, methane hydrate is a huge potential source of natural gas. Alternative and clean sources of energy are also being developed at prices that are continuously being lowered. Until then, all we can do is to use the available reserves sparingly. Additional Information Books 1. Berkowitz, N., Fossil Hydrocarbons: Chemistry and Technology, Elsevier Academic Press, 1997. 2. Deff eyes, K. S., Hubbert’s Peak: Th e Impending World Oil Shortage, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N. J., 2001. 3. Campbell, C. J., Th e Coming Oil Crisis, Multi-Science Publishing Company, 2004. 4. Tariq Ali, Th e Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Verso, 2002. 5. Pelletiere, S., Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf, Praeger Publishing, 2001. Periodicals 1. Oil and Gas Journal, Technology, news, statistics, special reports, and analysis (htt p:// 2. Journal of Petroleum Technology, Th e offi cial journal of Society of Petroleum Engineers, Dallas. 3. Th e Petroleum Engineer, Petroleum Engineer Pub. Co. 4. Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, Elsevier, covers the fi elds of petroleum (and natural gas) exploration, production and flow. Government Agencies and Websites 1. National Energy Technology Laboratory: Th e Strategic Center for Coal (htt p:// 2. National Petroleum Technology Offi ce (htt p:// 3. US Geological Survey (htt p:// Non-Government Organizations and Websites 1. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (htt p:// 2. Society of Petroleum Engineers (htt p://