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When Will Fossil Fuels Run Out?

May 05th, 2020
topic:Energy
by:Ama Lorenz
located in:United Kingdom, China, Russia, USA, India, Nigeria, Venezuela
tags:climate change, energy, environment, fossil fuels, solar power

Nothing exceeds the danger of fossil fuel depletion. Fossil fuels including oil, gas, and coal are at the centre point of worldwide energy systems. They're the principal energy sources in the world, powering applications ranging from transportation to industries. Over the past 200 years, the worldwide consumption of fossil fuels has grown over 1300-fold.

Coal was the exclusive fossil source until 1860 when consumption of crude oil started. Coal consumption stood at about 97 TWh (terawatt-hours) at the start of the 1800s and increased to 43,000 TWh in 2017, according to Our World in Data. Production of natural gas began in the late 1880s. During the 20th century, fossil energy consumption diversified, and coal declined from 96% to no more than 30% of total production in 2000. 

Today, the largest energy source is crude oil, which includes about 39% fossil energy. Coal accounts for 33% of fossil energy and natural gas for 28%. The question isn't if but when: when will fossil fuels run out? As the world is waking up, the transition to renewable energy is making headway. Here's a brief report highlighting the reserves and usage rates for the world's fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas.

What Are Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are bio-materials comprising hydrocarbon, which can be used as an energy source. They can be extracted by drilling the Earth's crust. Through lithification and degradation over millions of years, the organic matter turns into coal, natural gas, and oil. For example, the oil reserves in the North Sea are about 150 million years old and coal in the UK started formed around 300 million years ago. Fossil fuels differ in energy density and pollution capacity.

How Long Before Fossil Fuels Will Run Out?

The longevity of a substance depends on the usage rate and reserves. The reserves category includes transformation and loss. The total resource figure includes proved reserves, probable reserves, and possible reserves. The usage rate modifies depending on the efficiency of the consumption equipment. The numbers depend on technological advancements.

Coal

Coal is the first fossil fuel source ever used. It's easy to get and use. Consider the energy you can get from charcoal to understand coal's energy density. But coal aerosolises and creates water contaminants and breathing hazards when it's extracted. China, Russia, the United States, and India hold around 1.1 trillion tonnes of coal. Figures show a low 0.4% increase compared to different other fossil fuels. And production is down by 0.7%. This means that coal deposits may be depleted within 150 years.

Oil

Underground oil reserves require drilling, pumping, and processing. Oil reserves are closely monitored and 2017 figures reflect about 1.666 trillion barrels of oil reserves. Venezuela has the largest oil reserve and the Middle East holds about 65% of the global oil reserves. Global consumption currently stands at 11 billion tonnes of oil annually. Reserves are disappearing at a rate of 4 billion tons every year. At the present rate, oil deposits could run out within 50 years.

Natural Gas

Compared to coal and oil, natural gas is the most renewable. Huge reserves come from ancient dead microorganisms, but not all sources are millions of years old. For example, landfills and livestock produce methane, which is a natural gas. As of 2017, about 6,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are available. The United States, Algeria, and Nigeria hold the largest reserves. Most deposits require complex drilling and hydraulic fracturing to reach. Natural gas reserves are expected to last about 400 years.

The Downsides of Using Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are available in limited supply. At the current consumption rate, fossil fuels aren't sustainable energy sources. As the world's population grows, the problem is escalating. But limited resources aren't the only concern. The use of fossil fuels for energy includes a variety of downsides such as increased carbon emissions, air and ocean pollution, habitat destruction and huge transportation costs. 

Enterprises and governments have enjoyed short-term gains from fossil fuel investments, but they're shifting focus towards renewable energy resources. Green energy sourced from solar and wind power is sustainable. It's produced by resources, which won't disappear. It also prevents climate change by offsetting and lowering carbon emissions.

For example, solar power technology has a 2-year energy payback period. This means that a solar park will produce the amount of energy, which was used in its production within only 2 years. After this period, the park can produce decades-worth of clean energy. To protect the environment and fight climate change, the world must shift towards renewable energy solutions.

Wrapping It Up

When will fossil fuels run out? If the world understands the planet's changing energy requirements and implements advanced tech solutions, hopefully, fossil fuels will never run out. Limiting the usage of fossil fuels is the only hope to ensure that the planet doesn't risk complete depletion and the dangerous consequences.

Article written by:
198719_2171697684668_4097646_n
Ama Lorenz
Editor-in-Chief, Editorial Board Member, Author
United Kingdom China Russia USA India Nigeria Venezuela
As the world's population grows, the problem is escalating.
For example, solar power technology has a 2-year energy payback period. This means that a solar park will produce the amount of energy, which was used in its production within only 2 years.
If the world understands the planet's changing energy requirements and implements advanced tech solutions, hopefully, fossil fuels will never run out.