NON-RENEWABLE ENERGIES | Concept, examples and advantages

Non – renewable energies are those that come from a finite source, with limited resources, or failing that, it takes hundreds or even thousands of years to regenerate .

A clear example of these are fossil fuels ( oil , natural gas), nuclear energy (uranium, plutonium). They are the opposite extreme of renewable energy .

What are non-renewable energies?

Non-renewable energy sources are those that are limited in time . Their consumption implies the fact that at some point they will disappear, with no possibility of being renewed.

Another characteristic aspect of non-renewable energy, although it is not its own but very common, is that its production emits gases and waste that are harmful to the environment , which is why non-renewable energies are considered to be enemies of the environment, and are seeks that all renewable energy that is promoted, is also a source of clean energy.

Characteristics of non-renewable energies

  • Non-renewable energies are obtained from nature but they are limited, after their consumption they are exhausted and cannot be recovered .
      • Or they would take millions of years to reproduce, like oil.
  • Some kinds of energy of this type can be easily extracted , thus making them accessible and cheap sources of energy, especially where there are large reserves.
  • They are highly developed and mature sources, therefore costs, technology and processes are highly optimized .
      • All the growth of the 18th and 19th centuries is due to the business and developments around non-renewable energies ( plastics , fuels, machinery, gas, etc).
  • Obtaining energy from non-renewable resources can generate a negative environmental impact due to pollution.

Types and examples of non-renewable energies

PETROLEUM – It is an organic component that is produced, basically, by animal, aquatic and vegetable organic waste that inhabited lagoons, seas or river mouths. These biological debris accumulated in the earth’s crust in sedimentary layers. Carbon and hydrogen are the main components of petroleum.

Oil fields are formed over millions of years. Once they are detected, deep wells are drilled through drilling towers that allow the fluid to be extracted. After extraction, it is separated from gas and water to be transported through pipelines. Every day we have contact with petroleum derivatives, whether in the form of rubber , plastic, gasoline or diesel .

CARBON – It is an organic mineral composed of carbon, whose formation results from the gradual condensation of partially decomposed plants over millions of years. According to the conditions of pressure andtemperaturespresent in its formation, four classes of coal are distinguished:Lignite, coal, peat and anthracite.

When plants decompose they form a carbon-poor layer known as peat . Lignite is next on the wealth scale, but it is not a very viable fuel, as it contains more water than carbon . Coal is a product of the compression of lignite, it is richer in carbon and has a high calorific value. It is used in plants that produce energy. Anthracite is obtained from transforming coal and is the best coal fuel, as it is low in pollution and has a high calorific value.

NATURAL GAS – It is a fuel originating from fossils, thanks to the degradation of organic elements over millions of years . It is a union of light hydrocarbons whose main components are: Methane, nitrogen, ethane and carbon dioxide . It is found deep in the Earth and can share deposits with coal and oil.

When gas is extracted in a similar way to oil, through drilling , excess water and impurities are removed. It is then stored until it is transported for consumption, through pipes or gas pipelines that leave the storage tanks.
Sometimes, the distances to be covered are too long, so the gas must be liquefied, reducing its volume up to 600 times the original weight. In liquefaction plants, gas is converted into liquid at very low temperatures. When it reaches its destination, it has to be transformed into gas in the regasification plants .

NUCLEAR ENERGY – This energy is stored in the nucleus of atoms and to release it a nuclear reaction must occur . Nuclear power plants generate electricity by harnessing the energy released by the nuclear bonds of uranium atoms. Uranium is found in nature as a mineral and must be refined to increase the concentration up to 3%.

There are two types of nuclear reactions:

  • Fission: It is the most used, it involves a bombardment of the uranium nucleus with neutrons that divide it into two smaller nuclei. This releases energy and two or more neutrons, which in turn fission to other uranium nuclei, generating a chain reaction.
  • Fusion : It is what occurs in stars like the Sun and generates powerful and abundant energy. It occurs when two atomic nuclei (eg, hydrogen) fuse to form a larger nucleus (helium). This energy is better than fission , because it uses an abundant and ecological source, such as hydrogen, but it requires millions of degrees of heat for it to occur and there is no container that can withstand it.

Advantages of non-renewable energies

  • These kinds of resources have been known for a long time and the technology has been adapted in such a way that it uses them efficiently.
  • The advances and infrastructure required to extract and transform non-renewable resources into energy exist.
  • Compared to other energy sources, the cost of obtaining non-renewable energy is much lower,  which is why they are widely used in developing countries .
  • Oil is a non-renewable resource that generates fuel and an innumerable amount of derivatives useful for man’s daily life .
  • It is a highly profitable process.

Disadvantages of non-renewable energies

  • These are limited resources that cannot be renewed . When these run out, no more energy can be obtained from that source.
  • The combustion of these fuels produces acid rain that is harmful to the atmosphere .
  • The gases that are emitted in combustion cause the greenhouse effect and global warming .
  • These fuels are highly flammable in nature.  Its explosion causes serious accidents if it is not used properly.
  • As far as nuclear energy is concerned, handling it is complicated and causes accidents of unimaginable scope . Producing this type of energy is very expensive .

How are non-renewable energies extracted?

Obtaining energy through non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels, requires the combustion of these compounds . This process generates carbon dioxide in exaggerated amounts, as well as other polluting gases.

The forms of extraction are the following:

  • Petroleum: It is an oily fluid that is found in deposits below the surface of the earth. After drilling deep holes and extracting this liquid, it must be refined by separating it from water and oil.
  • Coal: This mineral must be subjected to combustion at high temperatures to extract its energy.
  • Natural gas: It is a particular mixture of light hydrocarbons. It is in the underground or under the sea, its transformation must be double to use it effectively.
  • Nuclear energy: It is obtained from nuclear fusion or fission, which releases large amounts of energy, almost always thermal . Nuclear power plants produce electricity. It is a mechanism similar to thermoelectric plants.

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