Non-renewable energy is the energy gotten from sources that can get exhausted, either in this lifetime or the next, or that cannot be replenished at the same rate as they are used due to the millions of years it takes for these resources to get reformed.
Non-renewable energy comes from finite resources like coal, natural gas, crude oil, etc. Unlike renewable energy sources that are naturally and quickly replenished as they are used, these non-renewable energy sources are the opposite and are less abundant in nature.
These non-renewable resources are gotten directly from the earth, either by mining or extraction from the ground in liquid, gas or solid forms, and are applied for their different intended uses. The refinement of these resources produces products that are used commercially in various industries. Some applications include the manufacturing of gasoline, plastics, polyurethane and several solvents used for different experimental procedures.
Most of these resources were formed from organic materials from the remains of plants and animals existing for millions of years ago. The use of these resources also contributes to some downsides environmentally like the formation of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels which leads to climate change.
Read more: Renewable energy – explanation and sources
Different types of Non-renewable energy resources
1. Crude Oil (Petroleum oil)
Crude oil is found in between the layers of the earth’s crust and is the only nonrenewable resource that is extracted in liquid form. They are formed from dead animals and sea plants from millions of years ago. A vertical well is drilled into the ground from which the oil is pumped.
Crude oil is first refined into varieties of products before it can be used and also removes impurities from the oil. Examples of products include e.g., diesel, jet fuel, gasoline, heating oil, propane, etc. These products are popularly used for the manufacturing of plastics, running of motor vehicles, alternative supply of electricity, etc.
Coal is a compressed organic rock formed from buried plants from millions of years ago that were accumulated at the bottom of swamps. These plants are covered by layers of rock, dirt and water which leads to the formation of hydrocarbon deposits by the built-up pressure and heat to form coal.
This nonrenewable resource is obtained by digging the ground, collecting the coal and processing it as a source of energy. The three types of coal classified according to the differences in temperature and pressure during formation include bituminous coal, sub-bituminous coal, lignite and anthracite. They can be used in the metal industry for generating energy for the production of steel and iron.
Coal, despite being the most abundant fossil fuel in the world, also has disadvantages to the environment as it produces greenhouse gas emissions when used due to the large amount of carbon it contains. It also produces pollutants like sulfate, nitrogen and mercury that contaminate waterways and build up in the fatty tissues of fish and animals.
3. Natural gas
This is a non-renewable source of energy that is gaseous in nature. It is found below the earth’s crust and formed from dead animals and plant remains from over a million years ago. It is found underground, trapped under rocks. Natural gas is mainly composed of methane (90%) and other gases like propane and butane.
After extraction of natural gas, it is taken to a processing plant where contaminants are removed, and it is separated into its different components. Natural gas can be used as other forms of energy like heat and light for cooking in stoves, grills, and gas ovens, as well as for heating homes.
4. Nuclear energy – Uranium
Nuclear energy is gotten from the nucleus of atoms. It is mainly obtained from a radioactive element called Uranium which is mined and refined for the purpose of generating electricity. Uranium is naturally occurring and can be seen below the earth’s surface in small quantities
Nuclear energy is a non-renewable energy that can be released either by nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. Nuclear power plants utilize the nuclear fission of Uranium to produce electricity through a series of chain reactions.
Uranium generates power which accumulates enough pressure to run turbines and generate nuclear power.