Where do Fuels come from?

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Posted by Keith Hirst on 18 November 2016

Almost every nation on earth uses fuels in the day to day running of machines, transport and industry. The three most widely used fuels are coal, oil and natural gas, and these three substances are the result of millions of years worth of immensely gradual geological processes. Infrastructure depends on these substances, but how much do you know about them and their origins? And where do these fuels come from?


How long ago were fuels formed?

Only a rough estimate is available to us, but it is suggested that the lengthy fuel formation process began in the ancient Carboniferous period (286 – 360 million years ago). It is thought that it took millions of years for the final products to be created that we extract and use today.




  1. During the Carboniferous period, the earth was covered in swampy wetlands and forests filled with leafy plants, mosses, ferns and trees. The oceans were carpeted with many 
  2. photosynthetic plants, grouped under the umbrella term of ‘algae’.
  3. Once the land vegetation died, it settled to the bottom of these swampy wetlands while flooding from the sea brought in deceased algae, which als
    o settled in the swamps.
  4. Over the years, layers of mud and vegetation compressed the dead material lying at the bottom, forming peat. As time went on, this peat experienced extreme heat and pressure from layers of sedimentary rock that had since been formed on top.
  5. The end result of these extreme conditions was the production of a hard, black substance we know as coal. This rock is usually mined and then shipped in solid form, or piped as slurry, to wherever it is required.


Oil & gas formation

  1. Gas is often found near oil deposits, leading scientists to believe they were formed from similar processes. The most accepted theory is that oil and gas began life as aquatic microscopic plants and animals, dwelling in the oceans of the Carboniferous period.
  2. After death, these microscopic organisms sank to the bottom of the oceans, gradually becoming buried deeper when further layers of organic matter and sediment settled on top.
  3. This organic matter was subjected to immense heat and pressure, eventually transforming it into gas and oil, which then escaped into pores in the surrounding rock.
  4. These trapped pockets of oil and gas are the deposits that we locate and extract today. By drilling through the earth, companies pump the oil and gas up to the surface via specialist equipment.



Environmentally friendly fuels 

Contemporary times have heralded the arrival of more environmentally friendly fuels. Innovative thinking means that there are now many different forms available, including carbon neutral alternatives. Eco-logs are one such fuel, and are made purely of compressed sawdust waste from timber processing.




If you’re seeking top-quality solid fuels, look no further than Thompson Fuels & Skip Hire Ltd. An expert fuel provider in the Doncaster area, our specialists stock a huge range of solid fuels including smokeless varieties and environmentally friendly eco logs. For more information about any of our full range, simply get in contact today and we will be happy to help.

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