What you need to know about Nonrenewable Energy Sources

Know all about Nonrenewable Resources.

nonrenewable energy sources

As we all know energy comes from many sources. These energy sources are mainly classified into two groups – nonrenewable energy sources and renewable energy sources. Here in this post I am going to discuss about nonrenewable energy sources, how they are formed, their advantages and disadvantages and other related issues.

What are nonrenewable energy sources?

Nonrenewable energy sources are finite resources that come out of the earth as liquids, gases, and solids. These sources are called non-renewable because they do not form or replenish in a short period of time. Their formation typically takes millions of years. These resources would, therefore, run out one day if they are continually extracted and used by us. The major nonrenewable energy sources are,

·         Coal;

·         Crude oil;

·         Natural gas;

·         Uranium;

How nonrenewable energy sources are formed

Let us take a look at how nonrenewable energy sources are formed.

Most of the nonrenewable energy sources are fossil fuels i.e. Coal, Crude oil and Natural gas. Uranium is not a fossil fuel, but it is classified as a non-renewable energy source as it doesn’t replenish itself.

The formation process of all the fossil fuels is similar. These fuels have been formed from animals and plants that lived millions of years ago. The organic matters like dead-sea organisms, plants and tiny sea animals buried under the ocean floor and in the porous rocks millions of years ago, stored energy in them created from sunlight through the process of photosynthesis while using the sun’s energy to prepare foods for themselves. Over time, rocks and other sediments, piled on top of these organic matters, trapped this stored energy within the porous rocks which eventually turned into fossil fuels under pressure and heat and formed pockets of coal, crude oil and natural gas.

Now let us take a look at what each of the nonrenewable energy sources is made of, and how they are used.


Coal is a solid form of fossil fuel that can be grouped under three categories – Bituminous, Lignite, and Anthracite. Bituminous is the most common type of coal we use, which is less polluting than Lignite. Lignite coal has high sulphur content and is found nearer to the Earth surface and making it easier to extract. Anthracite is the highest quality of coal among all categories, which is found deep inside the Earth surface.

Crude Oil

Oil is a liquid fossil fuel which is relatively easier to mine once the site is located. Being a liquid fuel, oil can flow through pipes making it easier for haulage. Oil is formed in reservoirs and the potential drilling sites to reach these oil wells can be located through scientific study of the characteristics of the subsurface geology by the geophysical team.

After oil is found on drilling hole in a potential site, it is drawn to the surface through pipes. The oil in this form is called ‘Crude oil’. The Crude oil is then transported to oil refineries where it is transformed into useful products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline or petrol, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel oil and fuel oils through a process called ‘fractional distillation’.

Natural gas

As the name suggests, this is a fossil fuel in the form of colourless and odourless gas in its pure form. While natural gas is formed primarily of methane, it can also include ethane, propane, butane and pentane. While commonly grouped with other nonrenewable energy sources, there are many characteristics of natural gas that make it unique. When burned, natural gas gives off a great deal of energy with fewer emissions than many other sources. Compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas is cleaner burning and emits lower levels of potentially harmful by-products into the air.

Natural gas is found in deposits a few hundred meters underground and under the ocean floor. Once a potential natural gas deposit is located by the team of exploration geologists and geophysicists, the process of drilling is similar to crude oil.


Uranium is not a fossil fuel, but it is categorized under nonrenewable energy sources as it doesn’t replenish itself. It is a naturally occurring element found within the Earth’s core and is limited to finite quantity found on earth. Its creation happened long ago and is not likely to happen again. But there’s already plenty of it around.

Uranium ore is mined, refined and purified before converting to a fuel used in a chamber called ‘Reactor’ which generates huge amount of heat that is ultimately used to make steam and generate electricity. The Nuclear Reactors split the uranium atoms into lighter elements (smaller atoms) through a process called ‘fission’, which results in generating a tremendous amount of heat.  A kilogram of natural uranium produces as much heat as from 20 tonnes of coal.

Energy from uranium is called Nuclear energy.

Advantages and Disadvantages of nonrenewable energy sources

There are a few major advantages with non-renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas are a valuable source of energy. Unlike many renewable energy sources, fossil fuels are relatively less expensive to produce. The probable reason why fossil fuels are in higher demand is that it tends to cost less. Fuels created from non-renewable resources are still the primary source of all the power generated in the world because of their affordability and high energy content.

However, burning fossil fuels has harmful consequences on the environment. They release particles that pollute the air, water, and land. When coal and oil are burned, it produces greenhouse gases including vast amounts of carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming and climate change that our planet is currently going through. Burning coal produces not just carbon dioxide but also releases sulphur into the air, which adds to air pollution.

You may also like: Is Solar Energy Renewable or Nonrenewable?


Besides the harmful impact of burning fossil fuels on environment, the economic impact of nonrenewable energy sources can also be detrimental. Fossil fuels, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas are a valuable source of energy today. Supply of many of these fuels is rapidly depleting because of their high demand. As these nonrenewable energy sources become scarcer, their price will eventually go up to a point when the end users may not be in a position to afford anymore and will be forced to move towards alternative energy sources. This is the reason why major economies of the world are switching to renewable energy sources like sunlight, wind, hydro-electricity and tidal power. The alternative energy sources, therefore, need to be developed early for putting into place to make this transition to sustainable energy sources smooth.



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