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Fuels compared

On this page I look at most common fuels and energy sources and give an objective summary of each.

Written 2014/03/19, modified 2016/05/04 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

This page deals mainly with fuels and energy sources in relation to the generation and storage of electricity. Fuels and and energy sources discussed include: ammonia, batteries, biogas, biomass (which includes firewood), geothermal, hot dry rock, coal, coal seam gas, natural gas, oil, shale oil, nuclear, solar thermal, solar PV, tar sands, tidal, wave and wind. This page is companion to Pros and Cons of Electricity Generating Methods; also related is my page on energy units, definitions and conversions.

I want to make this site useful, informative, and correct. If you believe I've missed anything significant, been ambiguous or unfair, or if you think I'm wrong on some point, I'd be very pleased to have your comments. Points on which I am particularly unsure are marked with (?).

Contents

Some introductory notes

Fuels and energy sources: Table 1

Ammonia | Batteries | Biofuels | Coal | Coal seam gas | Geothermal | Hot dry rock | Hydrogen | Hydro-electric | Hydro-pumped | Natural gas | Nuclear | Oil | Shale oil | Solar thermal | Solar photo-voltaic | Tar sands | Tidal | Wave | Wind

Tar sands are also called oil sands or bituminous sands. Coal seam gas is also called coal bed methane.

Biofuels: Table 2

Biodiesel | Butanol | Ethanol | Landfill gas | Methanol | Solid biofuels

Fuels and energy sources – Environmental implications and technological maturity: Table 3

Ammonia | Batteries | Biofuels | Coal | Coal seam gas | Hydrogen | Hydro-electric | Hydro-pumped | Geothermal | Hot dry rock | Natural gas | Nuclear | Oil | Shale oil | Solar thermal | Solar photo-voltaic | Tar sands | Tidal | Wave | Wind

Some explanatory notes
Index

Related pages...

Pros and cons of methods of generating electricity

Heating efficiencies and greenhouse emissions

Passive temperature control in buildings

Climate change



 
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Some introductory notes

In the early years of the twenty-first century the number of energy sources becoming available to us has greatly increased. This has come about due to advances in technology, a reduction in the availability of easily accessible conventional petroleum, and to pressures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

With this proliferation has come a blurring of the lines between fuels, energy sources and technologies for storing energy. We are familiar with thinking of petroleum (and its derivatives, petrol [gasoline], diesel, etc.) as a fuel, and of a battery as a way of storing electricity, but both are convenient ways of storing readily available energy.

Coal is a fuel, a coal-fired power station is an energy source; wind is a natural resource, a wind farm is an energy source; a battery is a thing that stores energy for us; but we can get energy from all three and we need to be able to compare their advantages and disadvantages.

There is too much involved here to use just one table, so I have used three. The first table covers the use, portability, dispatchability, storability and abundance of energy sources other than biofuels, which are covered in the second table. The third table deals with environmental aspects and technological maturity.

On this page I have used oil and petroleum as synonyms.

 
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Fuels and energy sources: Table 1

Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Ammonia Ammonia can be burned in air, similarly to petroleum, but its energy density is only about half that of petroleum. High, but must be stored under moderate pressure Very high if burned to generate electricity Moderate to high: must be stored under moderate pressure Unlimited: can be produced from natural gas and air, or from water and air
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Batteries To store electricity for later use. Very many uses, the largest of which is probably off-grid power supplies. Finding increasing use in electric vehicles and for smoothing output to a power grid. High, but batteries are much heavier than liquid fuels with the same amount of available energy Very high Very high in the short to medium term, not well suited to long term. Depends on the materials used. Lead is common and cheap, lithium is more rare and expensive
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Biofuels There are many biofuels, Table 2 treats them individually From limited to high, depending on type Varies greatly depending on the individual biofuel and how it is used Low to high; again, it depends on the individual biofuel Limited; cannot replace fossil fuels as currently used. Production of some biofuels competes with food crops.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Coal Mainly used for the generation of electricity and for the production of coke (for smelting of metals, etc.) Limited
High after conversion to electricity; grid and battery
Moderate
Coal-fired power stations are slow to change their rate of generation
High High, but finite
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Coal seam gas

Also shale gas
Heating and generation of electricity Highly, but must be compressed High; well suited to peaking power plants Can be left in situ until needed. Once out of the ground the need to compress it makes it expensive to store in large amounts. High, but finite
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Geothermal Steam and heat from hot shallow formations is used to generate electricity in volcanic regions Only the electricity is portable The maximum electricity is generated if the installation generates at full power continuously, so geothermal is not generally dispatchable Not generally storable It can only be used in areas of volcanic activity, and even then is only economically viable in a few situations
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Hot dry rock Heat is used from hot rocks at depths of four or more kiloletres to boil water and drive turbines to generate electricity. The technique has not yet been developed on a utility scale anywhere in the world. Only the electricity is portable The maximum electricity is generated if the installation generates at full power continuously, so it is not generally dispatchable Not storable There are enormous volumes of hot rocks in some areas, potentially enough energy to provide base-load power for many countries for many years
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Hydrogen Perhaps the most important use is in fuel-cells to produce electricity. The electricity can then be used to power a vehicle. Moderate. The containers required to hold the hydrogen are very much heavier than the hydrogen itself High Hydrogen is usually stored as a gas, under very high pressure, or as a metal hydride. Storage is very expensive. Hydrogen can be made from water which is very abundant, but it is more cheaply made from petroleum gasses. (See natural gas and coal seam gas.)
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Hydro-electric Generating electricity from falling water. Large-scale hydro is connected to the power grid, small-scale hydro is used for 'remote area power supplies' (RAPS). Only the electricity is portable Large-scale hydro is highly dispatchable, small-scale is often entirely dependent on the flow of water in a small stream. Water can readily be stored in a reservoir for short or long periods. This depends on the region. In a relatively dry country with few mountains such as Australia, suitable sites for hydro-electric developments are scarce.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Hydro-pumped For storing energy. Water is pumped from a low to a high reservoir when electricity is plentiful and cheap; when it is in short supply the water flows through a hydro-electric generator turning the potential energy of the water back into electricity. Only the electricity is portable Very high If a pumped hydro installation is to justify the cost of setting it up it needs to be used frequently. Not suitable for storing energy for the long-term. Unlike hydro, a pumped hydro system can use the same water over and over again, so a very large supply of water is not required. It can use sea water, so any area near a coast with moderate altitudes (say 100m above sea level) is usable.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Natural gas Space heating, water heating, cooking and generating electricity Natural gas contains a high proportion of methane which cannot be liquefied by compression (as distinct from liquefied petroleum gas – LPG – which contains mostly propane and butane). It can be compressed and transported by pipe or in pressure vessels. Some gas-fired generators are specifically designed to respond quickly to changes in electricity demand. Others, that are more energy efficient, are less responsive. Can be left in situ until needed. Once out of the ground the need to compress it makes it expensive to store in large amounts. Moderate to high.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Nuclear Apart from powering a few warships and space probes nuclear power is used to provide electricity on power grids Only the electricity is portable Output from a nuclear power station can only slowly be increased or decreased, so a nuclear power station is usually base-load No So long as only the U235 isotope is used, as in normal nuclear reactors, uranium fuel is not abundant. If the remaining 99.3% of the uranium (U238) was used there would be much more potential.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Oil Oil (petroleum) is the most common liquid fuel and powers vehicles, ships, aircraft, trains, industry, and electricity generation. It is also used for the production of lubricants and petrochemicals. High; it is readily piped, shipped or trucked Electricity from oil-fired power stations has a high level of dispatchability High; it is readily stored in tanks and it can, to some extent, be taken from wells as required Conventional, easily accessed, oil is becoming rare. New oil fields tend to be in the Arctic, beneath deep sea or contain heavy, sluggish oil that is more difficult to handle than lighter crudes. The industry is trying to extract more oil from old fields.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Shale oil As for conventional oil (petroleum) High High High Moderate, but it is not accessible using conventional drilling. Fracking is needed or the shale must be mined and heated to extract the oil.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Solar thermal Can be used anywhere that heat is required, but for the purpose of this page it is mainly for the generation of electricity with the option of continued generation after the sun has stopped shining Only the electricity is portable Highly dispatchable The heat can be stored for several hours For practical purposes there is no limit
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Solar PV Generation of electricity for many purposes including providing electricity for regional power grids. Small units are highly portable and when connected to a grid the electricity generated is highly portable Not dispatchable. The amount of power generated is dependent to the local light intensity and to a much lesser extent on the temperature. Not storable, except in so far as electricity is storable For practical purposes there is no limit
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Tar sands As for conventional oil (petroleum) High High High High
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Tidal Generates electricity by using energy taken from the tides Only the electricity is portable When a low and a high storage basin is used there is some choice in when the power is generated There is some potential for storage over a period of a few hours Only economically viable in areas with a high tidal range and suitable topography
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Wave Generates electricity by using energy taken from waves Only the electricity is portable Only available when the waves are reasonably large Not storable, other than as electricity Available in substantial amounts around most coasts open to the ocean
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Wind Mainly used for the generation of electricity, but also for the pumping of water Low, as wind power
High after conversion to electricity; grid and battery.
Only available when the wind blows Wind energy must be converted to electricity before it can be stored. For practical purposes there is no limit
 
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Biofuels: Table 2

Biofuels are defined as fuels that contain energy from geologically recent carbon fixation.

Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Biodiesel Most often as a vehicle fuel, replacing diesel High High High Limited; it is usually made from old deep-fat frying oils.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Butanol A renewable alternative to petrol (gasoline) High High High Low, it is still at the experimental stage (2014)
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Ethanol Vehicle fuel High High High Variable depending on country
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Landfill gas Combines the generation of electricity with the capturing and disposal of methane that would otherwise leak into the atmosphere. Each installation is at a particular garbage landfill site. Only the electricity is portable. Not dispatchable. As the aim is to collect the maximum amount of methane it is continually collected and burnt. The methane is of low purity, and is not worth the expense of storing. Low; tied to the amount of putrescible garbage going into landfills.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Methanol Not used much as a fuel, but it has considerable potential High High High Limited; can be made from cellulose-rich biomass.
Fuel Use Portability Dispatchability Storability Abundance
Solid biofuels Burning wood has been mankind's major source of heat for many purposes for thousands of years. In the early twenty-first century it is mostly used as an energy source in the developing world; however, burning waste such as that from sugar cane mills is used by first world industry. Moderate; not as easily moved from place to place as a liquid fuel. Limited High The amount of solid biofuel that can be grown is limited by available and suitable land and the competition to use that land for other purposes. For example, land that could be used for forestry might also be used for cropping.
 
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Fuels and energy sources – Environmental implications and technological maturity Table 3

Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Ammonia At present (2015) ammonia is produced from natural gas and air. If it is to become sustainable it must be produced from hydrogen; which would, in turn, need to be produced from water. The main competitors to ammonia as a portable 'fuel' would seem to be batteries and hydrogen. Burning ammonia potentially releases some oxides of nitrogen. Potentially The technology is at a very low maturity level.

Ammonia has had very little use as a fuel since World War II, and it was not much used then.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Batteries The mining of the materials, as with any mining, is destructive. Pollution can be associated with manufacture and disposal.

If battery technologies are to be sustainable it will be necessary to have full recycling of materials
Potentially The lead-acid battery, as used in vehicles, is the most mature technolocially, but various lithium technologies are also very advanced. Many other battery technologies are undergoing rapid development.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Biofuels Can be environmentally very responsible, for example collecting and burning landfill gas combines reducing greenhouse emissions with producing useful energy.

On the other hand, growing corn for the production of ethanol inefficiently converts substantial amounts of food suitable for humans and animals into small amounts of vehicle fuel. More energy is consumed in production than is yealded at the end of the process.
Potentially Many forms of biofuels are undergoing rapid technological development
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Coal One of the most polluting of the fossil fuels. Burning coal not only releases huge amounts of greenhouse carbon dioxide, but also sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter including toxic heavy metals. The sulphur dioxide has lead to heavy damage to forests and lakes from acid rain. Carbon dioxide, and to a lesser extent sulphur dioxide, causes ocean acidification. The world's coal-fired power stations are responsible for many thousands, probably millions, of deaths and serious illnesses every year. Not at all A very mature technology. The geosequestration of the carbon dioxide waste has not been proven to be economically viable for an operating coal-fired power station.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Coal seam gas

Also shale gas
Coal seam gas (CSG) is mostly methane which is a strong greenhouse gas. Being a fossil fuel, burning coal seam gas releases greenhouse carbon dioxide.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is often used to increase the yield of CSG wells. This can lead to the contamination of overlying aquifers, land and streams, and the release of methane into the atmosphere. Leakage of methane from all stages of CSG exploitation (called fugitive emissions) may make CSG a more greenhouse gas intensive fuel even than coal.
Not at all Coal seam gas and shale gas extraction require horizontal drilling and often fracking which are relatively new technologies. In particular the wide spread use of fracking has implications and impacts are not well tested or researched.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Geothermal A relatively benign and sustainable form of electricity generation Highly A fairly mature technology
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Hot dry rock

(Hot rock geothermal)
A huge amount of very deep drilling is required; this uses substantial amounts of energy, mainly from fossil fuels. The drilling also involves injecting chemicals into geological formations. The aim is to use heat that has built up over millions of years; once used the heat will take more millions of years to build up again. However, there are huge volumes of hot rocks and the energy could, in theory, last mankind for generations.

The big unanswered question about hot rock geothermal energy is: what will be the long term Energy return on investment (EROI)? (How many kilowatt-hours will be got back for every one expended?) No one knows.
Apart from the drilling aspects it is sustainable in all but the very long term. A few pilot installations have been completed, but the technology has not been proven successful on a utility scale.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Hydrogen If hydrogen could be made from water using electricity generated sustainably it has the potential to be a sustainable and moderately transportable fuel. At present hydrogen is usually, and unsustainably, made from petroleum. Potentially in the long term, but not now As a fuel hydrogen is a very new and experimental technology.
Hydrogen cannot be liquefied except at very low temperatures and must be highly compressed to store or pipe. Metals in contact with hydrogen for long periods can form brittle metal hydrides.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Hydro

(Hydro-electric power)
Building hydro-electric dams usually involves the flooding of valleys, which is environmentally harmful. Once the dam is built and the original harm done the operation of the system is relatively benign.

The water flow scheduling below the dam is very different to the natural regime, and this leads to disruption of the riparian environment.
Within limits A highly developed and mature technology
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Hydro-pumped

(Pumped hydro)
The comments above for hydro-electric dams applies also to pumped hydro. However, the same water can be used over and over again.

As the water used for the pumped hydro cycle is not released it does not disrupt the downstream environment.
Moderately to highly Much the same technologies are used as in hydro-power, but as the need for energy storage has arisen largely with the development of renewable energy technolgies such as wind and solar, pumped hydro is, in some ways, a rapidly evolving technology.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Natural gas Natural gas is a finite resource and burning it releases carbon dioxide (and steam) into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is one of the main causes of highly damaging climate change. As in coal seam gas, fugative emissions are a great concern.

Due to the lack of dispatchability of renewables such as solar and wind power it will be necessary to rely on gas as a source of peaking power for some years.
Not at all Largely a mature technology
Burning natural gas produces less carbon dioxide than burning an equivalent amount of coal; however, the amount of 'fugitive emissions' of the very strong greenhouse gas, methane, into the atmosphere is in dispute.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Nuclear Nuclear power has many environmental implications particularly relating to the problems of containing the very long-lived and highly radioactive wastes and bi-products. Also the materials must be kept secure and out of the hands of terrorists.

The mining of uranium and thorium use large amounts of energy.

The amount of uranium is finite and the way it is being used in current reactors is wasteful (only about 1% of the potential energy is used).
Not in the long term The process used in the great majority of reactors involving the fission of the U235 isotope is largely a mature technology. Converting the much more plentiful U238 isotope to a useable form is much more experimental and nuclear fussion is entirely unproven on a utility scale.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Oil Similar comments apply to oil as to natural gas. Not at all The technology is developing all the time because most of the world's readily accessed oil reserves have been tapped and novel ways are needed to get at sources that are either in deep water, the Arctic, contain viscous oil, or to get more oil out of depleted fields.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Shale oil The processes involved in mining and extracting shale oil require a lot of energy and damage huge areas of land.

When calculating the emissions from burning the shale oil the emissions from the energy used in obtaining the oil must be added to those produced by the burning of the oil, so shale oil is one of the most greenhouse intensive energy sources.

It is highly polluting and has a low energy return on investment.
No. In fact it is one of the least sustainable of all energy technologies. Moderately mature
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Solar thermal One of the most environmentally benign methods of generating electricity once it is operating. The amount of energy consumed, and carbon dioxide released, during construction is not well documented(?). Fully Time to payback the carbon dioxide released by construction: I don't know (?)
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Solar PV The manufacture of the photovoltaic panels consumes substantial amounts of energy and there are questions about the amount of pollution released. Yes Time to payback the carbon dioxide released by construction: about two years
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Tar sands The processes involved in mining and extracting tar sands require a lot of energy and damage huge areas of land.

When calculating the emissions from burning the fuel obtained from tar sands the emissions from the energy used in obtaining the fuel must be added to those produced by the burning of the feul, so tar sands are one of the most greenhouse intensive energy sources.

It is highly polluting and has a low energy return on investment.
No. In fact it is one of the least sustainable of all energy technologies. Moderately mature
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Tidal Most tidal energy systems require the building of one or more dams which then limit the natural ebb and flow of the tides. This then adversely affects the biota (plants and animals) of the intertidal zone. Yes, apart from the adverse affects on the ecology of the littoral zone Some tidal energy systems have been in place for a number of years. The technology is mature.
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Wave Little environmental impact Yes The technology is in its early stages
Fuel Environmental implications Sustainable? Technological maturity/Comments
Wind One of the most environmentally benign methods of generating electricity. Produces practically no greenhouse gasses once the wind farm has been built. Yes Time to payback the carbon dioxide released by construction: about five months
 
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Explanatory notes

These notes attempt to explain several technical terms used on this page.

Sustainability

This concept is fundamentally important in regard to fuels and energy sources. In these pages I have considered something sustainable if it can be continued for a long period without producing environmental harm.

For example, I consider the burning of wood as an energy source to be sustainable (so long as trees are grown at the same rate). While burning wood released CO2 into the atmosphere, the same amount of CO2 is absorbed again when a new crop of trees are grown to replace the burned wood.

Burning fossil fuels is unsustainable because the rate of natural production of fossil fuels is almost infinitely slower than the rate of use, resulting in a damaging build up of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans.


I have used the terms 'portability', 'dispatchability', 'storability' and 'abundance' in Tables 1 and 2. A few words need be said about my use of these terms.

Portability

Some 'fuels' are readily portable (for example the various forms of petroleum), others are not (for example, wind). Of course wind can be used to move a sailing boat, but apart from that, if we are to use it as an energy source it is necessary to first use it to generate electricity which can then be delivered to where it is needed, or we can store the electricity (probably in a battery) or convert it into another energy form that can be moved around and accessed later.

Dispatchability

This term is used in the electricity supply industry to describe how readily power generation is increased or decreased to follow changes in demand. Some forms of gas-fired generators are the most flexible, coal-fired generators are only slowly varied, while nuclear is usually run at a constant rate. Output from wind and solar PV installations are normally entirely dependent on how much wind there is or the brightness of the light.

Many forms of generation (or forms of energy storage) can be varied, but there is an economic compromise between producing the maximum amount of power as often as posible or producing a smaller amount of power when prices are higher.

Storability

A power grid has a need for substantial amounts of 'top-up' power from time to time and this need will increase as the amount of renewable energy in power grids increases. But when the capital cost of an energy technology is high there is economic pressure to maximise total energy output rather than just generate for relatively short periods occasionally.

The fascility to store substantial amounts of energy will become steadily more valuable in power grids.

Abundance

All fossil fuels are finite; the rate at which they are being replenished by natural processes is thousands or millions of time slower than that rate at which we are consuming them. Some forms of energy – hot dry rock for example – are potentially very abundant, but they may only be economically viable in some areas or they may not prove to be economically viable at all. Biological forms of energy are limited by the amount of suitable space for growing the organisms that produce the fuels.
 
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Base load

The term is sometimes wrongly used to mean dispatchable. Base load is the load that is always on a power grid and a base load generator is one that is capable of providing a constant output of electricity. A base load generator is not flexible.

Peak load

Peak load is the opposite of base load, it is the relatively short period or periods of high demand on a power grid. Peak load often occurs around 6pm in the summer when many people return home after work, turn on air conditioners and cook dinner.

It has been found in South Australia, where one in four houses have solar PV power, that the peak demand for the day is tending to be lower and later in the day, because the solar power systems are operating in the earlier part of the peak demand period. (See Renew Economy)

Horizontal drilling

In the earlier years of the twenty-first century the technology of horizontal drilling has become routine. This allows the drilling of holes vertically down to a formation containing petroleum, then turning the hole and drilling horizontally through the rock.

Fuels such as coal seam gas and shale oil are often found in geological formations having low permeability ('tight' formations). That is, gasses and liquids do not readily move through the rocks.

The greater the length of drill-hole in contact with the formation the more gas or oil can seep into it.

Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking)

Fracking is used in conjunction with horizontal drilling. It involves pumping water mixed with sand and chemicals into the horizontal section of a drill hole under sufficient pressure to fracture the rocks around the well. The sand and chemicals are then pushed out into the fractures. When the injection stops the sand remains in the fractures stopping them from closing up again and allowing an easier path for the desired petroleum to reach the well.

There are a number of environmental concerns with fracking.

  • It can lead to leakage of gas or liquids from the target formation into overlying aquifers, contaminating them;
  • It can lead to the escape of methane from the formation into the atmosphere;
  • The chemicals may leak to the surface, contaminating soil and waterways;
  • Wastes from the operation are sometimes mishandled, leading to contamination of soils and waterways;
  • When used to enhance the recovery of petroleum in an old field it may allow carbon dioxide previously injected to escape into the atmosphere.
(Also see Wikipedia.)

Relative cost of some energy sources

Of course in the real world, which is largely run on money, the cost of a particular form of energy is very important.

 
Cost of Energy Technologies
Cost of energy
The X axis is costs in US$/MWh
Graph Credit, World Energy Council
In October 2013 the World energy Council published a document titled World Energy Perspective: Cost of Energy Technologies.

The graph on the right was downloaded from the above WEC site. It shows onshore wind as being among the cheapest electricity generating technologies; in particular, it is on a par with coal; both around US$80/MWh.

The graph is shown in greater detail on the original document.

There have been a number of recent reports suggesting that wind power was closing the financial gap with conventional, polluting, fossil fuel electricity generators, but this is the most comprehensive and convincing of the reports that I have yet seen.


 
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Index

Abundance
Ammonia
Ammonia: Environmental implications
Base load
Batteries
Biodiesel
Biofuels
Biofuels: Environmental implications
Butanol
Coal
Coal: Environmental implications
Coal seam gas
Coal seam gas: Environmental implications
Contents
Cost
Dispatchability
Ethanol
Explanatory notes
Fracking
Geothermal
Geothermal: Environmental implications
Hot dry rock
Hot dry rock: Environmental implications
Horizontal drilling
Hydro-electric
Hydro-electric: Environmental implications
Hydro-pumped
Hydro-pumped: Environmental implications
Hydrogen
Hydrogen: Environmental implications
Introductory notes
Landfill gas
Methanol
Natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas: Environmental implications
Nuclear
Nuclear: Environmental implications
Oil
Oil: Environmental implications
Peak load
Portability
Shale gas
Shale gas: Environmental implications
Shale oil
Shale oil: Environmental implications
Solar PV
Solar PV: Environmental implications
Solar thermal
Solar thermal: Environmental implications
Solid biofuels
Storability
Sustainability
Table 1
Table 2
Table 3
Tar sands
Tar sands: Environmental implications
Tidal
Tidal: Environmental implications
Top
Wave
Wave: Environmental implications
Wind
Wind: Environmental implications
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