Non-Renewable Energy: Definition, And Types

What is Non-Renewable Energy?

Non-renewable energy comes from sources that are running out or not being replenished in our lifetimes, or even in many, many lifetimes.

Most of the non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels. For this reason, the period in which fossil fuels formed around 300 million years ago is known as the Carboniferous Period.

All fossil fuels formed in a similar way. Hundreds of millions of years ago, before the dinosaurs, the earth had a different landscape. It was covered with wide, shallow seas and swampy forests.

Plants, algae and plankton grew in these ancient wetlands. They absorbed sunlight and generated energy through photosynthesis. When they died, the organisms drifted to the bottom of the sea or lake. Energy was stored in plants and animals when they died.

Over time, the dead plants under the ocean floor were crushed. Stones and other sediments piled up on it and created high heat and high pressure underground. In this environment, the plants and animals ultimately remain converted into fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

Engineering Choice | The biggest engineering Blogs

Today there are huge underground pockets so-called reservoirs of these non-renewable energy sources all over the world.

Definition of Non Renewable Energy

Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished for thousands or even millions of years. Most sources of non-renewable energy are fossil fuels. Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished in our lifetimes or even in many, many lifetimes.

All fossil fuels are non-renewable, but not all non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels.

Types of Non-renewable Energy

Following are the different types of Non-renewable energy source

  • Coal
  • Oil/Petroleum
  • Natural Gas
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Biomass Energy

1) Coal

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock with a high amount of carbon and hydrocarbons. Coal is classified as a nonrenewable energy source because it takes millions of years to form. Coal contains the energy stored by plants that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests.

Layers of dirt and rock covered the plants over millions of years. The resulting pressure and heat turned the plants into the substance we call coal.

How Coal is Formed?

Coal is formed when dead plant matter decays into peat and is converted into coal by the heat and pressure of deep burial over millions of years.

Plant matter in bogs and wetlands such as ferns, bushes, vines, trees, and algae die off and accumulate on the surface. First, the organic matter is broken down by bacteria, producing carbon dioxide and methane.

How was coal formed

The plant material is buried and is no longer exposed to the air. Anaerobic bacteria then begin to break down the material. Burial and fortification can take several thousand years and produce several feet of partially rotted plant material known as peat.

When this peat is buried deep, water and other compounds are squeezed out of the increasing pressure and the lowest quality coal, lignite, begins to form.

Continued burials, which lead to rising pressures and temperatures, resulting in this inferior brown coal being converted into “black coals” of higher quality. First, lignite becomes sub-bituminous coal, then bituminous coal, and finally anthracite coal of the highest quality.

When these conversions occur, the amount of water and other compounds in the coal decreases, and the coal becomes denser. In addition, there is a higher carbon concentration.

If coal is all that way underground, how do we get it out?

Coal can brought from the ground up in two ways:

Surface mining is used when a coal seam is within about 200 feet of the Earth’s surface. The soil and rock covering the coal (call the overburden) are removed, and specialist equipment is used to expose the coal seam.

After the mining is complete, the overburden is put back, cover with topsoil and fertilizer, and the seeds are planted. It helps restore biological balance and prevents erosion. One advantage of surface mining is that it is cheaper than underground mining. A negative aspect of surface mining is that it can leave permanent marks on the landscape.

Pros and Cons for Coal Energy

There are many advantages and disadvantages of using coal energy to produce electricity. Its advantages and disadvantages are the following:

Advantages of Coal Energy:

  • Coal energy is an affordable energy source because of the coal’s stable price compared to other fuel sources
  • Coal is easy to burn
  • Coal produces high energy upon combustion
  • Coal energy is inexpensive
  • Coal is abundant
  • Coal energy is a reliable energy source

Disadvantages of coal Energy:

  • Coal energy produces a large amount of carbon dioxide which leads to global warming and climate change
  • The major disadvantage of coal is its negative impact on the environment. Coal-burning energy plants are a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to carbon monoxide and heavy metals like mercury, the use of coal releases sulfur dioxide, a harmful substance linked to acid rain.
  • Coal energy is the nonrenewable energy source
  • Coal is fast depleting because we consume too much of it
  • Coal mining ruins the environment and puts the lives of people especially the coal miners in danger.

2) OIL/Petroleum

In general, oil is a liquid that is made up of organic molecules. However, in the context of the world’s energy sector oil, or more specifically, crude oil is the liquid fossil fuel that is extracted from the ground. Roughly 1/3 of the world’s primary energy comes from this primary fuel.

Secondary fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, heating oil, and diesel fuel are all included in the definition of “petroleum”. Petroleum traps energy, first originating from the Sun, that was captured by photosynthetic plankton in ancient oceans. Just like coal, petroleum is a type of fossil fuel.

Definition of petroleum

Petroleum is a naturally occurring liquid mixture of hydrocarbons found beneath the earth’s surface that can be refined to produce fuels including petrol, paraffin, and diesel oil. Petroleum is a fossil fuel, which means that it was created by the decomposition of organic matter over millions of years. Oil/Petroleum is Non-Renewable Energy Sources.

How is oil formed?

Oil and gas are formed from organic material that is deposited primarily as sediments on the ocean floor and then degraded and transformed over millions of years. If an area has a suitable combination of spring rock, reservoir rock, caprock, and a trap, recoverable oil and gas can be discovered there.

The process by which oil is produced is generally the same in most areas, although there may be different types of plant and animal debris falling to the seabed and slightly different conditions. In order to form oil, the following steps must be carried out:

How is oil (petroleum) formed?

Dead plankton, both phytoplankton, and zooplankton as well as algae and bacteria, sink to the bottom of an ancient ocean and mix with inorganic, clay-like materials that enter these oceans from streams and rivers. This creates an organic sludge. This sludge can only form in still waters.

This sludge cannot be exposed to too much oxygen, otherwise, the organic matter in the sludge will be broken down by bacteria and quickly disappear. Therefore, environments, where oil can build up, are called anoxic environments.

Before this organic matter is destroyed, it is buried by more sediments and lithified, creating organic shale. Burying material underwater is an easy way to create an anoxic environment because the atmosphere does not interact with the decaying matter.

When this slate is buried between 2 and 4 kilometers, its temperature rises due to its location in the earth’s interior. This increasing pressure and temperature of the slate convert it into a waxy material known as kerogen. Shale containing this material is known as oil shale.

When the temperature of the kerogen is higher than 90 ° C but lower than 160 ° C, the kerogen is converted into oil and natural gas. At higher temperatures only natural gas or graphite is formed. This temperature range is known as the “oil window”.

Oil is lighter than water. When it escapes from the spring oil shale, it rises through pores in rocks and displaces water. Rocks that contain significant amounts of oil are known as reservoir rocks.

In order for the oil to remain trapped in the reservoir, there must be a thick, impermeable layer of rock to seal the reservoir. When this seal is in place, oil, gas, and water become trapped underneath and can be drilled to preserve the oil.

Geological changes in the earth’s crust bring these deposits closer to the surface and make them somewhat more accessible.

Pros and Cons of Oil Energy

Advantages of Oil Energy

  • Manufacturing oil energy is so much easier. 
  • Reliability for oil energy is achieved through consumption and availability.
  • Oil has one of the highest energy densities out of all fossil fuels.
  • Oil is so readily available; it is a cheap solution in helping to meet global energy requirements.
  • Oil is highly versatile and has lots of different uses.
  • Oil Can Be Stored Easily
  • it can be used as a constant supply of energy.

Disadvantages of Oil Energy

  • As it is a fossil fuel, so also regarded as a finite resource of energy.
  • when oil hits the environment, it will pollute the crop islands, water resources, and also the environment in many ways. This also means that oil energy creates when it is consumed.
  • Oli is Nonrenewable Resource. Then there will be a time that it will run out of supply if people around you fail to utilize it wisely.
  • Oil refineries also emit harmful substances such as sulfur dioxide which causes health hazards for many people located around these areas.
  • It leaves hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases will trap heat and pollute air giving rise to problems such as global warming.
  • Working on oil rigs is a dangerous profession.
  • Finding oil can take a long time.

3) Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil energy source that formed deep beneath the earth’s surface. Natural gas contains many different compounds. The largest component of natural gas is methane, a compound with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4).

Definition: Natural gas is a flammable gas and consisting largely of methane and other hydrocarbons, occurring naturally underground deep inside the earth near other solid & liquid hydrocarbons beds like coal and crude oil.

Natural gas is a non-renewable fossil fuel composed of the remains of small marine plants and animals that died 300–400 million years ago. About 90% of natural gas is made up of methane, but it also contains other gases such as propane and butane. Natural gas is Non-Renewable Energy Sources.

How is Natural Gas Formed?

Like oil, natural gas is a product of decomposed organic matter, typically from ancient marine microorganisms and small marine plants and animals sank to the bottom of the oceans, where they were buried by sediment that turns into rock over the past 300 – 400 million years ago.

Over the years, this organic material mixed with mud, silt, and sand on the seafloor, gradually becoming buried. And the layers of rock became thousands of feet thick, putting the energy-rich plant and animal material under great pressure. Eventually, pressure and heat converted this organic mixture into oil and natural gas.

How is Natural gas formed?

Natural gas gets trap in layers of rock like water trap in a wet sponge. Natural gas can be difficult to find, as it is typically trapped in rocks located deep underground. To find natural gas reserves, geologists can:

The journey is as follows:

  1. Look at surface rocks to find clues about underground structures.
  2. Stop short bursts or drop heavy loads on the Earth’s surface, so that sound waves can be recorded as they bounce back from underground rock layers.
  3. Measure the gravitational bridge of the mass of rock deep within the earth.

If a site looks promising, the wells can be a drill to find reserves of natural gas – as these wells are about 9000 feet deep and can cost hundreds of dollars per foot to drill, making natural gas sites It is important to choose carefully!

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Energy

Advantages of Natural Gas Energy

  • It burns cleaner than all fossil fuels. And releases 45% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less than oil and has therefore less impact on the environment.
  • It is abundant and available worldwide.
  • Natural gas is a lot safer and easier to store compared to other fossil fuels.
  • The technology to produce natural gas already exists as the same is used to harness fossil fuels.
  • Natural gas vehicles are far more energy-efficient, as are other engines powered by it, which makes them cheaper to run.
  • Natural gas can be easily transported via ships, tankers, and pipes.
  • Minimizes Dependency on Foreign Oil

Disadvantages of Natural Gas Energy

  • Natural gas is a highly flammable substance that can cause significantly more damage should there be an accident.
  • Natural gas is highly combustible, mishandling can lead to bad explosions.
  • When natural gas is burnt, it releases carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carbon compounds into the atmosphere.
  • Natural gas is non-renewable and will eventually expire one day like other fossil fuels.
  • To use natural gas, all the components except methane have to be extracted. This results in several byproducts such as hydrocarbons (ethane, propane, etc.), sulfur, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and even helium and nitrogen.
  • The infrastructure needed to use natural gas is very expensive as long pipes, specialized tanks, and separate plumbing systems need to be used.

4) Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy comes from splitting atoms in a reactor to heat water into steam, turn a turbine and generate electricity. Ninety-four nuclear reactors in 28 states generate nearly 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, all without carbon emissions because reactors use uranium, not fossil fuels.

Definition: Nuclear energy, also called atomic energy, the energy released during nuclear fission or fusion, especially when used to generate electricity.

Nuclear plants use nuclear fission of a radioactive element called uranium to generate electricity.

Nuclear Energy plants

How is Nuclear Energy Produced?

Nuclear power plants to heat water to produce steam. The steam rotates large turbines that generate electricity. Nuclear power plants use the heat generated during nuclear fission to heat water.

In nuclear fission, atoms are broken up into smaller atoms, which releases energy. The fission takes place in the reactor of a nuclear power plant. In the middle of the reactor is the core, which contains uranium fuel.

The uranium fuel is formed into ceramic pellets. Each ceramic pellet produces roughly the same amount of energy as 150 gallons of oil. These high-energy pellets are stacked end-to-end in 12-foot metal fuel rods. A bundle of fuel rods, some with hundreds of rods, is called a fuel assembly. A reactor core contains many fuel elements.

The heat generated by fission in the reactor core is used to boil water into steam, which turns the blades of a steam turbine. When the turbine blades rotate, they drive generators that produce electricity. Nuclear power plants cool the steam back to water in a separate structure in the power plant called a cooling tower, or use water from ponds, rivers, or the ocean. The cooled water is then reused to generate steam.

What is Uranium?

Uranium is a radioactive element that was formed when the Earth first formed. It occurs naturally in certain types of rock. Uranium is one of the few elements that fission easily, so it’s used as a fuel by nuclear power plants. Although uranium is available throughout the world, it is still a non-renewable energy source.

What is Nuclear Fission?

A particular form of uranium called uranium-235 is most commonly used for energy production, as its nucleus splits easily when it is bombarded by a neutron.

What happens during Nuclear fission in a Nuclear plant?

Here’s what happens during a nuclear fission reaction:

  • The nucleus of a uranium atom is bombarded by a neutron, causing it to split into two atoms
  • At the same time, energy is released as heat and radiation
  • As a result of the fission reaction, more neutrons are released
  • These neutrons then start bombarding other uranium atoms, so the process keeps repeating itself. This is called a chain reaction

Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy

Advantages of Nuclear Energy

  • Unlike traditional fossil fuels like coal, nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gas emissions like methane and CO2.
  • Nuclear produces roughly the same or fewer emissions as renewable sources so could be considered an environmentally friendly source of energy.
  • It is not intermittent, as nuclear power plants can run without any interruptions for a year and more without interruptions or maintenance, making it a more reliable source of energy.
  • Nuclear power plants are cheaper to run than their coal or gas rivals.
  • The amount of energy produced is also superior to most other forms.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

  • It has the potential of nuclear power worth the risk of powerful radiation leaks, mass evacuations, and billions spent in repairs.
  • Despite all the safety measures in place of these nuclear plants, different factors caused them to go into meltdown, which was devastating for the environment and for local inhabitants who had to flee the affected areas.
  • One side effect of nuclear power is the amount of nuclear waste it produces.
  • Expensive to build a nuclear power plant.

5) Biomass energy

Biomass energy is energy generated or produced by living or once-living organisms. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, such as corn and soy, above. The energy from these organisms can be burned to create heat or converted into electricity.

Biomass energy, a renewable energy source, can also be a non-renewable energy source. Biomass energy uses the energy found in plants.

It depends on biomass feedstocks – plants that processed and burned to make electricity. Biomass feedstocks may include crops such as corn or soy as well as wood. So people do not replace biomass feedstocks as fast as they use them, biomass energy becomes a non-renewable energy source.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Non Renewable Energy

Advantages of Non Renewable Energy

  • Lots available: Man has invested a lot of time, effort, and money in acquiring fossil fuels, so now we have a ready supply.
  • Easy to find: Fossil fuels can be found around the world, with many areas already identified to be rich in these resources.
  • Very efficient: You can use a small amount of nuclear energy to produce a large amount of power.
  • Simple to transport: Fossil fuels can be transported easily, e.g. Using underground pipes to move oil and gas.
  • Easy set-up: Fossil fuel plants can be installed at any location, as long as there is a large amount of fuel to generate electricity.
  • Non-renewable sources are cheap and easy to use. You can easily fill up your car tank and power your motor vehicle.
  • Non-renewable have little or no competition at all. For e.g.: if you are driving a battery-driven car your battery gets discharged then you won’t be able to charge it in the middle of the road rather it is easy to find a gas pumping station.
  • They are considered cheap when converting from one type of energy to another.

Disadvantages of Non Renewable Energy

  • Environmental pollution: Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide, The by-products of non-renewable energy cause environmental damages. It also increases greenhouse gases.
  • Large amounts of fuel reserves: To hire power stations, you need truckloads of fuel. This can make energy production very expensive.
  • Public health issues: Because of all their bad air pollution, the burning of fossil fuels can cause lung problems and asthma attacks in humans.
  • They will run out: Once the Earth’s supply of fossil fuels has been used, they cannot be renewed. So, we don’t use them for our growing power needs will do.
  • Oil spill: Transporting fossil fuels, Mining, and extraction activities can cause accidents and result in oil spills, nuclear meltdowns, pipeline leaks, and even explosions which cause harmful effects on the environment
  • It is destructive to the ocean and the land and can be fatal to animals living there.
  • Rising costs: As only a few countries have large numbers of fossil fuels, fuel prices can rise without warning.
  • Health Risks for Workers: Mining for coal or drilling for oil can be very dangerous, resulting in a large number of diseases, injuries, and deaths every year.


What is Non-Renewable Energy?

Non-renewable energy comes from sources that are running out or not being replenished in our lifetimes, or even in many, many lifetimes. Most of the non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels.

What is the definition of non-renewable energy?

Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished for thousands or even millions of years. Most non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels.

What are the types of Non-renewable energy?

Following are the different types of Non-renewable energy:

1. Coal
2. Oil/Petroleum
3. Natural Gas
4. Nuclear Energy
5. Biomass Energy

Read Also