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Fossil Energy Systems

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This chapter gives an overview of the fossil energy sources, which undoubtedly still are dominating the supply of energy. We introduce here how coal, oil and gas are explored, recovered and used for energy production. The most conventional resources and production methods are described, and at the end of the chapter we introduce some of the unconventional fossil energy sources which have a promising resource potential. Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources and therefore represent a limited source of energy. The global reserves will be assessed and the cost of continued production of energy based on these diminishing resources will be evaluated. But first, we start with a historical review of mankind’s involvement with fossil deposits and use as an energy source.


  • Coal
  • Oil and gas
  • Peak oil
  • Non-conventional fossil resources

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  1. 1.

    A sorbent is a material used to absorb liquids or gases.

  2. 2.

    Bituminous, anthracite.

  3. 3.

    Sub-bituminous, lignite.

  4. 4.

    This is a global treaty under which many developed countries have accepted to reduce their carbon emissions.

  5. 5.

    See Sect. 5.1.4 for a description of learning rate.

  6. 6.

    See Sect. 5.2.4 for a description of the impact of a carbon price on the cost of coal.

  7. 7.

    Stock Tank Oil Originall In Place is a term which normalises volumes of oil contained under high pressure and temperature under ground to surface conditions, 1 bar and 15 \(^{\circ }\)C

  8. 8.

    1 barrel \(=\) 0.159 m\(^3\)

  9. 9.

    OPEC stands for Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, organization aiming at coordinating the petroleum policies of its Member Countries.

  10. 10.

    OECD countries minus Chile, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, Mexico and Slovenia.

  11. 11.

    The physcial price is the loss in efficiency here.

  12. 12.

    There is an unimportant inconsistency at \(t=0\) with (Eq. 2.10) since \(V(0) \ne 0\). It can be removed by subtracting the constant \(V(0)\) from \(V(t)\), i.e.. \(V(t) \longrightarrow V(t) - V(0)\).


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Correspondence to Patrick A. Narbel .

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Narbel, P.A., Hansen, J.P., Lien, J.R. (2014). Fossil Energy Systems. In: Energy Technologies and Economics. Springer, Cham.

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