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Earth Energy Resources Base

Here, we address the following questions:  What are the energy resources available to us? How fast are these being used up? How long will these last at the present rate of consumption?

Let us take them up one by one.

1.    What energy resources are available to us?

The Sun is the main source of energy on our planet. Other general sources of energy are fossil fuels like coal, oil, natural gas, biomass (like as wood, agricultural waste, etc.), wind, water and nuclear energy. A few uncommon energy sources include geo-thermal energy and tidal energy. These given energy resources are commonly categorized as given below: Primary and Secondary Resources, Renewable and Non-renewable Resources, and Commercial and Non-commercial Resources.

2.    Primary and Secondary Resources

Primary energy resources are those which are found in nature. These are mostly converted within secondary resources in industrial utilities. For instance, coal, oil and gas (primary energy resources) are converted within steam and electricity (secondary resources of energy).

3.    Renewable and Non-renewable Resources

The energy resources like as coal, oil and gas cannot be replenished and are likely to be depleted along with time. These are called as non-renewable resources of energy.  Their supplies are limited and while these supplies are over, we will not be able to use these resources.

Instead, hydro energy, wind energy, biomass energy, solar energy, tidal and geo-thermal energy are renewable resources of energy. These could be replenished in a short period of time. So these resources will not be depleted if they are maintain properly.

4.    Commercial and Non-commercial Resources

The energy resources which are available in the market for a definite price are called as commercial energy resources. These involve coal, oil, natural gas, electricity and refined petroleum products. There are certain energy resources which are not available in the commercial market for a price. These are known as non-commercial energy resources. For instance, cattle dung, agricultural wastes, solar energy for drying food products, animal power for transport, threshing, lifting water, etc., are not bought or sold at a price. These are also known as traditional fuels.

You required understanding these terms as we should be using them very frequent. You may like to answer the following question before studying additional to check your understanding.

As far as the electricity sector is concerned, you know that the main resources for generating electricity in our country are coal, oil, natural gas and hydro-power. Nuclear energy and renewable energy resources together give only 8% of the total power produced. Therefore, at the moment, we shall talk only about the resource base comprising coal, oil and gas.

Let us now look at the other questions.

1.    How quick are the energy resources being used up? How long will these last at current rates of consumption?

To answer these questions, we require knowing another term known as the reserve/production (R/P) ratio. It is frequent used as a quick way of denoting how long current reserves will last at current production rates. 

For the reason of estimating resource availability, we also categorized the energy resource base into three categories:

a)  "Proven" (found and ready to be produced),

b)  "Probable" (expected to become proven in because of course of time),

c)  "Speculative" (estimated but uneconomical for extraction).

Entrepreneurial drive and development of new technology could turn the energy resource base

  • From 'probable' into 'proven', and
  • From 'speculative' into 'probable'.

By that way, the life of the energy resource base could be extended for several more years. In fact, we could use an interesting insight from history and be optimistic about our energy future.

Still we require to use our resources judiciously to make them last longer. How much longer could we make them last? This will depend on the resources available to us now and their rate of production and consumption. Let us look at the searching of the World Energy Council survey 2004 about this issue. Study the table given below.

                 1107_Earth Energy Resources Base.png

What does the data in this table tell us? Let's take an example, the current world coal reserves are about 909 Gt (giga tons). Dividing this number through the current production rate of about 4.8 Gt per year, we acquire an R/P ratio of about 200 years. That is an origin of the statement "we have about 200 years of coal left". The question is what is the condition for oil and natural gas? The information is summed up below for the whole world:

Oil                              > 40 years

Natural gas               > 60 years

Coal                           > 200 years

The R/P ratio has limitations as an indicator of how long a reserve will last because it neglects the effects of growth in demand because of increase in population, and consumption. But it also neglects the effect of growth in reserves. Growth in reserves occurs as previously uneconomical deposits can be harnessed through improved technology. Since, it is a useful concept for decreasing a huge number (of a resource reserve) to an understandable scale. Don't you think that this statement is simpler to understand: "We have 200 years of coal left at current mining rates" than this one: "We have 200 billion short tons of coal reserves". In that sense, an R/P ratio is a meaningful tool.

Although world has huge coal reserves, it cannot use them as they tend to have high ash content and low calorific value. Because of the low quality of much (73%) of its coal, World has to import sizeable quantities of coal for power generation.

As it is, we rely on substantial imports of oil and gas. Remaining in view the price rise, the volatility and the instability of the oil and gas markets, we must focus our efforts on energy conservation along with renewed vigour.

You have learnt that energy conservation is required for conserving energy resources and making them last longer. It is also essential because the energy consumption and technologies of energy are taking a heavy toll on the environment. You can play a significant role in this respect and should study about the required for energy conservation in this context.


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