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Ferrari Energy Answers, What Are Fossil Fuels? And Why Are They Called “Fossil Fuels”?

Originally published on

A “fuel” is a source of energy, and fossil fuels are among the most important kinds of resources that modern society has. In short, fossil fuels are formed from the organic remains of animal and plant life that lived millions of years ago. Natural gas, coal, and oil all come from biological material that has undergone thousands of years of heat, pressure, and chemical reactions. Here, Ferrari Energy, a mineral acquisitions firm founded by chemical engineer and Chicago native Adam Ferrari, explains what is so special about fossil fuels.

Why “Fossil” Fuels?

All fossil fuels are based on a single element: carbon. Carbon is the building block of all life, and every living thing incorporates carbon at the core of its biology. When living organisms die, their bodies decompose into various carbon-containing compounds. These carbon-containing compounds are then transformed over millions of years due to heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust, forming the energy-dense fossil fuels that we use today.

So although not technically derived from fossils, the term fossil fuels is fitting as they are made from ancient life forms’ literal biological remains. The vast majority of fossil fuel mass was formed from the remains of phytoplankton and zooplankton. Over time, these remains were covered in mud and layers of inorganic sediment.

How Do Fossil Fuels Form?

Fossil fuels form over millions of years through geological processes deep underground. Fossil fuels are formed from organic material undergoing anaerobic decomposition without the assistance of oxygen. This matter becomes covered with mud and, over many geological eras, layers and layers of inorganic sediment.

The resulting heat and pressure cause several physical and chemical changes in the covered organic matter. First, the matter decomposes into a waxy substance known as kerogen and then into liquid oil or natural gas through a process called catagenesis. Catagenesis results in the complex organic molecules being broken down into chains of energy-dense hydrocarbons.

When it comes to fossil fuels, the kind of material that has decomposed determines what type of fossil fuel will be produced. Liquid oil, for example, is typically formed by aquatic lifeforms in the ocean due to the higher temperatures and pressures. Terrestrial plants generally are transformed into coal and natural gas. For example, most of the coal on the Earth can be dated to hundreds of millions of years ago to trees during the Carboniferous period of Earth’s geological history.

Why Are They So Important?

Fossil fuels are essential because they are the most energy-dense resource that we have. Fossil fuels can be burned to produce a significant amount of energy per unit mass and have been used for millennia throughout human history.  Fossil fuels and the invention of the steam and combustion engine allowed the Industrial Revolution, which significantly improved society’s technological and productive capacities.

Fossil fuels are one of the most critical resources that we have on the planet, and it’s essential that we use them responsibly. Fossil fuels have the potential to improve the quality of our lives significantly.

About Ferrari Energy

Ferrari Energy educates landowners and works in partnership with them to ensure that each individual understands the profits and benefits they are entitled to from their land. The company was founded by chemical engineer, Adam Ferrari, and deals in mineral and leasehold acquisitions. Ferrari knows the importance of giving back as his family has leaned on the support of helpful therapists that work to rehabilitate his quadriplegic father. Ferrari Energy donates to Next Steps of Chicago, which is an organization helping rehabilitate individuals suffering from various stages of paralysis. When leading a company, it’s important to stay true to your roots and always be generous to those that supported you along the way.