Limited Petroleum Reserves: Is Essay, Research Paper
Limited Petroleum Reserves: Is Nuclear Energy an Alternative
The twentieth century has been the age of petroleum. Oil in its various refined derivative forms, such as gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuel, has a unique combination of many desirable and useful characteristics. These include a current availability in abundance, a currently high net energy recovery, a high energy density, ease of transportation and storage, relative safety, and great versatility in end use. Oil is also useful as more than an energy source. It is the basis for the manufacture of petrochemical products including plastics, medicines, paints, and myriad other useful materials. Finally, the asphalt “bottoms” from refineries have converted millions of miles of muddy trails around the world into paved highways on which transport vehicles fueled by oil run.
In the past hundred years the Western world has become just about fully dependent on petroleum. With over a hundred and thirty million cars driving on the roads in the last ten years, the question of how much longer is the nonrenewable resource, petroleum going to last.
Andrew Rowell says;
Technology advances and the maturity of existing oil fields have spurred oil companies to explore for oil and extract it from previously inaccessible areas,
both offshore and onshore. In many cases, such prospecting and production will have severe environmental impacts and social ethical and cultural consequences. The Challenge is not just to halt such exploration and extraction, but to halt oil consumption itself.
Petroleum has many degrees of use and is the most used nonrenewable resource. The most used petroleum based product is gasoline. Gasoline is a mixture volatile, flammable liquid hydrocarbons derived from petroleum. The invention of the self-starter for gasoline engines by Cadillac eventually proved the undoing of the early steam cars, which required warming up. Gasoline became the main use in automobiles because of its high energy of combustion and capacity to mix readily with air in a carburetor. Kerosene is also a well-used petroleum product, counting for 20 to 25 percent of petroleum use.
Kerosene is also known as fuel oil because it is used to generate heat or power. Fuel oils are produced by different petroleum refining processes, depending on their intended uses. Fuel oils may be used as fuel for engines, lamps, heaters, furnaces, and stoves, or as solvents. Some commonly found fuel oils include; diesel fuel, jet fuel, range oil, and home heating oil. These fuel oils differ from one another by their hydrocarbon compositions, boiling point ranges, chemical additives, and uses. Diesel fuel is used in diesel engines. In diesel engine, combustion is induced by the heat of compression of the air in the cylinder under compression.
Even thought the is an abundance of petroleum it is known as black gold because of its profit making abilities and it s limited source. Oil has been discovered in about 90
countries, but two-thirds of it is located in the Middles East. The growth of cars on the rode counts for half of the demand of oil. In Asia car ownership has skyrocketed from twenty-five million in 1995 to seventy million in 2000. But gas companies like Shell and Amoco think the can handle the demands hoping that the production of oil will rise 24 percent and gas 40 percent in ten years. Though oil is finite there is said to be 4.7 trillion gallons available and only 1 trillion has been used.
Petroleum is a mixture of hundreds of molecular compounds. These compounds release an enormous amount of energy when they are burned. If the compounds are not burned the can be chemically transformed to make useful materials such as asphalt perfume explosives, aspirin and plastic. Petroleum can be separated into components by a method known as fraction distillation. Where the different boiling points separates the substances.
Though petroleum refineries were well established because the demand of petroleum has reached 2.3 billion tons a year it is under fire. As the world became aware of the impact of industrial pollution on the environment, the petroleum-refining industry became their primary focus. Refiners add hydrotreating units to extract sulfur compounds from their products and began to generate large quantities of the element sulfur. Also hydrocarbons are being emitted into the water and atmosphere from refineries. Cars releasing carbon dioxide also has become a one of the major focus of environmentalist.
Nuclear energy is energy released by the processes that effect atomic nuclei. There are two methods of releasing this energy: nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is the process of dividing a heavy atomic nucleus usually uranium or plutonium, when the nucleus is divide it releases energy. Nuclear fusion is the process of combining light elements to heavier ones and energy is gained from the reaction. Though nuclear reaction is a good alternative to oil power, it doesn t not have the vast amount of uses that petroleum has, such as plastic, asphalt etc.
This is a picture of a Four Loop Westinghouse Nuclear Plant. The picture shows the four major structures of the plant: the Steam generator, main coolant pump, pressurizer, and reactor. Inside of the steam generator, the hot reactor coolant flows inside of the many tubes. The secondary coolant, or feedwater, flows around the outside of the tubes, where it picks up heat from the primary coolant. The main coolant pumps job is to remove heat made by the fission process. The pressurizer controls the reactor s pressure caused by the change of temperature in the reactor s coolant system. The reactor is where the fission or fusion process takes place.
Used nuclear fuel looks and feels the same as when it was new: a hard ceramic pellet about the size of the tip of your little finger. Now it is simply too weak to power a nuclear reactor economically. It is less fissionable, that is, less capable of undergoing a nuclear chain reaction. But it is also more radioactive. Also, nuclear fuel does not burn when used in a nuclear reactor. In fact, it is not flammable. Though highly radioactive the pellets can be recycled. The pellets are loaded up into fuel rods that are grouped into bundles to create fuel assemblies, which are put into the reactor. By reducing, eliminating, or managing their waste, nuclear facilities have prevented or lessened adverse impacts on water, land, habitat, species and air from releases or emissions in the production of electricity. While petroleum waste is being released into the air and even though it rarely happens, spills into the oceans causing an environmental disaster.
The most disastrous reactor explosion was Chernobyl. Chernobyl s reactor had two major problems. The main problem was that the operators turned of the automatic shutdown to run a test that they new was going to be unstable. The second problem was that Chernobyl was designed as a industrial building not a power plants, there was no upper containment. This is why some people say older reactors should be redesigned and in some cases they should be.