Matter & Energy

Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Other Fossil Fuels

Geologists have identified immense deposits of other hydrocarbons, including gas hydrates (methane and water), tar sands, and oil shale. Vast deposits of gas hydrates are contained in ocean sediments and in shallow polar soils. In these marine and polar environments, methane molecules are encased in a crystalline structure with water molecules. This crystalline solid is known as gas hydrate. Because technology for the commercial extraction of gas hydrates has not yet been developed, this type of fossil fuel is not included in most world energy resource estimates.

Tar sands are heavy, asphaltlike hydrocarbons found in sandstone. Tar sands form where petroleum migrates upward into deposits of sand or consolidated sandstone. When the petroleum is exposed to water and bacteria present in the sandstone, the hydrocarbons often degrade over time into heavier, asphaltlike bitumen. Oil shale is a fine-grained rock containing high concentrations of a waxy organic material known as kerogen. Oil shale forms on lake and ocean bottoms where dead algae, spores, and other microorganisms died millions of years ago and accumulated in mud and silt. The increasing pressure and temperature from the buildup of overlying sediments transformed the organic material into kerogen and compacted the mud and silt into oil shale. However, this pressure and heat was insufficient to chemically break down the kerogen into petroleum. Because the hydrocarbons contained in tar sand and oil shale are not fluids, these hydrocarbons are more difficult and costly to recover than liquid petroleum.