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Fossil fuels are a group of naturally formed energy sources including coal, petroleum, natural gas, oil shales, bitumens, tar sands, and heavy oils. The most commonly used fossil fuels alone – petroleum, coal and natural gas – make up 85% of the world’s primary energy consumption. In discussions on climate change, fossil fuels are roundly maligned as major emitters of carbon dioxide and as the greatest contributors to climate change.

Why are fossil fuels considered non-renewable?

Although fossil fuels are, by definition, natural resources that could be regenerated, they are de facto non-renewable due to the duration of the process. The fossil fuel deposits humans have been tapping into since the industrial revolution were formed over millions of years and the volumes used far exceed those produced. Although there is some debate surrounding how long supplies can last, at the current rate of global consumption, all known fossil fuel reserves will inevitably run out eventually, possibly within this century.

How do fossil fuels affect the environment?

Fossil fuels contain large amounts of carbon, effectively sequestering large volumes of the element as part of the natural carbon cycle. Burning these fuels results in emissions, including carbon dioxide, which are released into the earth’s atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are considered the crucial contributing factor to global warming.

share of coal in global primary energy consumption in 2017
share of oil
share of gas

Making fossil fuel production cleaner and more efficient

It would be impossible to cease all production and consumption of fossil fuels at once. The transition has to be a well-managed, long-term process. MAN Energy Solutions helps make gas and oil production more sustainable in the short term. MAN designs highly efficient products to support the oil and gas industry, allowing companies to use available resources more effectively and reducing the carbon footprint of oil and gas operations in the process.

Learn more about decarbonization in the gas and oil industry

Low-emission fossil fuels

Although fossil fuels are often all tarred with the same brush, there are huge differences between different types of fuels within this group. For example, the heavy fuel oil widely used in the shipping industry is a major pollutant. However, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a low-emission alternative that is becoming increasingly popular as marine industries seek to adapt to tighter regulations. The conversion of a ship’s propulsion system by MAN Energy Solutions reduces emissions of sulfur oxides by over 99%, nitrogen oxides by approximately 90%, and carbon dioxide by up to 20%. In addition to these immediate reductions, the converted propulsion system is also capable of running on emission-free, renewable synthetic gas, preparing it for a fossil-fuel-free future.

Learn more about the world's first container ship converted to LNG

From fossil fuel to biodiesel

When energy company Total gave an old fossil fuel refinery a new lease on life as a biorefinery, a turbo compression system supplied by MAN Energy Solutions was part of the complex solution. Take a look behind the scenes of the conversion, complete with technical challenges, and find out how a sustainable supply mix for the resulting biodiesel was found.

Learn more about the La Mède biorefinery

metric tons of raw material to be processed at the biodiesel refinery in La Mede, France
lower carbon emissions with biodiesel (compared to the fossil fuels previously produced at the site)
metric tons of biodiesel per year to be produced at the refinery

There are three possible responses to the crisis in the European refining industry. The first is to throw in the towel. The second is to do nothing and perish. The third is to innovate and adapt to meet shifting demand trends.

Patrick Pouyanné, CEO, Total