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Chemistry: Coal Petroleum and Natural Gas Notes for SSC CGL

Chemistry: Coal Petroleum and Natural Gas Notes for SSC CGL

Chemistry: Coal Petroleum and Natural Gas Notes for SSC CGL

Natural resources

  • Inexhaustible Natural Resources–  Present in unlimited quatity and can’t be exhausted by human activities. Examples are sunlight, air etc
  • Exhaustible Natural Resources– Present in limited quantity and can be exhausted by human activities. Examples are- forests, wildlife, minerals, coal, petroleum, natural gas etc. These are formed from the dead living organisms (fossils). So,these are called as fossil fuels.

In this article we will discuss about exhaustible fossil fuels – Coal, Petroleum and natural gas. So, let us start.


About 300 million years ago the earth had dense forests in low lying wetland areas. Due to natural processes, like flooding, these forests got buried under the soil. As more soil deposited over them, they were compressed. The temperature also rose as they sank deeper and deeper. Under high pressure and high temperature, dead plants got slowly converted to coal. As coal contains mainly carbon, the slow process of conversion of dead vegetation into coal is called carbonisation. Since it was formed from the remains of vegetation, coal is also called a fossil fuel. When heated in air, coal burns and produces mainly carbon dioxide gas.

Features of coal:

  • It is as hard as stone and is black in colour.
  • Coal is one of the fuels used to cook food.
  • Earlier, it was used in railway engines to produce steam to run the engine.
  • It is also used in thermal power plants to produce electricity.
  • Coal is also used as a fuel in various industries.

Types of coal:

  • Peat: It is a low grade coal and produces less heat and more smoke & ash.
  • Lignite: It has high moisture content and low calorific value.
  • Bituminous: It is black, hard, smoky and used as domestic fuel.
  • Anthracite: It is the superior quality coal and hardest form with high calorific value. Anthracite is has the highest content of carbon i.e.90-95% and that is why it produces less smoke.


Coal is processed in industry to get some useful products such as coke, coal tar and coal gas.

Features Uses


It is almost pure form of coal. It is tough, porous and black. Coke is used in the manufacture of steel and in the extraction of many metals.

Coal tar

It is a black thick liquid of unpleasant smell. It is mixture of 20 substances. Products obtained from coal tar are used as starting materials for manufacturing various substances used in everyday life and in industry, like synthetic dyes, drugs, explosives, perfumes, plastics, paints, photographic materials, roofing materials, etc. Interestingly, naphthalene balls used to repel moths and other insects are also obtained from coal tar. These days, bitumen, a petroleum product, is used in place of coal-tar for metalling the roads.

Coal Gas

Coal gas is obtained during the processing of coal to get coke.  It is used as a fuel in many industries situated near the coal processing plants.

Coal gas was used for street lighting for the first time in London in 1810 and in New York around 1820.

Now days, it is used as a source of heat rather than light

Coal petroleum


Unlike coal, petroleum was formed from organisms living in the sea. As these organisms died, their bodies settled at the bottom of the sea and got covered with layers of sand and clay. Over millions of years, absence of air, high temperature and high pressure transformed the dead organisms into petroleum and natural gas.

The world’s first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1859. Eight years later, in 1867, oil was stuck at Makum in Assam. In India, oil is found in Assam, Gujarat, Mumbai High and in the river basins of Godavari and Krishna. First petroleum refinery in India started in Digboi, Assam in 1901.

Refining of Petroleum:

Petroleum is a mixture of gas petrol, diesel,lubricating oil, paraffin wax, etc. The process of separating these constituents is known as refining. All the useful substances obatined during refining are known as petrochemicals.These are used in the manufacture of detergents, fibres (polyester, nylon, acrylic etc.), polythene and other man-made plastics. Hydrogen gas obtained from natural gas, is used in the production of fertilisers (urea). Due to its great commercial importance, petroleum is also called ‘black gold’.

Constituents of Petroleum Uses
LPG Fuel for home and industry
Petrol Motor Fuel, aviation fuel and solvent for dry cleaning
Kerosene Fuel for stoves, lamps and jet air crafts
Diesel Fuel for heavy motor vehicles and generators
Lubricating oil Lubrication
Paraffin wax Ointments, candles, vaseline eyc
Bitumen Paints, road surfacing etc.

Natural gas is stored under high pressure as compressed natural gas (CNG).


  • CNG is the cleaner fuel. That is why it is used as a fuel in vehilcles and for power generation.
  • It can be supplied through pipes and used directly in homes and factories. Such a network exists in Vadodara (Gujrat) and some parts of Delhi.
  • It is also used in fertilizer industry.

In India, natural gas is found in Tripura, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and in the Krishna Godavari delta.

We know that fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and diesel are the main source of air pollution. Their use is linked to global warming. In India, the Petroleum Conservation research Authority (PCRA) advises people how to save petrol/diesel while driving.

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