Oil Well Gas Pump Coal Fossil Fuel Energy Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources that formed more than 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period - long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Fossil fuels are made up of plant and animal matter. When plants and animals died, their bodies decomposed and were buried under layers of earth. Millions of years later we have the three forms of fossil fuel: oil, natural gas and coal. Oil Oil is a thick, black, gooey liquid also called petroleum. It's found way down in the ground, usually between layers of rock. To get oil out, a well is dug. Digging a well is like putting a straw into a can of pop. The oil is then pumped out of the ground, just like when you suck pop up the straw. Oil is carried in pipelines and large tanker ships. A refinery changes the oil into products like gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel. It's also burned in factories and power plants to make electricity. The oil is burned, which produces gases that turn a turbine to create electricity. Natural Gas Natural gas is lighter than air. Natural gas is made out of methane, which is a simple chemical compound made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. This gas is highly flammable, so no farting near it. Natural gas is found near oil in the ground. It's pumped, just like oil, from wells that tap into the source and send it to large pipelines. Because you can't smell or see natural gas, it is mixed with a chemical to give it a stinky smell - like rotten eggs. That way, it's easy to tell if there's a leak. After the stinky chemical is added, the natural gas is sent through underground pipes which go to your home so you can cook food and heat your house. It's also sent to factories and power plants to make electricity. Natural gas is burned to produce heat, which boils water, creating steam, which passes through a turbine to generate electricity. Coal Coal comes in several different forms from hard black rocks (that's the kind you get in your stocking at Christmas) to soft brown dirt. Some forms burn hotter and cleaner than others. Coal is used to create more than half of all the electricity made in the US. In the states, many of the coal beds are near the ground's surface. We get to the coal by mining for it. Most coal is transported by trains to power plants where it's burned to make steam. The steam turns turbines, which produce electricity.