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Different types of fuel

Updated February 21, 2017

Fuel is used to power anything, from cars to aeroplanes to toy motor boats. It is the lifeblood of our transportation system. As technology advances, society is able to use several natural and man-made sources to power our vehicles. This article will explore the different types of fuel and their properties.

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Petroleum is still the number-one fuel source used to power industrial nations. Petroleum is also known as crude oil and is found in large reservoirs around the world. Crude oil is usually taken to a refinery that turns it into usable forms, such as petrol. It is usually bought in barrel units. Petroleum prices rose from less than £13 a barrel in 1996 to more than £97 by June 2008.

Natural gas

Natural gas refers to methane-based gas found in coal beds. It can also be found in landfills, bogs and marshes because of special organisms called methanogens. Before being used as a fuel, natural gas must go through extensive processing to remove all the other associated chemicals until only the methane is left.

Hydrogen fuel

There are chemical reactions that can also produce energy that can be used as fuel. Hydrogen fuel is one example. Oxygen and hydrogen are combined in a proton exchange fuel cell. When the two are chemically combined, they can produce electricity that is used as fuel, creating water and vapours as a byproduct.

Straight egetable oil

A fast-food restaurant leftover, straight vegetable oil (SVO) can also act as a fuel. Special fuel tanks reduce its high viscosity to make it flow better. This fuel cannot be run through standard engines. They must be converted to handle filtered vegetable oil. This includes modifying engines to run at 65.6ºC and 120 degree fuel temperatures.


Ethanol is a naturally occurring gas that is usually found in small parts with other natural gases. However, ethanol can also be manually produced and used as fuel. Ethanol production includes the fermentation of corn stalks or sugar cane. Although ethanol burns cleaner than traditional gasoline, costs are equivalent to gasoline and fuel efficiency is more than a third less efficient.

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About the Author

Paul Bright

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.

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