Types of Fuel

We call fuel any type of material or product that has the ability to release energy when it undergoes a predominantly violent chemical oxidation process, which results in the release of energy. These fuels contain significant amounts of potential energy that is released in the form of heat (thermal energy), which can be used either thermally or as mechanical energy after a transformation.

In most cases, fuels present carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, and some other chemical compound. These can be in liquid, gaseous or solid form, as in the cases of very common fuels such as wood and coal (solids), LP gas and natural gas (gases), gasoline, diesel and oil (liquids). ), which we use daily in daily life, so that cars, trucks, trains, planes, ships can work, they allow factories to work, or the heating of the house among many other uses that we give them.

Other types of fuels are those that living organisms need to maintain their own vital activities, in the case of sugars, carbohydrates and starches that plants and animals use to maintain their biological functions.

The different types of fuels can be classified according to various criteria, for being solid, liquid, or gaseous, for the chemical characteristics of each one, and even for the use or application that is given to them, it can be to “burn” them and generate heat such as natural gas in a stove, to generate other types of energy such as petroleum and uranium fuels used to generate electrical energy, or for use in vehicles and other machines, etc.

old gas dispenser

Types of fuels according to their state of matter:

  • Solid Fuels.- These are fuels that are in a solid state, in the case of materials that we commonly use as fuels, such as coal, hard coal, coke and wood, among others.
  • Liquid fuels.- They are combustible substances that are in a liquid or fluid state at room temperature (except fuels such as liquid hydrogen that needs to be at very low temperatures to be in a liquid state. Examples of these are oil, gasoline, diesel, alcohol, ethanol, kerosene, turpentine and liquid hydrogen among other fuels.
  • Gaseous Fuels.- These are combustible materials that are in a gaseous state (although for storage they are subjected to liquefaction to better contain them), in the case of fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas and butane gas, among others. .
Coal in a smithy

Main types of fuels:

Fossil fuels.- These are different substances that serve as fuels and have a fossil origin, that is, that at some remote time they were an integral part of living organisms that, after their death, underwent various chemical changes. These are carbon compounds that can be used as fuel, either by burning them to produce thermal energy, such as coal or cooking oil, or for smelting iron using fuels such as coal and hard coal. Another category of fossil fuels is oil, natural gas and petroleum derivatives, which are often used as fuel for motors (gasoline, diesel, etc.), or for heating such as liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas.

Wood burning as fuel for the fire.

Fuels for living beings.- Living beings need fuels to be able to carry out the different internal cellular processes, these fuels are hydrocarbon substances (carbohydrates), which the organism of living beings uses as fuel. This is the case, for example, of starches, glucose and other sugars, which the body transforms into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the type of fuel used internally by our cells.

Fertilizers, Buñigas and excrement as fuel.- These biological waste substances have been used as fuel to light fires since lithic times and even today, for example by desert towns and communities where there are no other elements to burn. Thus, it is also about substances that allow obtaining fuels of greater practical utility for other uses such as biogas.

Wood.- It is a natural and abundant material in various areas, which has been used as fuel by man for several thousand years, mainly for heating, cooking food, lighting, etc.

Plastics.- Although they are not a fuel in themselves (for example, for the internal combustion of an engine), they are, on the other hand, to produce heat since they are flammable materials. These are mostly products derived from hydrocarbons such as oil, although there are also those produced from biological materials such as plants and animal proteins whose composition (of hydrocarbon bonds) allows them to serve as fuels, for example when burned to heat something.

Nuclear fuels.- These are materials that can be used for the production of nuclear energy, either by the method of nuclear fusion or nuclear fission. Some of them are radium, uranium (powdered uranium dioxide), tritium, deuterium, plutonium, and according to research, the helium isotope He-3 (helium 3). With the exception of helium 3, these are substances that usually produce large amounts of contaminating radiation, therefore their use must be controlled and limited.

industrial factory

Non-polluting fuels.- We speak of non-polluting fuels when referring to fuels whose combustion process does not release polluting substances into the environment, or if it does, these pollutants are minimal. Among these we find Hydrogen, Bio-diesel, Bio-gas, as well as alcohols, mainly methanol. Although due to the few contaminants that they expel into the environment, unleaded gasoline, diesel and natural gas are also usually counted.

Helium.- Although it is a combustible gas, the speed with which it ignites does not allow its use, for example, as a combustible substance for engines and other machines, making it unfeasible. However, the isotope helium 3 (He-3), on the other hand, has great expectations as a fuel for obtaining energy by nuclear fusion, also presenting little risk of releasing radioactive waste. However, helium 3 is a scarce isotope on earth, although its abundance in the universe is proven.

Ethanol.- Ethanol is an alcohol, it is a chemical compound (hydrocarbon), produced after the fermentation of sugars and plant starches, which is used as fuel for motor vehicles, either alone or mixed with some proportion of gasoline. . This liquid does not pollute, unlike fossil fuels such as gasoline.

Turpentine.- It is a liquid (very volatile) that is generally used as a solvent but it is also a highly flammable material, making it a fuel.

Liquid Hydrogen.- Hydrogen is a very abundant element combined with some other element, but scarce in its pure form. It is precisely in its pure form that it can be used as fuel. This element can be used industrially and for transportation, as well as being an efficient and non-polluting fuel since the combustion product of this element together with atmospheric oxygen results in Water. However, it is currently scarce for fuel purposes, since the processes of channeling and separating hydrogen, as well as its storage (liquid hydrogen is stored at high pressure and low temperature), so its use has not yet spread widely. .

Hydrazine.- It is a chemical compound of hydrogen and other substances such as ammonia, which is used as fuel for rockets.

Nitromethane.- It is a chemical compound based on propane and nitric acid, which is used, among other uses, as rocket fuel.

Main types of fossil fuels:

Coal.-Coal is a combustible mineral that originates from decomposed plant remains (mainly trunks and branches), from the Carboniferous period and other past geological eras that, due to accumulation in swampy, lacustrine, and shallow marine areas, underwent chemical changes propitiated by pressure and heat. It is a fuel material widely used both for vehicles and locomotives, in the metal smelting industry, heating and cooking, despite the fact that other fuels are already used. Its use as fuel dates back several centuries in ancient China, and relatively recently in European countries, beginning the industrial revolution. Other fuels can be obtained from this fuel material, such as some gasolines through the Fischer-Tropsch process,

Red hot coal.

Coke.- Coke or coking coal is another fossil fuel, it is the product of bituminous coal distillation (coal with bitumen, a compound belonging to hydrocarbons), which makes it a more efficient fuel than similar ones such as anthracite. It is used in different fields, such as for heating, cooking and even in the metallurgical industry. Its use has been known in China since at least the 9th century and in the West it only began to be used around the year 1600.

Anthracite.- It is a mineral of vegetable origin like coal, it is formed in places where the constant thermal temperature ranges between 170 and 250 °C, a situation that over eons gives it a composition with greater carbon content. It has colors that vary from black to gray and when this fossil mineral is used as fuel, it is usually difficult to ignite and its combustion is slow, as well as it usually needs large amounts of oxygen for its combustion, giving off few flames during the process. It is a fossil mineral that is usually the case compared to other fossil fuels such as coal, coal or peat.

Coal.- This is another mineral fuel of organic origin, whose amount of carbon ranges between 45 and 85% carbon depending on the concentration in the deposit. Three varieties of this fuel can be classified: lean or dry coal, fatty coal, and semi-dry coal, which have variations in terms of their effectiveness as fuel.

Steam train

Peat.- It is an organic material that serves as fuel, in itself it is not a fossil fuel, since peat is the first stage that vegetable matter possesses that is converted through various chemical processes into mineral carbon, but that it is only found in the state of putrefaction and carbonification of the vegetal elements present in swamps, marshes and other humid zones. It is a fuel that, due to the excess moisture present, is usually inefficient unless it is dried and when burned, it usually produces a lot of smoke.

Natural gas.- This is a gaseous type fossil fuel, it is a gaseous compound whose main composition is that of methane gas, this gas is the product of the decomposition of corpses of living beings and that usually accumulates underground under the pressure. It is used both as an industrial fuel and for home use (heating, water heating, cooking, etc.), and for use in some motor vehicles.

Flame produced in a gas stove.

Liquefied petroleum gas.- This is a mixture of butane and propane gases that are obtained after oil refining processes or, as the case may be, as a by-product after the extraction and refining of natural gas. It is mainly used as a domestic fuel and for use in some vehicles.

Petroleum.- It is a liquid composed mainly of carbon and hydrogen, that is, it is a hydrocarbon. It is one of the main fossil fuels and one of the most used today both for industrial use and for other uses (such as fuel for transport vehicles, heating, electricity production, domestic use, etc.).

Oil extraction.

This is extracted from natural deposits in the subsoil at various depths, from deposits on the surface of the earth to very deep deposits up to around 5000 meters deep and even in sub-aquatic deposits under the seas.

It is a fuel known to humans and whose use has been known since the time of cultures such as the Egyptian (in the mummification process), and other peoples both for fueling lamps, torches, and even as an incandescent weapon along with other incendiary elements.

Other fuels whose particular chemical composition changes are derived from oil, as is the case of gasoline, diesel, naphtha, fuel oil, kerosene, and others, which are given various uses, especially in different engines. vehicles (land, water and air).

In addition to its use as fuel, different materials are obtained from this substance after various petrochemical processes, such as plastics, substances that can also be used as combustible materials, for example when burned.

Main fossil fuels derived from oil:

Gasoline.-It is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons derived from petroleum that are highly volatile. It is mainly used as fuel for buses, cars, motorcycles and other similar vehicles. There are different types of gasoline that vary both in octane rating and in the presence or not of some particular elements such as lead, sulfur and others, which affect the higher or lower octane rating. Among these, the most common currently are similar to Premium gasoline (92 octane), and Magna (87 octane). However, this varies from country to country, since the amount of octane depends both on the regulations and optimal specifications according to the automotive requirements, as well as the environmental regulations and the technical specifications of the refineries. Being that, for example, in Mexico there were gasolines with octane ratings of 70 (the Mexolina in 1938), 80 octane (the Supermexolina), 90 octane (the Gasolmex in 1956), 100 octane (the Pemex 100), in the decade of the 60, and Nova gasoline (81 octane), up to the current 87 and 92 octane standardized in Mexico. In the same way, the types of gasoline vary in said octane ratings and in the presence or not of the elements that allow said octane rating, such as tetraethyl lead, sulfur and other substances that act as catalysts that increase the octane rating.


Diesel.- It is another liquid fuel derived from petroleum, although this is quite volatile compared to gasoline, for example, it has less volatility (a quality that makes it less likely to catch fire like gasoline, for example in motor vehicles). Its molecules are heavier than kerosene and gasoline, it is usually used in compression-decompression machines such as heavy vehicles and recently in several cars.

Kerosene or Kerosene.- This is another combustible liquid derived from petroleum, like all petroleum derivatives it is flammable, which is why it is mainly used for use in stoves and lamps, as well as to be burned and produce electricity between other uses.

Kerosene lamp.
Fuel oil.- It is another derivative of petroleum that is used mainly as an industrial fuel, both in machines, as well as for the generation of electricity (by burning it), as well as its use as fuel for boats.

Jet fuel.- It is a fuel derived from petroleum that is used in turbine aircraft, its chemical composition is similar to that of diesel, but it differs in that it is much easier to catch fire (it is more volatile), so it burns almost spontaneously due to the high pressure it has as it is enclosed in the combustion chamber of aircraft.

Aircraft gas or AV gas.- It is another fuel used in aircraft that is obtained from oil, it is used in a similar way to gasoline and diesel in 4-stroke engines (piston engines), it is used in propeller aircraft such as airplanes , planes and helicopters.

Propellant or rocket propellant.- Propellant (also known as propellant), is a
group of combustible substances that may well be in solid, liquid or mixed states, and work
by reacting when the fuel is burned, propelling the chetes upwards (rockets missiles ,
ballistic missiles and long-range missiles). Among these are some such as: ammonium nitrate,
liquid hydrogen, hydrazine, hydrogen peroxide, nitrogen tetroxide, sodium pechlorate, etc.

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