how are coal oil and natural gas formed

how are coal oil and natural gas formed

How are Coal, Oil and Natural Gas Formed?

Coal, oil and natural gas are three of the most commonly used and important energy sources in the world. All three of these sources come from a process called fossilization, which can take millions of years to form. In this article, we will take a closer look at how coal, oil and natural gas are formed.

Formation of Coal

Coal is perhaps the oldest of the three energy sources, and it is formed in several stages. First, plant material accumulates and is buried under layers of sediment. As the material is buried deeper under the surface, the temperature and pressure gradually increase. This high pressure and temperature cause the plant matter to burst into small pieces and begin to chemically change. Over time, the material is converted into peat, followed by lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous coal, and anthracite coal.

Formation of Oil

Oil is formed from the remains of tiny sea creatures and plants that die and settle at the bottom of oceans, rivers, and other bodies of water. Over time, the remains are buried with sediment and more layers accumulate on top.

As the layers accumulate, the pressure and temperature increase, causing the remains to break down and form oil. These molecules of oil begin to move through small crevices in the rock, eventually settling in reservoirs or natural traps. It is through drilling that oil is able to be collected.

Formation of Natural Gas

Natural gas is formed in a similar process to oil. It is mostly composed of methane, and it is created when plant and animal matter decomposes in the absence of oxygen. As the layers of sediment accumulate, the temperature and pressure increase, and the organic matter begins to break down over millions of years. Eventually, the methane molecules make their way through the rock until they are trapped in an underground reservoir.


The formation of coal, oil and natural gas is a process that takes millions of years. Plant and animal material needs to be buried, and then undergo heat and pressure in order to be transformed into these energy sources. If you’re interested in learning more about these processes, there are many more resources available.

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