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Oil Rig
Photo: Oil flare from well test in Block 49/9
(Helvick oil accumulation), Celtic Sea, courtesy of P.M. Shannon.

Try to picture a world without any cars driving around, or without any plastic materials. Without geologists continually engaged in the search for oil, and finding ways of retrieving more out of the oil fields we know about, society would soon come to a halt. Whilst there may be more to be found some geologists think that most significant oil fields have been discovered. In your own lifetime, humans may use up all there is - a matter for significant thought. Crude oil or petroleum as it is also known comes from plants and animals that lived long ago. When these organisms died they were covered by sand and mud, which changed into to sedimentary rock when put under pressure from the layers above. Over millions of years, the animals and plants then turned to oil, which is why oil is called a fossil fuel.

Like oil, natural gas is essential to the lifestyle we enjoy. Although gas is imported, Ireland has some of its own in the Kinsale field off Cork. Geologists have recently found more gas in the deep water of the Corrib field out in the Atlantic. Bringing that onshore in Mayo and distributing it around the country is a major project of vital importance for the economic good of the country. Meanwhile geologists will be going even further to ensure that new supplies are found.
Gas at sea
Photo: Petroleum Affairs Division,
Ramco’s Seven Heads well 48/24-6 flaring gas on test, in 2003.
North Celtic Sea Basin, Seven Heads Gas Accumulation.
Nuclear towers
Photo ©
Nuclear energy
Nuclear power is the controlled use of nuclear reactions to release energy for work including propulsion, heat, and the generation of electricity. Ireland does not produce nuclear power.

Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. Coal is an organic rock (i.e. it accumulates from the remains of organisms). It forms from the compression of plant remains such as moss, leaves and tree trunks. The ancient forests and swamp ecosystems from which coal formed only existed in hot regions;therfore the presence of coal in Ireland implies that we we once positioned at the tropics. Oil and coal are sedimentary rocks, see What are rocks? for more information.
Coal rail cars
Photo ©
Geothermal energy in Iceland
The Nesjavellir geothermal power plant in SW Iceland
Photo: Oddur Sigurðsson

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Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy comes from the heat within the earth. The word "geothermal" comes from the Greek words geo, meaning "earth",and therme, meaning "heat".

People around the world use geothermal energy to produce electricity, to heat buildings and greenhouses, and for other purposes.