Skip to content (Press enter)

What is oil?

oil icon 3D

Oil is a fossil fuel. Most of the oil extracted today has been formed from prehistoric organisms whose remains settled at the bottoms of oceans and lakes millions of years ago. As layers of sediment covered them, the pressure on them increased which in turn increased the temperature. This process changed their chemical composition, eventually transforming them into oil.

Generating electricity by burning oil is costly and releases a high level of greenhouse gases. Consequently, oil-fired power stations are currently used only to provide backup power, when there is a chance that demand for electricity might not be met by less costly and carbon-intensive energy sources.

Oil is not expected to play any part in the UK's electricity generation mix beyond 2015, as all of the country's oil-fired power stations are scheduled to have closed down by this time.

Information sources

How electricity is generated through oil

How electrcity is generated through oil

See how an oil-fired power station generates electricity.

Is it plentiful?

Quantity icon 3D

Oil is a finite fossil fuel and will run out in the 2050s at the current rate of consumption. Oil-fired plants are used only for meeting peaks in demand in the UK and will be phased out of operation by 2015.

Is it secure?

security icon 3D

In 2009 the UK imported 67% of the oil used for generating electricity and indigenous North Sea reserves are diminishing. But oil-fired power stations are used only to meet peak demand and they will be phased out by 2015.

Is it predictable?

reliability icon 3D

UK oil-fired power stations have an assumed availability of 80%. Oil-fired power stations can be relied on to meet peak demands. But the fuel comes at a high price and their high carbon footprint means they will not be used after 2015.

Is it affordable?

affordability icon 3D

Oil is unlikely to play a major role in future electricity generation.

Is it clean?

climate change icon 3D

Oil-fired power stations have a carbon footprint of around 650gCO2e/kWh. The three remaining UK oil-fired power stations, currently used only to hit peak demand, are due to be phased out after 2015.

EDF Energy's approach

WhyEDF icon 3D

Oil is not part of EDF Energy's mix of generating technologies in the UK.