Faced with the impending decline of fossil fuel reserves, first reactions are to exercise greater economy over existing uses of energy, as exemplified by the ‘Save it’ campaign in the United Kingdom. It is no longer locally acceptable, for example, to flare off excess quantities of petroleum gases, or of low-grade industrial by-product gases, which are now expected to be consumed usefully either as energy sources or as feedstock for other products. Equally important are attempts at more logical and integrated usage patterns of existing resources, with better matching of large-scale availability to large-scale consumption, and of special-quality fuels to special-requirement applications. The wider interpretation of the term ‘alternative fuels’, therefore, starts with those cases in which conventional fuels are utilised either in some alternative form, or in some alternative application (somewhat analogous to the zeroth law located before the three main laws in thermodynamics). Their purpose is to permit the use of the more-available less-expensive fuels, particularly for large-scale operation, and/or to improve combustion. Although, in fact, some of these forms and applications are now becoming so commonplace as to approach the conventional, they are included early in the following sections in the sense of ‘alternatives’ to long-established practices, and therefore precursors of the alternative options of the future.
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