What is biomass energy?

Biomass energy is energy stored within, produced or generated by living or dead organisms such as plants or animals. Common organic materials, or biomass feedstocks, are used to create biomass energy including plants, wood, and waste products. 

How is biomass created?

The sun’s energy is absorbed by plants through the process of photosynthesis to create carbon used to grow stems, leaves, roots, and timber - creating biomass. This biomass can be used to produce energy in a variety of ways. 

How do we use biomass?

Biomass energy will be released back into the atmosphere whether we use it or not. When plants and animals die and breakdown most of the carbon that was stored in the organic material is released naturally as carbon dioxide. If however, the biomass is utilised to generate usable energy we are simply re-routing that process.

Types of biomass which can be used to produce energy including:

  • Wood - logs, woodchips, wood pellets
  • Energy crops - crops which are grown specifically to produce biomass energy - willow, poplar, switchgrass, sugar cane, wheat, maize
  • Agricultural waste - straw, green matter, manure and other animal waste
  • Landfill and industrial waste - food waste, waste wood
Wood pellets - biomass energy
Wood pellets

How is biomass energy produced?

This biomass can be used to produce energy in a variety of ways from burning to digestion. 

Thermal conversion - heat

Thermal conversion is used to either burn, dehydrate, or stabilise the biomass. 

Biofuel

Liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel can be produced using fermentation (ethanol) or by combining with fats or oils (biodiesel).

Biochar

Biochar is produced using a process called pyrolysis which is the process of heating biomass to extremely high temperatures (200℃ to 300℃) in a low oxygen environment which stops the biomass catching fire.

Anaerobic digestion

Large anaerobic digesters are used to help breakdown the biomass using bacteria in an oxygen free environment. This process accelerates the decomposition process and produces methane (a biogas) which can be used as fuel to produce electricity or heat.

Find out more about Biogas Power Generation.

What are the advantages of using biomass energy?

  • Many of the readily available biomass options are renewable, although some options, like wood, take longer to renew than others such as manure.
  • As the carbon released from the use of biomass to produce energy is reabsorbed by new plants the use of biomass energy is seen as being carbon neutral.
  • Reduced dependence on the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity for homes, business and industry.
  • Reduced dependence on the mains electrical grid for power.
  • By using waste to create biomass energy we’re cutting down on the amount dumped in landfill.
  • Sources of biomass are readily available almost anywhere. Biomass energy is being successfully used in poorer countries who have access to biomass but may not have a reliable source of mains electricity.

For more information on using biomass energy to effectively produce power for your application speak to the team at Inoplex today.

More information on biomass can be found here - what is biomass?


References:

http://www.nef.org.uk/knowledge-hub/other-renewable-energy/biomass-energy

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/biomass-energy/

https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/newsmajor-pros-and-cons-of-biomass-energy-5845830/