Five Facts About Biomass That Will Make You Think Twice

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Introduction :

The term biomass refers to all sorts of the living matter whether natural grown and bred as well as their residues. Biomass is essential to human beings. For thousands of years, people have been using biomass as a means of energy. In the 20th century, oil has made life easier but the negative side is that nature or the environment is seriously affected. Recent technologies can convert biomass into hydrocarbon within a few hours, the willingness to change is therefore mainly a matter of commitment.

Potential of biomass energy

In one year humankind consumes the equivalent of 12 billion tons of oil. In one year, the solar energy received by the earth is equivalent to 90,000 billion tons of oil and the energy stored in biomass growth amounts to 72 billion tonnes. All the energy needs of humankind in a year could be met by collecting an hour of sunlight or 1/6th of biomass production. Yet renewable energy only account for 13% of the global energy package which is dominated by non-renewable energy i.e., oil, coal, gas and nuclear power. Bioenergy is number one far ahead of hydropower, wind, solar energy, geothermal and tidal power together. 

On a global scale, the carbon flow stalked by bioenergy is about 62 billion tons a year. This carbon is considered as circulating because a major part of it goes back into the atmosphere due to the decay of biomass. Photosynthesis is the driving force of this carbon cycle. Related to this main cycle there are other lesser ones, atmospheric carbon is on a balance with the carbon dissolved in water. Part of this dissolved carbon sediments, while sedimentary limestone is burned by volcanoes and returns to the atmosphere. Finally, a tiny fraction of biomass will be gradually fossilized but it will require millions of years for this bioenergy to be turned into coal oil and natural gas.

The use of bioenergy consists in diverting part of the cyclic carbon towards the human activity. Once consumed, this carbon returns to the cycle it would have had if humans had not intervened. That is to say, there is no further emission into the atmosphere. On the contrary, what is taken from the biomass saves fossil fuels and accordingly reduces emission into the atmosphere. But biomass production transformation and transportation have an energy cost.

A lot of renewable energy is produced in the form of heat and electricity. It is difficult to store heat and electricity, therefore they are mainly used for static use. The characteristic of biomass is that it is available in a material form which gives it the advantage of being easily stored. Among the energies that can be easily stored thus offering the strongest energy content what we call calorific value are preferable. The higher the calorific value is the further we can go. Biomass wood has a low calorific value of 16 megajoules per kilo besides the solid form of wood is ill-adapted to power an engine. Gases are used as mobile use energy, methane and hydrogen. They have a very high energy content but the storage of these gases is still cumbersome and eventually limits vehicle autonomy.

Yet hydrogen would be an ideal fuel because its combustion does not release Co2. Enriched uranium has a calorific value of about 500,000 megajoules per kilo. A kilogram of uranium would allow a car to run 200,000  kilometres. But in civilian life, the best-adapted energy for mobility is thus in a liquid form. It is then called fuel and biofuel when resources bio source and not a fossil fuel. Liquid biofuels are already part of everyday life. Ethanol is mixed with petrol. Pure vegetable oil is also used but petrol and diesel with a calorific value of 43 megajoules per kilo surpass all liquid fuels. The fuels with the highest calorific value contain the least oxidized molecules i.e. those with the lowest proportions of oxygen.

Petrol and diesel do not contain oxygen atoms but only hydrogen and carbon atoms. They are hydrocarbons. Nowadays transport uses half of the crude oil produced. The reason for this is that it contains hydrocarbon molecules which do not explode and it has a high calorific value. Therefore what is at stake here is to produce a new generation of liquid hydrocarbons from biomass instead it has taken nature millions of years to produce hydrocarbons. Bioenergy that already covers 10% of the world energy consumption could provide 25% of that by resorting to renewable energies.

Advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy or bioenergy:

Advantages :

  1. Growing biomass crops gives us oxygen and uses carbon dioxide.
  2. More heat is created from biomass compared to the heat produced from wood.
  3. Biomass energy is an abundant and clean energy source
  4. Biomass is obtained from plants, animal waste and waste products of organic matter.
  5. No pollution is caused by using bioenergy.
  6. Carbon dioxide is produced when biomass fuel is used, which is taken up by plants.
  7. The production cost of biomass is less compared to other sources of energy. Hence, it is a cheaper and reliable source of energy.

Disadvantages :

  1. The initial cost of construction of biomass plant is more.
  2. The dirty smell is produced in the surrounding area of the biomass plant.
  3. More space is required for the construction of a biomass plant
  4. Continuous supply of organic waste from plants, animals or other organic matter is needed for the operation of a biomass plant.
  5. It is difficult to move biomass gas through pipes and it is also not easy to store biomass gas in cylinders. 

How a Biomass power plant work?

The biomass power plant produces energy from the heat created by the combustion process of organic materials, such as household waste, plant residues and wastes fermentation biogas. Both of these are renewable energy sources available in large amounts. The fuel is carried to the boiler. It is then introduced into the combustion chamber where it releases heat as it burns. This in turn heats water in tubes that line the boiler. The hot water is then sent to a tank where it turns into steam.

The steam is powered by a turbine that spins the engine.  In the generator, the interaction between the electromagnets of the moving rotor and the copper coils of the stationary stator produces an electric current. A transformer is used to increase the voltage of this current to 225,000 or 400,000 volts. This makes it easier to transport in the network’s very high voltage lines. The steam from the turbine passes through a condenser in which cold water circulates. This cools the steam, turning it back into the water. It is then sent back to the boiler.

This steam can also be used either for industrial activities or to supply an urban heating network. This simultaneous production of electricity and heat, in a single facility, is called combined heat and power. Finally, the fumes released by combustion are filtered before being evacuated through stacks. Often installed in very close proximity to material production or storage sites, biomass power plants can be used continuously to meet electricity needs, whatever the day of the year. They produce regular energy with low CO2 emissions.

Currently, there are 178 operational biomass plants in the United States which contribute a total capacity of 6374.75MW, 5 under construction plants with a capacity of 123.5MW and 1 proposed plant in Springfield, MA of 35MW capacity.

10 Future Biomass Power Plant Projects Around the World

In biomass power plants, wood waste or other waste is burnt to generate steam which is run by a turbine for the production of electricity or which provides heat to factories and households. Here are 10 future biomass power plant projects proposed for the electricity generation which is completely carbon neutral.

1.Japan’s Forest Energy plans 7.1MW biomass plant

Between October 2023 and March 2024, the Japanese biomass power company Forest Energy plans to commence commercial operations at a 7.1 MW biomass-fired power plant in Fukui City, Shizuoka Central Prefecture.

2. Tokuyama biomass power plant

Japanese refiner Idemitsu plans to start commercial operations at its Tokuyama petrochemical complex at a 50MW biomass power generation plant in December 2022, to use facilities at the former refinery site and to expand the biomass-related sector of the company.

3. Itochu, Osaka Gas commission Ichihara biomass plant

Japan’s Itochu trading house and domestic gas retailer Osaka Gas have commissioned a 49.9MW biomass power plant in Chiba, Ichihara City Prefecture. The power plant was supposed to start commercial operations two months ago, but this was postponed due to the effects of the typhoon. Cuba is launching the first biomass power plant.

4. Cuba launches first biomass power plant

Cuba has commissioned a 60MW biomass plant to bring the island closer to the 24% renewable generation goal by 2030.

5. Tokyo Gas to purchase 126 MW of Japan’s biomass projects

Prominet Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo Gas, announced the purchase in Toyama and Chiba Prefecture, Japan, of 126 MW of wood pellet biomass power generation plants. The two bioenergy power plants include the 51.5 MW Fushiki Manyofuto plant in Toyama Prefecture and the 75 MW Ichihara Yawatafuto plant in Chiba Prefecture.

6. Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES) okays funding for a 30-MW biomass power plant in Brazil

Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES) has approved funding of USD 14.2m for improvements to an ethanol plant, including the construction of a 30-MW bioenergy plant. The new bioenergy power plant, scheduled to start producing electricity in 2022, should be able to produce enough electricity to satisfy the demand of 15,000 local households.

7. Japanese firms to construct Sendai bioenergy project

Japanese renewable energy developer Renova and four other companies are planning to create a 74.95MW Sendai Gamo bioenergy plant in northeast Japan.

8.The construction of a 75 MW biomass power plant in Japan by Toyo

Japan-based Toyo Engineering Corp. announced on September 2 that it was awarded a contract to build the proposed 75 MW Ichihara Yawatafuto Bioenergy Power Gogo Kaisha wood pellet plant located in Ichihara-shi, Chiba, Japan.

9.PPC Renewables to make 31 MW bioenergy power plant in lignite land in Greece

This biomass plant will supply an output of up to 25 MW of its energy to the Greek grid and will use 6 MW for internal purposes, the government said, giving the green light to the project submitted by PPC Renewables.

10.German bioenergy power tender awards 90.5 MW

Biomass ventures and current biomass power stations in Germany with a combined capacity of 90.5 MW.

Statistics of bioenergy in the United States

As we know that bioenergy is carbon neutral and also helps in waste disposal. So, it still has a steady and stable contribution to renewable energy over the years from 2009 to 2019 in the united states.


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