Biomass Energy

People have used biomass energy—energy from living things—since the earliest homonids first made wood fires for cooking or keeping warm. Today, biomass is used to fuel electric generators and other machinery.

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Engineering

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People have used biomass energy —energy from living things—since the earliest hominids first made wood fires for cooking or keeping warm. Biomass is organic, meaning it is made of material that comes from living organisms, such as plants and animals. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, wood, and waste. These are called biomass feedstocks . Biomass energy can also be a nonrenewable energy source. Biomass contains energy first derived from the sun: Plants absorb the sun’s energy through photosynthesis , and convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients (carbohydrates). The energy from these organisms can be transformed into usable energy through direct and indirect means. Biomass can be burned to create heat (direct), converted into electricity (direct), or processed into biofuel (indirect). Thermal Conversion Biomass can be burned by thermal conversion and used for energy. Thermal conversion involves heating the biomass feedstock in order to burn, dehydrate , or stabilize it. The most familiar biomass feedstocks for thermal conversion are raw materials such as municipal solid waste (MSW) and scraps from paper or lumber mills. Different types of energy are created through direct firing, co-firing , pyrolysis , gasification , and anaerobic decomposition . Before biomass can be burned, however, it must be dried. This chemical process is called torrefaction . During torrefaction, biomass is heated to about 200° to 320° Celsius (390° to 610° Fahrenheit). The biomass dries out so completely that it loses the ability to absorb moisture, or rot. It loses about 20 percent of its original mass, but retains 90 percent of its energy. The lost energy and mass can be used to fuel the torrefaction process. During torrefaction, biomass becomes a dry, blackened material. It is then compressed into briquettes . Biomass briquettes are very hydrophobic , meaning they repel water. This makes it possible to store them in moist areas. The briquettes have high energy density and are easy to burn during direct or co-firing. Direct Firing and Co-Firing Most briquettes are burned directly. The steam produced during the firing process powers a turbine , which turns a generator and produces electricity. This electricity can be used for manufacturing or to heat buildings. Biomass can also be co-fired, or burned with a fossil fuel . Biomass is most often co-fired in coal plants. Co-firing eliminates the need for new factories for processing biomass. Co-firing also eases the demand for coal. This reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels. Pyrolysis Pyrolysis is a related method of heating biomass. During pyrolysis, biomass is heated to 200° to 300° C (390° to 570° F) without the presence of oxygen. This keeps it from combusting and causes the biomass to be chemically altered. Pyrolysis produces a dark liquid called pyrolysis oil , a synthetic gas called syngas , and a solid residue called biochar . All of these components can be used for energy. Pyrolysis oil, sometimes called bio-oil or biocrude, is a type of tar . It can be combusted to generate electricity and is also used as a component in other fuels and plastics. Scientists and engineers are studying pyrolysis oil as a possible alternative to petroleum . Syngas can be converted into fuel (such as synthetic natural gas ). It can also be converted into methane and used as a replacement for natural gas. Biochar is a type of charcoal . Biochar is a carbon-rich solid that is particularly useful in agriculture . Biochar enriches soil and prevents it from leaching pesticides and other nutrients into runoff . Biochar is also an excellent carbon sink . Carbon sinks are reservoirs for carbon-containing chemicals, including greenhouse gases.

Gasification Biomass can also be directly converted to energy through gasification. During the gasification process, a biomass feedstock (usually MSW) is heated to more than 700° C (1,300° F) with a controlled amount of oxygen. The molecules break down, and produce syngas and slag . Syngas is a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. During gasification, syngas is cleaned of sulfur, particulates, mercury, and other pollutants . The clean syngas can be combusted for heat or electricity, or processed into transportation biofuels, chemicals, and fertilizers . Slag forms as a glassy, molten liquid. It can be used to make shingles, cement, or asphalt. Industrial gasification plants are being built all over the world. Asia and Australia are constructing and operating the most plants, although one of the largest gasification plants in the world is currently under construction in Stockton-on-Tees, England. This plant will eventually be able to convert more than 350,000 tons of MSW into enough energy to power 50,000 homes. Anaerobic Decomposition Anaerobic decomposition is the process where microorganisms , usually bacteria , break down material in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic decomposition is an important process in landfills , where biomass is crushed and compressed, creating an anaerobic (or oxygen-poor) environment. In an anaerobic environment, biomass decays and produces methane, which is a valuable energy source. This methane can replace fossil fuels. In addition to landfills, anaerobic decomposition can also be implemented on ranches and livestock farms. Manure and other animal waste can be converted to sustainably meet the energy needs of the farm. Biofuel Biomass is the only renewable energy source that can be converted into liquid biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel . Biofuel is used to power vehicles, and is being produced by gasification in countries such as Sweden, Austria, and the United States. Ethanol is made by fermenting biomass that is high in carbohydrates, such as sugarcane, wheat, or corn. Biodiesel is made from combining ethanol with animal fat, recycled cooking fat, or vegetable oil. Biofuels do not operate as efficiently as gasoline. However, they can be blended with gasoline to efficiently power vehicles and machinery, and do not release the emissions associated with fossil fuels. Ethanol requires acres of farmland to grow biocrops (usually corn). About 1,515 liters (400 gallons) of ethanol is produced by an acre of corn. But this acreage is then unavailable for growing crops for food or other uses. Growing enough corn for ethanol also creates a strain on the environment because of the lack of variation in planting, and the high use of pesticides. Ethanol has become a popular substitute for wood in residential fireplaces. When it is burned, it gives off heat in the form of flames, and water vapor instead of smoke. Biochar Biochar, produced during pyrolysis, is valuable in agricultural and environmental use. When biomass rots or burns (naturally or by human activity), it releases high amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere . However, when biomass is charred, it sequesters , or stores, its carbon content. When biochar is added back to the soil, it can continue to absorb carbon and form large underground stores of sequestered carbon—carbon sinks—that can lead to negative carbon emissions and healthier soil. Biochar also helps enrich the soil. It is porous . When added back to the soil, biochar absorbs and retains water and nutrients.

Biochar is used in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in a process called slash-and-char . Slash-and-char agriculture replaces slash-and-burn , which temporarily increases the soil nutrients but causes it to lose 97 percent of its carbon content. During slash-and-char, the charred plants (biochar) are returned to the soil, and the soil retains 50 percent of its carbon. This enhances the soil and leads to significantly higher plant growth. Black Liquor When wood is processed into paper, it produces a high-energy, toxic substance called black liquor. Until the 1930s, black liquor from paper mills was considered a waste product and dumped into nearby water sources. However, black liquor retains more than 50 percent of the wood’s biomass energy. With the invention of the recovery boiler in the 1930s, black liquor could be recycled and used to power the mill. In the United States, paper mills use nearly all their black liquor to run their mills, and the forest industry is one of the most energy-efficient in the nation as a result. More recently, Sweden has experimented in gasifying black liquor to produce syngas, which can then be used to generate electricity. Hydrogen Fuel Cells Biomass is rich in hydrogen, which can be chemically extracted and used to generate power and to fuel vehicles. Stationary fuel cells are used to generate electricity in remote locations, such as spacecraft and wilderness areas. Yosemite National Park in the U.S. state of California, for example, uses hydrogen fuel cells to provide electricity and hot water to its administration building. Hydrogen fuel cells may hold even more potential as an alternative energy source for vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that biomass has the potential to produce 40 million tons of hydrogen per year. This would be enough to fuel 150 million vehicles. Currently, hydrogen fuel cells are used to power buses, forklifts, boats, and submarines, and are being tested on airplanes and other vehicles. However, there is a debate as to whether this technology will become sustainable or economically possible. The energy that it takes to isolate, compress, package, and transport the hydrogen does not leave a high quantity of energy for practical use. Biomass and the Environment Biomass is an integral part of Earth’s carbon cycle . The carbon cycle is the process by which carbon is exchanged between all layers of Earth: atmosphere, hydrosphere , biosphere , and lithosphere . The carbon cycle takes many forms. Carbon helps regulate the amount of sunlight that enters Earth’s atmosphere. It is exchanged through photosynthesis, decomposition, respiration, and human activity. Carbon that is absorbed by soil as an organism decomposes, for example, may be recycled as a plant releases carbon-based nutrients into the biosphere through photosynthesis. Under the right conditions, the decomposing organism may become peat , coal, or petroleum before being extracted through natural or human activity. Between periods of exchange, carbon is sequestered, or stored. The carbon in fossil fuels has been sequestered for millions of years. When fossil fuels are extracted and burned for energy, their sequestered carbon is released into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels do not reabsorb carbon. In contrast to fossil fuels, biomass comes from recently living organisms. The carbon in biomass can continue to be exchanged in the carbon cycle. In order to effectively allow Earth to continue the carbon cycle process, however, biomass materials such as plants and forests have to be sustainably farmed. It takes decades for trees and plants such as switchgrass to reabsorb and sequester carbon. Uprooting or disturbing the soil can be extremely disruptive to the process. A steady and varied supply of trees, crops, and other plants is vital for maintaining a healthy environment. Algal Fuel Algae is a unique organism that has enormous potential as a source of biomass energy. Algae, whose most familiar form is seaweed , produces energy through photosynthesis at a much quicker rate than any other biofuel feedstock—up to 30 times faster than food crops!

Algae can be grown in ocean water, so it does not deplete freshwater resources. It also does not require soil, and therefore does not reduce arable land that could potentially grow food crops. Although algae releases carbon dioxide when it is burned, it can be farmed and replenished as a living organism. As it is replenished, it releases oxygen, and absorbs pollutants and carbon emissions. Algae takes up much less space than other biofuel crops. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it would only take approximately 38,850 square kilometers (15,000 square miles, an area less than half the size of the U.S. state of Maine) to grow enough algae to replace all petroleum-fueled energy needs in the United States. Algae contains oils that can be converted to a biofuel. At the Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation in New Zealand, for example, algae is processed with heat and pressure. This creates a “ green crude ,” which has similar properties to crude oil, and can be used as a biofuel. Algae’s growth, photosynthesis, and energy production increases when carbon dioxide is bubbled through it. Algae is an excellent filter that absorbs carbon emissions. Bioenergy Ventures, a Scottish firm, has developed a system in which carbon emissions from a whiskey distillery are funneled to an algae pool. The algae flourishes with the additional carbon dioxide. When the algae die (after about a week) they are collected, and their lipids (oils) are converted into biofuel or fish food. Algae has enormous potential as an alternative energy source. However, processing it into usable forms is expensive. Although it is estimated to yield 10 to 100 times more fuel than other biofuel crops, in 2010 it cost $5,000 a ton. The cost will likely come down, but it is currently out of reach for most developing economies. People and Biomass Advantages Biomass is a clean, renewable energy source. Its initial energy comes from the sun, and plants or algae biomass can regrow in a relatively short amount of time. Trees, crops, and municipal solid waste are consistently available and can be managed sustainably. If trees and crops are sustainably farmed, they can offset carbon emissions when they absorb carbon dioxide through respiration. In some bioenergy processes, the amount of carbon that is reabsorbed even exceeds the carbon emissions that are released during fuel processing or usage. Many biomass feedstocks, such as switchgrass, can be harvested on marginal lands or pastures, where they do not compete with food crops. Unlike other renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, biomass energy is stored within the organism, and can be harvested when it is needed. Disadvantages If biomass feedstocks are not replenished as quickly as they are used, they can become nonrenewable. A forest, for instance, can take hundreds of years to re-establish itself. This is still a much, much shorter time period than a fossil fuel such as peat. It can take 900 years for just a meter (three feet) of peat to replenish itself. Most biomass requires arable land to develop. This means that land used for biofuel crops such as corn and soybeans are unavailable to grow food or provide natural habitats. Forested areas that have matured for decades (so-called “ old-growth forests ”) are able to sequester more carbon than newly planted areas. Therefore, if forested areas are not sustainably cut, re-planted, and given time to grow and sequester carbon, the advantages of using the wood for fuel are not offset by the trees’ regrowth. Most biomass plants require fossil fuels to be economically efficient. An enormous plant under construction near Port Talbot, Wales, for instance, will require fossil fuels imported from North America, offsetting some of the sustainability of the enterprise . Biomass has a lower “energy density” than fossil fuels. As much as 50 percent of biomass is water, which is lost in the energy conversion process. Scientists and engineers estimate that it is not economically efficient to transport biomass more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) from where it is processed. However, converting biomass into pellets (as opposed to wood chips or larger briquettes) can increase the fuel’s energy density and make it more advantageous to ship. Burning biomass releases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants and particulates. If these pollutants are not captured and recycled, burning biomass can create smog and even exceed the number of pollutants released by fossil fuels.

Balancing Biomass The Union of Concerned Scientists helped develop A Balanced Definition of Renewable Biomass, which are practical and effective sustainability provisions that can provide a measure of assurance that woody biomass harvests will be sustainable.

Fowl Play The three million chickens of the enormous Beijing Deqingyuan chicken farm, outside Beijing, China, produce 220 tons of manure and 170 tons of wastewater each day. Using gasification technology from GE Energy, the farm is able to convert chicken manure into 14,600 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

Green Energy in the Green Mountain State The first U.S. biomass gasification plant opened near Burlington, Vermont, in 1998. The Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station uses wood from low-quality trees and harvest residue, and produces about 50 megawatts of electricityalmost enough to sustain Vermont's largest city.

World's Top Biofuel Crops ( HowStuffWorks ) 1. switchgrass 2. wheat 3. sunflower 4. cottonseed oil 5. soy 6. jatropha 7. palm oil 8. sugarcane 9. canola 10. corn

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Related Resources

biomass essay

A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion

Document Type : Review Paper

  • Antonio Tursi

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Technologies, University of Calabria, Via P. Bucci, Cubo 15D, 87036 Arcavacata di Rende (Cs), Italy.

Graphical Abstract

A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion

  • Overview of biomass sources and related chemical composition are presented.
  • Biomass conversion technologies and final products are reviewed and discussed.
  • Economic and environmental analysis of biomass-derived energy production was presented.
  • Challenges for further expanssion of biomass-derived energy production are presented.
  • Lignocelluloses
  • Pretreatment
  • Sustainability

Biofuel Research Journal

Volume 6, Issue 2 - Serial Number 2 June 2019 Pages 962-979

  • PDF 12.32 M


How to cite

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Tursi, A. (2019). A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion. Biofuel Research Journal , 6 (2), 962-979. doi: 10.18331/BRJ2019.6.2.3

Antonio Tursi. "A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion". Biofuel Research Journal , 6, 2, 2019, 962-979. doi: 10.18331/BRJ2019.6.2.3

Tursi, A. (2019). 'A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion', Biofuel Research Journal , 6(2), pp. 962-979. doi: 10.18331/BRJ2019.6.2.3

Tursi, A. A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion. Biofuel Research Journal , 2019; 6(2): 962-979. doi: 10.18331/BRJ2019.6.2.3

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Review article, an overview on the conversion of forest biomass into bioenergy.

  • 1 Henan Province International Collaboration Lab of Forest Resources Utilization, School of Forestry, Henan Agricultural University, Zhengzhou, China
  • 2 School of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China
  • 3 Institute of Research and Development, Duy Tan University, Da Nang, Vietnam
  • 4 Biofuel Research Team (BRTeam), Terengganu, Malaysia
  • 5 Arctic Research Centre (ARC), Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Roskilde, Denmark
  • 6 Higher Institution Centre of Excellence (HICoE), Institute of Tropical Aquaculture and Fisheries (AKUATROP), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia
  • 7 Microbial Biotechnology Department, Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension Organization (AREEO), Karaj, Iran

Biomass plays a crucial role in mitigating the concerns associated with increasing fossil fuel combustion. Among various types of biomass, forest biomass has attracted considerable attention given its abundance and variations. In this work, an overview is presented on different pathways available to convert forest biomass into bioenergy. Direct use of forest biomass could reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with conventional energy production systems. However, there are certain drawbacks to the direct use of forest biomass, such as low energy conversion rate and soot emissions and residues. Also, lack of continuous access to biomass is a severe concern in the long-term sustainability of direct electricity generation by forest biomass. To solve this problem, co-combustion with coal, as well as pelletizing of biomass, are recommended. The co-combustion of forest biomass and coal could reduce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfide emissions of the process. Forest biomass can also be converted into various liquid and gaseous biofuels through biochemical and thermochemical processes, which are reviewed and discussed herein. Despite the favorable features of forest biomass conversion processes to bioenergy, their long-term sustainability should be more extensively scrutinized by future studies using advanced sustainability assessment tools such as life cycle assessment, exergy, etc.


Greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions and other harmful gases are among the primary global concern, mainly caused by the increasing use of fossil energy carriers ( Jun-jun and Da-rui, 2012 ). GHGs have been thought of as a critical factor in global warming that plays a crucial role in climate change ( Panahi et al., 2020b ). Extensive research has shown that using other carbon sources like biomass could reduce these concerns ( Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha et al., 2018 ). In the literature available on the application of biomass to generate energy, the relative importance of forest biomass is debated ( Vassilev et al., 2010 ; Gustavsson et al., 2015 ). Generally, the forest biomass is classified into fuelwood and industrial roundwood ( Raunikar et al., 2010 ). Fuelwood is harvested from forestlands and directly combusted for useable heat or converted into bioenergy and biofuel and used to generate heat and power. More specifically, due to the high content of macromolecular sugars such as cellulose and organic matter, fuelwood is a promising feedstock for thermochemical conversion, biological conversion, liquefaction, and gasification ( Perez-Garcia et al., 2005 ; Tan et al., 2015 ). Forest biomass can be used in co-combustion with fossil fuels or alone in boilers and other equipment of power generation ( Scarlat et al., 2011 ; Calvo et al., 2013 ). Accordingly, when countries set their macro strategies related to energy development, efficient utilization of forest biomass resources to solve environmental crises is strongly considered ( Figure 1 ). For example, among the available energy sources in China, 54.2% of forest biomass is used to generate power and fuel ( Liao et al., 2004 ).

FIGURE 1 . Distribution of research activities on forest biomass to replace fossil-based energy carriers globally and the research interrelations between different countries.

It is reported that the energy generated by forest biomass can support 15.4% of the total human energy consumption ( Welfle et al., 2014 ). During the period 2004–2015, the whole power generation from forest biomass stood at around one million kW/yr, contributing to the elimination of forest residues and achieving ecological-zero carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions ( Ince et al., 2011 ; Nunes et al., 2018 ). For instance, forest biomass application as a replacement for fossil energy in Australia reduces atmospheric CO 2 emissions by 25 million tons annually ( Zomer et al., 2008 ; Pour et al., 2018 ). Furthermore, the European Union (EU) statistics show that there is an increasing trend for total energy that forest waste can provide for human consumption from 2010 to 2030 ( Table 1 ) ( Urban et al., 2010 ).

TABLE 1 . Statistics by the EU on energy generation from different types of forest biomass in 2010 and estimated values in 2030.

In light of the significance of forest biomass in the global energy market in the future, the present work aims to briefly report on various methods of forest biomass conversion into bioenergy and biofuels.

Direct Utilization of Forest Biomass

Direct combustion of wood for energy production.

A significant advantage of forest biomass is that it could be directly combusted. Direct combustion is a thermochemical process during which biomass burns in the open air, and the photosynthetically stored chemical energy of the biomass is converted into heat ( Lam et al., 2019 ). Although direct combustion of forest biomass leads to the emissions of CO 2 , particulates (PM 2.5 ), sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ), and other harmful substances, their amounts are still less than those caused by the combustion of fossil fuels ( Karaj et al., 2010 ; Kacprzak et al., 2016 ). For example, previous research has established that the direct combustion of forest biomass generates 20% less CO 2 emissions than fossil fuels ( Froese et al., 2010 ). However, there are certain drawbacks associated with the use of forest biomass. One of these is the low energy conversion rate; moreover, direct combustion leads to soot and residues ( Hong-ru and Yi-hu, 2007 ).

Direct combustion of biomass for power generation has continued since the 1990s ( Yin et al., 2008 ). Biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plants include a vibrating grate boiler, condensing steam turbine, and electric generator ( Chen et al., 2021 ). The vibrating grate boiler is mechanized combustion equipment with a simple structure and small capacity. Its grate surface vibrates under the action of alternating inertial force and prompts biomass to leap forward on it to achieve mechanized combustion. Burning forest biomass produces heat within the boiler that converts water into steam (steam Rankine cycle). After water evaporation in the boiler, steam enters the turbine to expand and perform work, afterward pressure is reduced, and steam is condensed and converted to water ( Dote et al., 2001 ). It should be noted that the steam Rankine cycle is one of the most critical thermodynamic cycles for electricity generation ( Dincer and Bicer, 2020 ).

The conversion rate of forest biomass into electricity by Rankine cycle is reported at about 39–44%; therefore, the combustion of each ton of forest biomass generates about 4.4 kWh of electric energy ( Van den Broek et al., 1996 ; Dote et al., 2001 ). One obvious advantage of using this electric energy is reducing fossil-based CO 2 emissions caused by the power generation industry. Table 2 tabulates the CO 2 emission reductions of forest biomass-based power plants compared to their fossil-based counterparts.

TABLE 2 . CO 2 emission reduction potentials of biomass-based power plants compared to their fossil fuel-based counterparts.

A significant problem with the direct combustion of forest biomass for energy production is that these waste resources are generally far from industrial and residential areas. Moreover, the forests are vast, and biomass collation is a complex problem; thus, lack of permanent access to biomass is a severe concern in the sustainability of direct electricity generation using forest biomass. Nevertheless, it is recommended that forest biomass-based industries be located within a 120 km radius of forests to solve this concern. Still, they need a lot of financial investment and storage capacity ( Hoffmann et al., 2012 ).

Co-combustion of Forest Biomass and Coal

Co-combustion is a feasible and straightforward option for solving the concerns associated with the direct combustion of forest biomass, such as permanent access to biomass, the area required for storage, and economic problems related to transportation and distribution ( Liang et al., 2017 ). The main advantage of the mixed combustion of biomass and coal vs. coal combustion is that it could reduce carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfide emissions while ensuring production efficiency ( Perea-Moreno et al., 2017 ). Technically, the co-combustion of forest biomass and coal uses pulverized coal boiler and fluidized bed boiler as the reactor. In the fluidized bed boiler, when forest biomass is added, the generation of nitric oxide (NO) is reduced, and the combustion process is more efficient ( Kabir and Kumar, 2012 ). Also, compared to coal, the volatile content of biomass is higher that is a favorable parameter for rapid ignition. It has been found that 87 tons of CO 2 emission could be reduced by replacing 1 ton of coal with forest biomass during co-combustion ( Royo et al., 2012 ). It is estimated that in 2030 and beyond, biomass utilization will increase by 450,000 t/yr, and relevant CO 2 emission reduction will reach 395,000 t/yr ( Kazagic et al., 2016 ). Furthermore, alkaline ash caused by biomass combustion can block SO 2 emissions from coal and reduce global acidification ( Demirba, 2005 ; Tsalidis et al., 2014 ).

Due to reducing harmful gases and increased power generation reliability, co-combustion is considered a cheap option to utilize existing biomass resources in power generation ( McIlveen-Wright et al., 2011 ). Given this fact, thermal power plants can use biomass as clean and cost-effective combustion supporting agent to mix with coal ( Dai et al., 2008 ). However, forest biomass suffers from several significant drawbacks despite these desirable features, e.g., poor energy density, high particle emissions, unstable combustion performance, and difficulties in storage and transportation ( Kang et al., 2018 ). Hence, future research should aim at providing solutions to mitigate these obstacles.

Forest Biomass Pellets

Several techniques have been developed to facilitate the transportation and improve the conversion rate of forest biomass, like mechanical processing of biomass into granular substance (pellet). Pelleting of forest biomass improves its density and reduces water content ( Valdés et al., 2018 ). Density and moisture are two critical properties of biomass affecting combustion efficiency. Hence, direct combustion or co-combustion of pelleted forest biomass with coal could increase combustion efficiency. For instance, it has been reported that the efficiency of pellet-fired boilers ranged between 85 and 90% compared with wood-fired boilers varying from 75 to 85% ( Sandro et al., 2019 ).

Forest biomass can also be mixed with other biomass to enhance the overall properties of the mixture for pellet production ( de Souza et al., 2020 ). For instance, the water content of biomass pellets could affect their durability, a property that could be adjusted by mixing different types of forest biomass. More specifically, when the moisture content of forest biomass is reduced to 1–5%, the average durability reaches 95%, which is convenient for the storage and transportation of the product ( Pradhan et al., 2018 ).

In the manufacturing process of forest biomass pellets, the biomass needs to be dehydrated in advance ( Civitarese et al., 2018 ). A rotary dryer could be used to remove the moisture in poplar wood chips, with a moisture removal rate of about 17%. In comparison, the moisture removal rate for Robinia pseudoacacia sawdust stands at a higher rate of 31%. These differences are ascribed to the differences in the density of various types of forest biomass ( Prokkola et al., 2014 ; Del Giudice et al., 2019 ). Notably, if the rotary dryer cannot remove the moisture effectively, the pneumatic dryer would be a good choice, also increasing the drying rate by 22% ( Frodeson et al., 2013 ).

From an environmental point of view, it is reported that if biomass pellets are used instead of coal for power generation, CO 2 emissions will be reduced by 205 Mt annually ( Purohit and Chaturvedi, 2018 ). Sikkema et al. (2011) reported that through the consumption of 8.2 million tons of wood pellets, 12.6 million tons of CO 2 emissions were avoided in all EU countries in 2008.

Compared with sawdust, coal, and other traditional fuels, mixing forest biomass pellets with coal causes less harm to the environment. For example, co-combustion of forest biomass pellets and coal reportedly led to a 50% reduction in CO 2 emission, and the ash formed in the combustion process only accounted for about 1%, 15–20 times less than coal combustion ( Palšauskas and Petkevičius, 2013 ; Morrison et al., 2018 ). Ehrig and Behrendt (2013) also showed that co-firing wood pellets with coal resulted in lower CO 2 than other renewables. It is also claimed that adding eggshells in the combustion of forest biomass pellets could also absorb CO 2 through the calcium carbonate present in eggshells, further reducing GHG emissions ( Yuan et al., 2019 ). Molina-Moreno et al. (2016) also reported that CO and NO x emissions levels caused by pellets combustion were very satisfactory. Tamura et al. (2014) claimed that co-firing wood pellets with coal when wood pellets were burnt in lower row burners could prevent CO emissions.

Despite these promising results, power plants relying on forest biomass pellets also face several problems such as high energy consumption, labor-intensive process, higher prices than other solid biofuels, need for higher storage space in comparison with oil, need for ash removal, and susceptibility of pellets to moisture exposure ( Abdoli et al., 2018 ).

Conversion of Forest Biomass Into Liquid Biofuels

The pollution caused by diesel combustion in diesel engines is one of the main contributors to global air pollution ( Aghbashlo et al., 2017b ; 2018b ). The most crucial emissions released from diesel combustion are CO 2 , NO X , sulfur oxides (SO X ), CO, and PM emissions ( Aghbashlo et al., 2021b ). There is evidence that these emissions play a crucial role in damage to the environment and human health ( Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha et al., 2020 ). To solve the problem associated with diesel exhaust emissions and to mitigate the existing environmental pressure, cleaner alternatives to diesel are widely sought ( Khalife et al., 2017 ; Aghbashlo et al., 2018a ).

Biodiesel, long-chain fatty acid methyl or ethyl esters (FAME or FAEE, respectively) is produced mainly via the transesterification reaction using short-chain alcohols, i.e., methanol or ethanol, and in the presence of a base or acid catalyst ( Chuah et al., 2017 ; Hajjari et al., 2017 ). Compared with diesel, biodiesel combustion leads to lower smoke, PM CO, and unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions ( Amid et al., 2020 ). Also, it contributes much less to global warming than diesel because the carbon contained in biodiesel is mainly of biogenic CO 2 origin ( Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha et al., 2018 ). The research on biodiesel production has already reached maturity, resulting in replacing diesel with various biodiesel blends in many parts of the world. It should be quoted that neat biodiesel and its blends (up to 20%) with diesel can be used in diesel engines without requiring engine modifications ( Narasimharao et al., 2007 ).

Despite its advantages, some physicochemical properties of biodiesel limit its widespread application, including higher viscosity of biodiesel than fossil diesel and poor cold flow properties ( Aghbashlo et al., 2015 ; Pang, 2019 ). Moreover, biodiesel production from first-generation feedstock (edible vegetable oils) has led to high production costs and triggered competition between fuel and food over arable land water resources ( Aghbashlo et al., 2017a ). Fuels derived from waste biomass are classified as second-generation biofuels and are regarded as a solution to overcome the mentioned competition between food and fuel ( Laesecke et al., 2017 ). High oil content tree species are suitable raw materials for biodiesel production ( Patel et al., 2019 ).

Pyrolysis is also a promising thermochemical valorization technique for producing biofuels from forest waste at moderate temperatures (typically between 300 and 1,300°C) ( Aghbashlo et al., 2019 ; Yek et al., 2020 ) During this process, the feedstock’s chemical structure faces fundamental changes ( Foong et al., 2020 ; Ge et al., 2021 ). Generally, pyrolysis is known as the method with the ability to produce a variety of solid, liquid, and gaseous products depending on pyrolysis conditions ( Aghbashlo et al., 2021a ). Slow pyrolysis produces solid products such as biochar or charcoal, while fast pyrolysis results in the production of liquid products (bio-oil). It is reported that forest biomass is an ideal feedstock for pyrolysis ( Chireshe et al., 2020 ), and different researchers have successfully conducted pyrolysis of forest biomass to produce bio-oil ( Oasmaa et al., 2010 ; Puy et al., 2011 ; Stefanidis et al., 2015 ; Luo et al., 2017 ). It should be noted that the bio-oil produced by the pyrolysis process typically has a high oxygen and water content, and thus, it should be upgraded ( van Schalkwyk et al., 2020 ).

Another conversion pathway to valorize forest biomass is gasification. González and García (2015) converted wood biomass into bio-oil through the gasification process and subsequent liquefaction (Fischer-Tropsch). Natarajan et al. (2014) reported that the installation of five Fischer-Tropsch plants could contribute to achieving Finland’s various 2020 targets, i.e., using up to 58% of the available forest biomass for energy production, total emission reduction of 4%, and powering the transportation sector with 100% biofuel. Sunde et al. (2011) also estimated that converting forest biomass and woody wastes into liquid biofuel by the Fischer-Tropsch process as a replacement for fossil diesel could reduce the overall environmental impacts of the transportation sector in Norway. GHG savings and reductions in greenhouse impacts by production and use of Fischer-Tropsch biofuel from forest residues are estimated to amount to roughly 20–90% on a 100-year timescale ( Jäppinen et al., 2014 ). It should also be noted that in addition to reducing CO 2 emissions, biofuel production from forest biomass could also offer economic opportunities, including creating new jobs ( Natarajan et al., 2014 ).

Bioethanol production from forest biomass has also been investigated since the early 1990s ( Mabee and Saddler, 2010 ). The lignocellulosic nature of forest biomass (such as PopulusL ., Salix babylonica , and Saccharum officinarum ) and its abundance mark it as a suitable feedstock for second-generation bioethanol production ( Limayem and Ricke, 2012 ; Ko et al., 2020 ). International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the potential use of 10% of global forest and agricultural biomass in 2030 can provide 233 billion L of bioethanol, equivalent to 155 billion L of gasoline ( Morales et al., 2021 ). The bioethanol production potentials of several forest biomass are shown in Table 3 .

TABLE 3 . Potential of different types of forest biomass for second-generation bioethanol production.

Bioethanol is well known as a promising substitute for petroleum-based gasoline ( Huang et al., 2020 ; Amid et al., 2021 ), with considerably lower emissions throughout its life cycle ( Mabee and Saddler, 2010 ). For example, Becerra-Ruiz et al. (2019) reported a decrease of 99, 93, and 67% in CO, HC, and NOx, respectively, when a 5500 W portable engine generator of alternating current burned bioethanol instead of gasoline. Compared to first-generation bioethanol such as corn and sugarcane-based bioethanol, second-generation bioethanol (i.e., bioethanol produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks) has significantly lower life cycle GHG emissions ( Wang et al., 2020 ). Moreover, bioethanol yields of forest biomass are relatively higher than those of other types of biomass. In a study investigating bioethanol yields, Mabee and Saddler (2010) reported that bioethanol yields of forest biomass ranged between 0.12 and 0.3 m 3 /t (dry basis) vs. 0.11 and 0.27 m 3 /t (dry basis) for bioethanol production from agricultural residues.

The biochemical or thermochemical conversion are two primary methods used to process lignocellulosic feedstocks into bioethanol ( Soltanian et al., 2020 ). The biochemical conversion starts with pretreatment to separate hemicellulose and lignin from cellulose and is followed by hydrolysis of cellulose to obtain fermentable sugars ( Panahi et al., 2020a ). Finally, sugars are fermented into ethanol ( Anyanwu et al., 2018 ). Pretreatment is an instrumental stage of the process, and hence, its type and conditions play important roles in the overall technical viability of the whole process ( Negro et al., 2020 ; Morales et al., 2021 ). The various pretreatment methods include chemical, physical, physicochemical, and biological ( Sharma et al., 2020 ).

It should be noted that forest biomass, due to the presence of bark and juvenile wood, tends to have higher lignin contents ( Zhu et al., 2015 ). As a result, forest biomass is more recalcitrant to bioconversion into sugars than other biomass types such as agricultural residues ( Yamamoto et al., 2014 ). Although there are pretreatment processes to overcome such a high level of recalcitrance for efficient sugar/biofuel production, they are more time-consuming and costlier. One of these methods is steam explosion treatment which has been reported to increase bioethanol production of Hemp fiber by upto 70% ( Zhao et al., 2020 ). It has also been claimed that the application of surfactants, owing to their unique structure and functional properties, could improve the solubility, fluidity, bioavailability, and biodegradability of forest biomass, thereby increasing the production of bioethanol. Zheng et al. (2020) argued that tween, polyethylene glycol (PEG), and sulfonate-based surfactants could increase the conversion rate of lignocellulose by 10–20%.

Compared to the biochemical conversion, thermochemical conversion, particularly gasification, can be applied to a broader range of forest biomass ( Wang et al., 2020 ). During gasification of the lignocellulosic biomass at high pressure and in the absence of inert gases, lignocellulosic biomass is converted into syngas, which will then be converted into bioethanol through the Fischer-Tropsch process ( Laesecke et al., 2017 ). Also, syngas can be utilized by the microorganism Clostridium ljungdahlii to generate bioethanol in the presence of catalysts ( Limayem and Ricke, 2012 ).

Conversion of Forest Biomass Into Gaseous Biofuels

The gasification process of forest biomass leads to syngas production through a series of thermal cracking reactions ( Burbano et al., 2011 ). Forest biomass, including seeds, leaves, tree trunks, and fruit shells, could be pyrolyzed in a fixed bed gasifier for a long time at high temperatures (above 1,200°C) to produce hydrogen-rich syngas ( Brachi et al., 2014 ; Ozbas et al., 2019 ), which has been highlighted as one of the most promising alternative sources of energy ( Shih and Hsu, 2011 ). It is claimed that 1.3 Gt/yr of biomass can produce 100 Mt/yr of hydrogen ( Duan et al., 2020 ).

During gasification, the reaction rate can be controlled by adjusting the gas flow. Using this strategy, the decomposition rate of forest biomass into hydrogen could reach 60% ( Solar et al., 2018 ). The cost of hydrogen production from forest biomass through gasification is about 1.18 USD/kg H2 ( Sarkar and Kumar, 2009 ), almost half of the other processes ( Sarkar and Kumar, 2010 ). It should be noted that industrial gasification devices are usually connected with power generation equipment to generate electricity while providing gas; the former can be supplied to nearby households ( Sasujit et al., 2017 ; Schulzke, 2019 ).

Adding appropriate catalysts to the gasification process can improve the gas content ( Pang, 2019 ). In the catalytic gasification experiment of Eucalyptus residue with NiO as the catalyst, the total gas production increased by 30%. Corujo et al (2010) also reported that through catalytic gasification, the biochar and ash contents were decreased, and the utilization rate of biomass was improved. It has been argued that catalytic cracking is more economical than traditional biofuel production methods such as pyrolysis and fermentation ( Meerman and Larson, 2017 ).

In addition to producing hydrogen-rich syngas, forest biomass can also be used to produce biogas through anaerobic digestion ( Tabatabaei et al., 2020a ). The technology of converting forest biomass into CH 4 is relatively mature and has been used for practical production for many years ( González et al., 2006 ; Tabatabaei et al., 2020b ). The production of biogas, whose main components are CH 4 and CO 2, is largely affected by the composition of raw materials ( Dehhaghi et al., 2019 ). It should be noted that in addition to species, the composition of forest biomass could also be affected by variations in geographical location and growth environment.

One of the main challenges of anaerobic digestion is the non-degradability of lignin under anaerobic conditions ( Dehhaghi et al., 2019 ). In better words, lignocellulose-rich organic materials such as forest biomass suffer from the disadvantage of low availability of cellulose and hemicellulose as biodegradable components for microorganisms and their enzymes ( Lópe et al., 2013 ). Nevertheless, similar to other types of lignocellulosic biomass, chemical (hydrolysis with acids, alkali, or oxidants), physical (irradiation, shredding, thermal, and pressure shocks), and biological (fungi, actinobacteria, or their enzymes) pretreatments could also be employed to improve the anaerobic biodegradation of forest biomass ( Chang and Holtzapple, 2000 ; Taherzadeh and Karimi, 2008 ; Hendriks and Zeeman, 2009 ).

It was shown that forest biomass could, directly and indirectly, be used as an energy resource. More specifically, forest biomass can be directly combusted to reduce CO 2 emissions associated with conventional energy production processes. However, the energy conversion rate of forest biomass is low, and it also leads to emissions of soot and residues. Also, the lack of continuous access to biomass and the need for lots of financial investment and storage capacity are among the severe concerns in the sustainability of direct electricity generation using forest biomass.

In comparison, co-combustion of biomass and coal vs. combustion of coal alone could be regarded as a promising strategy to reduce emissions while ensuring production efficiency. It also partly solves issues related to biomass availability, the area required for storage, and economic problems related to transportation and distribution. Despite these desirable features, forest biomass suffers from poor energy density and high moisture, which could be addressed by pelleting forest biomass. Due to the improved density and moisture, direct combustion of pelleted forest biomass or its co-combustion with coal accelerates the combustion rate. Nevertheless, power plants relying on forest biomass pellets also face several problems such as high energy consumption, labor-intensive process, and higher prices than other solid biofuels. Forest biomass also can be converted into bio-oil, bioethanol, and biogas by biochemical and thermochemical methods, which are critically explained in the present work.

Given the growing awareness about the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels, the future will undoubtedly shift toward the use of more biomass and biofuels. Although forest biomass conversion processes to bioenergy are well known, as mentioned, their long-term sustainability should be more extensively scrutinized by future studies using advanced sustainability assessment tools such as life cycle assessment, exergy, etc.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication.

The article is supported by the Program for Innovative Research Team (in Science and Technology) in University of Henan Province (No. 21IRTSTHN020) and Central Plain Scholar Funding Project of Henan Province (No. 212101510005).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: forestry, biomass, biodiesel, biogas, energy

Citation: Yu Q, Wang Y, Van Le Q, Yang H, Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha H, Yang Y, Sonne C, Tabatabaei M, Lam SS and Peng W (2021) An Overview on the Conversion of Forest Biomass into Bioenergy. Front. Energy Res. 9:684234. doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2021.684234

Received: 24 March 2021; Accepted: 21 June 2021; Published: 02 July 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Yu, Wang, Van Le, Yang, Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha, Yang, Sonne, Tabatabaei, Lam and Peng. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Wanxi Peng, [email protected]

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Biomass—renewable energy from plants and animals

Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass contains stored chemical energy from the sun that is produced by plants through photosynthesis. Biomass can be burned directly for heat or converted to liquid and gaseous fuels through various processes

  • Wood and wood processing waste —firewood, wood pellets, and wood chips, lumber and furniture mill sawdust and waste, and black liquor from pulp and paper mills
  • Agricultural crops and waste materials—corn, soybeans, sugar cane, switchgrass, woody plants, algae, and crop and food processing residues, mostly to produce biofuels
  • Biogenic materials in municipal solid waste —paper products; cotton and wool products; and food, yard, and wood wastes
  • Animal manure and human sewage for producing biogas (renewable natural gas)

Photosynthesis. In the process of photosynthesis, plants convert radiant energy from the sun into chemical energy in the form of glucose or sugar. Water plus carbon dioxide plus sunlight yields glucose plus oxygen. Six water plus six carbon dioxide plus radiant energy yields sugar plus six oxygen.

Source: Adapted from The National Energy Education Project (public domain)

Image with different kinds of biomass types: wood, crops and agricultural residues, vegetable oils and fats, trash/garbage, sewage, and animal manure

Source: U.S. Energy Information Adminstration (public domain)

Biomass can be converted to energy in different ways

Biomass is converted to energy through various processes, including:

  • Direct combustion (burning) to produce heat
  • Thermochemical conversion to produce solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels
  • Chemical conversion to produce liquid fuels
  • Biological conversion to produce liquid and gaseous fuels

Direct combustion is the most common method for converting biomass to useful energy. All biomass can be burned directly for heating buildings and water, for providing industrial process heat, and for generating electricity in steam turbines.

Thermochemical conversion of biomass includes pyrolysis and gasification . Both processes are thermal decomposition processes wherein biomass feedstock materials are heated in closed, pressurized vessels called gassifiers at high temperatures. The processes mainly differ in the temperatures and in the amount of oxygen present during conversion.

  • Pyrolysis entails heating organic materials to between 800° F and 900° F (400° C and 500° C) in the nearly complete absence of free oxygen. Biomass pyrolysis produces fuels such as charcoal, bio-oil, renewable diesel , methane, and hydrogen.
  • Hydrotreating is used to process bio-oil (produced by fast pyrolysis ) with hydrogen under elevated temperatures and pressures in the presence of a catalyst to produce renewable diesel, renewable gasoline, and renewable jet fuel.
  • Gasification entails heating organic materials to between 1,400° F and 1,700 F (800° C and 900° C) with injections of controlled amounts of free oxygen or steam into the vessel to produce a carbon monoxide- and hydrogen-rich gas called synthesis gas or syngas . Syngas can be used as a fuel for diesel engines, for heating, and for generating electricity in gas turbines. It can also be treated to separate the hydrogen from the gas, and the hydrogen can be burned or used in fuel cells . The syngas can be further processed to produce liquid fuels using the Fischer–Tropsch process .

A chemical conversion process known as transesterification is used for converting vegetable oils, animal fats, and greases into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) to produce biodiesel .

Biological conversion of biomass includes fermentation to make ethanol and anaerobic digestion to produce biogas . Ethanol is used as a vehicle fuel. Biogas, also called biomethane or renewable natural gas , is produced in anaerobic digesters at sewage treatment plants and at dairy and livestock operations. It also forms in and may be captured from solid waste landfills. Properly treated renewable natural gas has the same uses as fossil fuel natural gas.

Researchers are working on ways to improve these methods and to develop other ways to convert and use more biomass for energy .

Biomass provided about 5% of U.S. energy in 2022

  • Biofuels—2,419 TBtu—49%
  • Wood and wood waste—1,984 TBtu—43%
  • Municipal solid waste, animal manure, and sewage—411 TBtu—8%

The industrial sector is the largest consumer of biomass for energy in the United States

The amounts—in TBtu—and percentage shares of total U.S. biomass energy use by consuming sector in 2022 were:

  • Industrial —2,266 TBtu—46%
  • Transportation —1,565 TBtu—32%
  • Residential —539 TBtu—11%
  • Electric power —413 TBtu—8%
  • Commercial —147 TBtu—3%

The industrial sector accounted for the most, in terms of energy content and percentage share, of total annual U.S. biomass consumption in 2022. The wood products and paper industries use biomass in combined heat and power plants for process heat and to generate electricity for their own use.

The transportation sector accounted for the second-highest amount and percentage share of biomass (as biofuels) consumption in 2022.

The residential and commercial sectors use firewood and wood pellets for heating. The commercial sector also consumes, and in some cases, sells renewable natural gas produced at municipal sewage treatment facilities and at waste landfills.

The electric power sector uses wood and biomass-derived wastes to generate electricity for sale to the other sectors.

The United States is a net exporter of biomass energy

On an energy content basis, U.S. total biomass energy exports exceeded total biomass energy imports in 2022.

Last updated: June 30, 2023, with data from the Monthly Energy Review , April 2023; data for 2022 are preliminary.

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Saving the planet: What is the role of biomass?

Scientists predict continuing increases in average global temperatures. Consequences include sea level rise, shifts in agriculture, and severe stress on many species, including our own. Can biomass be used to mitigate climate change? It is proposed in this essay that the answer is “yes, but”. Yes, trees and other plants will continue to serve as “the lungs of the planet,” converting CO2 to O2 by photosynthesis. But saving the world will not be easy. Biomass scientists will not be able to solve the problems alone. Rather, mitigation of problems related to climate change will require parallel efforts. We will need to get energy also from the sun, from wind, from water, from improvements in efficiency, and from societies learning to live peaceably, while showing restraint regarding jet travel.

Full Article

Saving the Planet: What is the Role of Biomass?

Martin A. Hubbe

Scientists predict continuing increases in average global temperatures. Consequences include sea level rise, shifts in agriculture, and severe stress on many species, including our own. Can biomass be used to mitigate climate change? It is proposed in this essay that the answer is “yes, but”. Yes, trees and other plants will continue to serve as “the lungs of the planet,” converting CO 2  to O 2  by photosynthesis. But saving the world will not be easy. Biomass scientists will not be able to solve the problems alone. Rather, mitigation of problems related to climate change will require parallel efforts. We will need to get energy also from the sun, from wind, from water, from improvements in efficiency, and from societies learning to live peaceably, while showing restraint regarding jet travel.

Keywords: Climate change; Global warming; Bio-energy; Carbon dioxide

Contact information: North Carolina State University; Department of Forest Biomaterials, Campus Box 8005, Raleigh, NC 27695-8005; Contact information: [email protected]

Climate Change

The focus of the journal  BioResources  is on the science of plant-based materials and how those materials and related chemicals can be used to address a wide variety of needs. So what about saving the planet? What about using biomass to slow down or reverse climate change?

As an editor, I repeatedly get reminded that the progress of science requires competition between different ideas, different theories, and the development of evidence to support those theories. An increasing body of evidence is pointing to human-produced greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, as primary causes of progressive increases in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface (Romm 2018; Frame  et al.  2019). The predicted long-term consequences include accelerated sea-level rise, extinction of many species, and disruption of agriculture. In response to predicted consequences of climate change, it might seem reasonable for different branches of science to be competing with each other to present prospective solutions. For example, it has been proposed to replace a substantial fraction of fossil fuels, as an energy source, by burning biomass (Tursi 2019). The argument has been made that such practices can be carried out in a sustainable manner (Szulecka 2019). Trees used as fuel can regrow, assuming that a healthy forest system is maintained.

Imagine, if you will, a hypothetical competition in which other branches of science and technology compete against biomass scientists for leadership in a hypothetical over-arching project to deal with climate change. Imagine the arguments that advocates of some of the different “teams” would use to convince the rest of us that they should be given the lead role in this most critical challenge that is facing us all.

  • Solar energy:  Tap into the essentially infinite energy coming directly from the sun, bypassing the need to burn fossil fuels.
  • Wind:  Use the electrical grid wisely to make use of a highly reliable and simple-to-collect energy source.
  • Hydro-electric:  Years of experience have shown hydro power to be highly reliable; and the lakes behind the dams can provide recreational benefits.
  • Nuclear:  Huge amounts of energy can be produced with only minor production of CO 2 .
  • Give up jet transportation:  Now that the world is connected with electronic media and high-definition graphics, who really needs to travel? Stopping jet travel might be the quickest single measure to significantly cut CO 2  generation.
  • Efficiency:  Look around and you can see lots of examples. LED lightbulbs being installed. Hybrid and electric cars. Advances in electronics that save energy. Even improvements in the efficient use of energy within the paper industry.
  • CO 2  capture technology:  I’ll believe this item only when I see firm evidence of its success. For the time being, I prefer trees and other plants to serve this role.
  • World peace:  Huge amounts are fossil fuel are being used every day by peacetime navies, air forces, and armies. Environmental consequences of war are far worse.

A Contrarian View

I do not want to play the hypothetical game, as outlined above. I do not regard biomass alone as a prospective salvation of the planet. Think what it would really mean if humans attempted to cut trees at such a rate as to replace fossil fuels. Forests in such places as Canada, Russia, Brazil, the Congo, and Indonesia would become harvested at greatly accelerated rates. Though wood-fueled automobiles existed in the distant past, it is not clear that they are the best idea in the future. Smoke from wood-burning fires used to darken cities and the build-up of creosote from wood fires caused a lot of chimney fires in the era before use of coal, oil, and natural gas became prominent for home heating.

My proposed path forward is to select  all of the bullet points   in the list above, with the possible exception of nuclear energy, due to its high danger and its susceptibility for misuse. Saving the planet will not be easy. This is a task that will take many hands and many minds working together. And maybe some healthy competition too. Rather than competing  against   other scientific and technological disciplines, I envision biomass scientists and others working on parallel contributing efforts. This is a grand project that scientists the world around can unite in, since all of us in this world share a common goal.

References Cited

Frame, D. J., Harrington, L. J., Fuglestvedt, J. S., Millar, R. J., Joshi, M. M., and Caney, S. (2019). “Emissions and emergence: A new index comparing relative contributions to climate change with relative climatic consequences,”  Environ. Res. Lett.  14(8), article no. 084009. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab27fc

Romm, J. (2018).  Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know , 2 nd  Ed., Oxford Univ. Press, New York, NY.

Szulecka, J. (2019). “Towards sustainable wood-based energy: Evaluation and strategies for mainstreaming sustainability in the sector,”  Sustainability  11(2), article no. 493. DOI: 10.3390/su11020493

Tursi, A. (2019). “A review on biomass: Importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion,”  Biofuel Res. J.  6(2), 962-979. DOI: 10.18331/BRJ2019.6.2.3

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The top pros and cons of biomass energy

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biomass essay

Biomass refers to any organic matter used to create energy. This could include everyday animal matter as well as different crops. It can be burned or turned into liquid for electricity generation. No energy source is perfect, biomass included. Though it's renewable, there are both benefits and downsides to generating electricity using biomass energy plants. This article will review the advantages and disadvantages of using biomass for electricity generation.

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Top pros and cons of biomass

There are both pros and cons of using biomass for energy. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Pros and cons of biomass

On the pros side, bioenergy is a widely available, reliable type of renewable energy. Harvesting biomass for electricity can also help us reduce waste. However, there are cons to consider: compared to other sources of electricity, biomass can be expensive to gather, transport, and store. Also, building biomass energy plants for large-scale electricity production can require much land space. Several environmental downsides of biomass can vary depending on the type of fuel used and how it’s collected.

Below, we'll explore these pros and cons in further detail:

Advantages of biomass

Biomass is a renewable resource.

Biomass is an abundant resource: organic matter surrounds us, from forests and croplands to waste and landfills. All biomass initially gets its energy from the sun – thanks to photosynthesis, biomass resources regrow in a relatively short timespan compared to fossil fuel resources that take hundreds of millions of years to replenish. As such, we won't run out of biomass for energy production.

Biomass helps reduce waste

Landfills have several negative impacts on the environment, including contamination of nearby air, soil, and water and the emission of greenhouse gases. 

Many products in landfills are hazardous and toxic; depending on how these materials are managed, they can contaminate our land, air, and water, eventually leading to adverse environmental and human health consequences.

Additionally, landfills significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere. When organic matter in landfills decomposes, it emits methane–one of the most potent greenhouse gases–and carbon dioxide and other compounds. 

Diverting waste to biomass energy plants instead of landfills not only helps reduce the size of landfills and alleviates these risks but also takes materials that would otherwise sit around and uses them productively.

Biomass is a reliable source of electricity

Biomass energy plants are often dispatchable, meaning they can easily be turned on or off. This allows electricity grid operators to use electricity from these plants during times of peak demand. 

Bioenergy is not intermittent or variable, unlike other renewable energy sources like solar and wind: the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing. Without storage technologies, you can't always use solar or wind energy when you need it. In comparison, while the availability of some biomass resources may be susceptible to seasonality, biomass energy plants can always turn on to provide power, regardless of the weather outside.

Disadvantages of biomass

Outside of the upfront costs to get the plants up and running, additional costs are associated with extracting, transporting, and storing biomass before electricity generation. This is an added cost that other renewable technologies don't need to account for, as they rely on free, onsite resources (tides, sunshine, wind, etc.) for fuel.

Costs can vary widely from biomass energy plant to biomass energy plant, and in some cases, bioenergy has the potential to be cost-competitive with solar and wind. Overall costs largely depend on the type of biomass and how it's converted to electricity. That said, even though biomass is often more expensive than alternative renewable energy options, the most expensive types of bioenergy are still on par with or cheaper than fossil fuels: bioenergy does not require drilling into the earth, which carries a high capital (and environmental) cost.

Space requirements

Biomass energy plants require a lot of space, limiting the areas where you can place a plant. Often, companies also need to put these plants near their source of biomass to cut down on transportation and storage costs. 

Additional space may also be necessary to grow the organic matter; if power companies are growing crops or trees for bioenergy rather than using agricultural waste, this contributes to a larger land footprint per unit of electricity production.

Adverse environmental impacts

Like many other forms of energy, producing electricity from biomass can come with several environmental downsides.

For one, depending on the type of biomass used to generate electricity, unsustainable bioenergy practices can result in deforestation over time. Companies that clear-cut forests to provide material for biomass energy plants harm the natural environment and disrupt the habitats of plants and animals in the process. Clearing plants and organic material from the earth can also impact the surrounding soil's health, which requires compost and fertilization biomass.

Growing crops for the sole purpose of bioenergy resources also requires a good amount of water: all plants need water to grow, and continuous irrigation of these resources can make an area more vulnerable to drought. 

Additionally, while often viewed as an environmentally friendly alternative to coal, producing electricity from biomass does release pollutants into the air, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and more. In some cases, the emissions and pollutants from biomass can be worse than those from fossil fuel resources. These pollutants have adverse impacts on environmental and human health.

The environmental and health consequences of bioenergy can be minimized through several efforts, including more sustainable land-use practices, re-planting efforts, and technological innovation.

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Bioenergy is one of many diverse resources available to help meet our demand for energy. It is a form of renewable energy that is derived from recently living organic materials known as biomass, which can be used to produce transportation fuels, heat, electricity, and products.

biomass essay


Abundant and renewable bioenergy can contribute to a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future by:

  • Supplying domestic clean energy sources
  • Reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil
  • Generating U.S. jobs
  • Revitalizing rural economies.

The U.S. Department of Energy's  2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy  concluded that the United States has the potential to produce 1 billion dry tons of non-food biomass resources annually by 2040 and still meet demands for food, feed, and fiber. One billion tons of biomass could:

  • Produce up to 50 billion gallons of biofuels
  • Yield 50 billion pounds of bio-based chemicals and bioproducts
  • Generate 85 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to power 7 million households
  • Contribute 1.1 million jobs to the U.S. economy
  • Keep $260 billion in the United States. [1]

Learn more about  Bio-benefits .

biomass essay


Biomass is a renewable energy resource derived from plant- and algae-based materials that include:

Biomass is a versatile renewable energy source. It can be converted into liquid transportation fuels that are equivalent to fossil-based fuels, such as gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel. Bioenergy technologies enable the reuse of carbon from biomass and waste streams into reduced-emissions fuels for cars, trucks, jets and ships; bioproducts; and renewable power.

Learn more about  Biomass Resources .

female researcher with algae


Biomass is one type of renewable resource that can be converted into liquid fuels—known as biofuels—for transportation. Biofuels include cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, and renewable hydrocarbon "drop-in" fuels. The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuels can be used in airplanes and most vehicles that are on the road. Renewable transportation fuels that are functionally equivalent to petroleum fuels lower the carbon intensity of our vehicles and airplanes.

Learn more about  Biofuels .

biomass essay


Biopower technologies convert renewable biomass fuels into heat and electricity using processes like those used with fossil fuels. There are three ways to harvest the energy stored in biomass to produce biopower: burning, bacterial decay, and conversion to a gas or liquid fuel. Biopower can offset the need for carbon fuels burned in power plants, thus lowering the carbon intensity of electricity generation. Unlike some forms of intermittent renewable energy, biopower can increase the flexibility of electricity generation and enhance the reliability of the electric grid. 

Learn more about  Biopower .

Examples of non-food biomass that can be converted to biofuels as well as high-value products such as plastics, chemicals, and fertilizers.


Biomass is a versatile energy resource, much like petroleum. Beyond converting biomass to biofuels for vehicle use, it can also serve as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in the manufacturing of bioproducts such as plastics, lubricants, industrial chemicals, and many other products currently derived from petroleum or natural gas. Mimicking the existing petroleum refinery model, integrated biorefineries can produce bioproducts alongside biofuels. This co-production strategy offers a more efficient, cost-effective, and integrated approach to the use of U.S. biomass resources. Revenue generated from bioproducts also offers added value, improving the economics of biorefinery operations and creating more cost-competitive biofuels.

Learn more about  Bioproducts .

[1] Rogers, J. N., B. Stokes, J. Dunn, H. Cai, M. Wu, Z. Haq, H. Baumes. 2016. “An Assessment of the Potential Products and Economic and Environmental Impacts Resulting from a Billion Ton Bioeconomy.” Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biorefining,  11: 110–128. .

  • Biomass: Compilation of Essays on Biomass | Energy Management

biomass essay

Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Biomass’ for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Biomass’ especially written for school and college students.

Essay on Biomass

Essay Contents:

  • Essay on Energy Plantation

Essay # 1. Introduction to Biomass:


All organic materials such as plants, trees and crops are potential sources of energy and are collectively called biomass. The plants may be grown on land (terrestrial plants) or grown on water (aquatic plants). Biomass also includes forest crops and residues, crops grown especially for their energy content on “energy farms”, animal manure, wood waste and bagasse.

Coal, oil and natural gas may take millions of years to form, but biomass can be considered renewable energy source because plant life renews and adds to itself every year.

It can also be considered a form of solar energy as the latter is used indirectly to grow these plants by photosynthesis by the following reaction:

6CO 2 + 6H 2 O + Light (Minimum 8 photons) → C 6 H 12 O 6 (glucose) + 6O 2

The biomass sources are highly dispersed and bulky and contain large amounts of water (50 to 90 percent). Thus, it is not economical to transport them over long distances, and conversion into usable energy must take place close to source, which is limited to particular regions. However, biomass can be con­verted to liquid or gaseous fuels, thereby increasing its energy density and making transportation feasible over long distances.

Essay # 2. Availability of Biomass:

The total terrestrial crop alone is about 2 × 10 12 metric tonnes.

This includes:

i. Sugar crops such as sugarcane and sweet sorghum;

ii. Herbaceous crops, which are non-woody plants that are easily converted into liquid or gaseous fuels; and

iii. Silviculture (forestry) plants such as cultured hybrid poplar, sycamore, sweet gum, alder, eucalyptus, and other hardwoods.

The terrestrial crops have an energy potential of 3 × 10 22 joules. The effi­ciency of solar energy utilization in natural photosynthesis is only 0.1 to 2%. At present only 1% of world biomass is used for energy conversion.

Current research focuses on the screening and identification of species that are suitable for short-rotation growing and on the optimum techniques for planting, fertilization, harvesting, and conversion. Fast growing trees, sugar, starch and oil containing plants can be cultivated which have about 5% effi­ciency of solar energy utilization.

The estimated production of agricultural residue in India is 200 million tonnes per year and that of wood is 130 million tonnes. At an average heating value of 18 MJ/kg db, a total potential of 6 × 10 12 MJ/year or approximately 75 × 10 7 MJ/hour exists. At a power conversion rate of 35%, total useful poten­tial is about 75,000 MW. This can supply all our villages with power at a rate of 30,000 kWh per day per village against the present meager consumption of only 150 kWh per day per village.

With the electrification of the irrigation pumps, there will be a boost in agricultural production resulting in availability of more biomass for energy recovery and hence the process is self-adjusting. Aquatic crops are grown in fresh, sea, and brackish waters both submerged and emergent plants. These include seaweeds, marine algae, etc.

Animal and human waste are an indirect terrestrial crop from which meth­ane for combustion and ethylene can be produced while retaining the fertilizer value of the manure. The daily produce of cow-dung is 13.5 kg per cattle which can be used to produce 0.46 m 3 of bio-gas in a Gobar Gas plant. This gas is sufficient to produce 1 kWh of electricity in a bio-gas engine. In India, there are sufficient numbers of catties in each village; the animal waste can be used to meet the total energy requirements via above technology.

The human waste can be also be used for production of bio-gas. Community latrines can be planned in the villages for collection of night soil for feeding to biogas plants. Wastes of 200 persons can be used to produce about 5m 3 of gas per day to extract 12 kWh of equivalent energy by running a biogas engine.

Essay # 3. Biomass Conversion:

Biomass can either be utilized directly as a fuel, or can be converted into liquid or gaseous fuels, which can also be used as feedstock for industries. Most biomass in dry state can be burned directly to produce heat, steam or electricity. On the other hand biological conversion technologies utilize natural anaerobic decay processes to produce high quality fuels from biomass.

Various possible conversion technologies for getting different products from biomass are shown in Fig. 6.1.

Biomass Conversion Technologies and Products

These technologies can be grouped as:

1. Direct combustion, such as wood waste and baggage,

2. Thermo chemical conversion, and

3. Biochemical conversion.

1. Combustion of Biomass :

Various combustion techniques are available for burning biomass, the most suitable depending upon actual application. The selection of most suitable combustion equipment will depend upon properties, such as chemical analysis, volatile content, calorific value, particle size and ash characteristics, as well as the specific application. However, the versatility of the fluidised bed combustion makes it a strong candidate in many cases.

This technology may be used for the efficient combustion of forestry and agricultural waste material such as sawdust, wood chips, hog fuel, rice husks, straws nutshells and chips. It offers interesting possibilities in efficient energy recovery. The fluidised bed may be used in an air heater, liquid phase heater or steam generator. When fired directly into a boiler, steam can be generated for process or power. The ash is clean and inert and may be used as landfill or in concrete.

2. Thermo-Chemical Conversion :

There are two forms of thermochemical conversion- gasification and liquefaction. Gasification takes place by heating, the biomass with limited oxygen to produce low-heat gas or by reacting it with steam and oxygen at high pressure and temperature to produce medium-heat gas.

The latter may be used as fuel directly or used in liquefaction by converting it to methanol (methyl alcohol, CH 3 OH) or ethanol (ethyl alcohol, CH 3 CH 2 OH), or it may be converted to high-heat gas. Because the production of high-heat gas is more complex and expensive than low-heat gas, it is intended for use in lieu of natural gas in domestic and industrial applications. Low and medium-gases are considered for use as utility fuels.

3. Biochemical Conversion :

There are two types of biochemical conversion:

i. Anaerobic digestion and

ii. Fermentation

i. Anaerobic Digestion:

An anaerobe is a microorganism that can live and grow without air or oxygen. It gets its oxygen by the decomposition of matter containing it. Anaerobic digestion therefore, involves the microbial digestion of biomass. It has been used on animal manure (cow-dung) and can be extended to other biomass. The proc­ess takes place at low temperatures up to 65°C, and requires a moisture content of at least 80 per cent.

It generates a gas consisting mostly of carbon dioxide and methane with minimal impurities such as hydrogen sulphide. The gas can be burned directly or upgraded to synthetic natural gas by removing the CO 2 and the impurities. The residue may consist of protein-rich sludge that can be used as animal feed and liquid effluents that are biologically treated by standard techniques and returned to the soil.

ii. Fermentation:

It is the breakdown of complex molecules in organic compounds under the influence of ferment such as yeast, enzymes, etc. Fermentation is a well- established and widely used technology for the conversion of grains and sugar crops into ethanol. It can be mixed with gasoline to produce gasohol 90% gasoline, 10% ethanol). Gasohal is used as fuel in the internal combustion engines.

Essay # 4. Fluidised Bed Combustion of Biomass :

Biomass is fed into a bed of hot inert particles, such as sand kept in fluidised state with air at sufficient velocity from below. The operating temperature is normally controlled within the range 750-950°C. Ideally it is kept as high as possible in order to maximize the rate of combustion and heat transfer but low enough to avoid the problem of sintering of the bed particles. The rapid mixing and turbulence within the fluidised bed enables efficient combustion to be achieved with high heat releases, as well as effective transfer, than in a conventional boiler. This can result in more compact boiler with less tubing.

A major advantage of fluidised bed combustion is that, because of the low temperatures involved, there is great potential for reducing and controlling atmospheric pollution. Nitrogen oxides are not formed from the nitrogen in the air and emission of the many of the trace elements associated with fuels are less than obtained using alternate combustion techniques.

Fluidised bed combustion technology has the ability to burn a wide range of material and can burn a combination of fuels or wastes in one unit. This versatility arises from the turbulent motion and large thermal inertia of the fluidised bed which enables the combustor to withstand the initial cooling action of fuels, particularly the high in ash and moisture as they enter the bed. This is typical characteristic of biomass. Agricultural wastes can be fired directly without any preparation with the exception of nutshells, which should be crushed.

i. Design of System :

Properties of some biomass fuels are given in Table 6.1. The chemical com­position and physical form of the biomass will influence the design of the fluidised bed combustion system. As compared to coal, the oxygen content of biomass is very high (about 40%) and contains much more volatiles and less fixed carbon. The stoichiometric air requirements will be quite different.

The design of the fuel storage facilities, feeding arrangements and combustion equip­ment has to suit the higher volumetric feed rates necessary for biomass because of its generally low calorific value and density and to accommodate many shapes and sizes of the biomass.

Combustion Data on Biomass

The high moisture content of biomass (up to 50% as received) and volatiles (up to 80% dry basis) give rise to some operational problems connected with controlling bed temperatures and avoiding excessive smoke production. The water in the fuel evaporates as it enters the bed and this requires heat from the bed.

The volatile as released from the fuel tend to burn above the bed and do not provide heat for the bed itself. Therefore, relatively high fuel feed are needed to maintain bed temperature. However, with these high rates, incomplete combustion takes place with the limited oxygen provided by the fluidising air resulting in excessive smoke formation. This problem is aggravated with larger beds because of relatively poor lateral distribution of the fuel.

ii. Types of Fluidised Beds :

Various stages of fluidised beds are shown in Fig. 6.2. The pressure drop through the bed as a function of air velocity is shown in Fig. 6.3.

Types of Fluidised Beds

Feeding of fuel directly into the bed, operating the bed at high temperatures, using deep beds, using fluidising velocities designed to promote good mixing and distribution of fuel throughout the bed will help combustion of volatiles in the bed. Provision of secondary air just above the bed can help in reducing smoke emissions. Because biomass fuels have low densities, it is preferable to feed them as relatively large-sized pieces like corn, cobs wood chips, etc., into a bubbling bed.

Fluidised Bed Characteristics

iii. Feeding of Biomass :

The fuel is first metered through a rotary valve or screw feeder before being dropped onto the fluidised bed at only a few points, the number of points depending on the overall bed area. Bed turbulence distributes the fuel through­out the bed. The ash content of these fuels is low with ash being very fine and easily elutriated from the fluidised bed.

iv. Circulating Fluidised Bed :

The finer feed stocks of biomass like rice husk and saw dust are difficult to burn satisfactorily in bubbling fluidised bed because of excessive elutriation at the fluidised velocities needed for good mixing of the fuel in bed. It is better to employ a circulating fluidised bed combustion system, for very finely divided forms of biomass.

This circulating bed is characterised by high fluidising veloci­ties in excess of 3m/s with entrainment of majority of bed particles. These are collected in a cyclone separator and returned to the combustor. The primary combustion air is fed through the main fluidising air distributor at the bottom while secondary air is introduced further up the reactor. Fine grains of sand are used as the bed material.

The fuel is screw-fed into the combustor which operates between 700°C and 1000°C depending on the fuel being burned. Because the circulating material is in a highly turbulent state and mixes rapidly, bed temperature remains very uniform. Boiler tubes are situated in the upper part of the combustor and downstream after the cyclone. It is a good system for burning biomass fuels with low densities and small size which can be difficult to burn in more conventional “bubbling” type of fluidised bed combustor.

Essay # 5. Steam Turbine Cycle:

Atmospheric fluidised bed (AFB) system has been developed for combustion of biomass. This AFB is used in conjunction with a steam turbine cycle as shown in Fig. 6.5.

Steam Turbine Cycle System

Heat is transferred to water by heat transfer surfaces within the bed, in the water-cooled walls, and in the convective space above the bed. A fuel conversion efficiency of 71% has been claimed.

Essay # 6. Gas Turbine Cycles:

i. Indirect-Fired Open-Cycle Gas Turbine System:

An indirect-fired open-cycle system is shown in Fig. 6.6.

Indirect-Fired Open-Cycle Gas Turbine System

The gas turbine combustor is replaced or operated in conjunction with a system for adding heat to the compressed air by air heat exchange tubes sub­jected to external firing in the fluidised bed unit.

The system consists of five components:

i. A fluidised-bed combustor,

ii. A heat exchanger,

iii. A gas turbine generator set,

iv. Cyclone separator, and

v. Emission control equipment (bag-house).

The system can be provided with a steam bottoming plant for efficient operation. The exhaust from the fluidised bed is joined to the exhaust from gas turbine. The combined stream is used to generate high pressure, high tempera­ture steam in a heat recovery boiler. The bottoming steam plant works in the normal manner.

A primary gas clean-up system is installed after the fluidised bed to catch the larger ash particles before going to the boiler. Final clean-up can take place in the boiler by soot blowing and outside the boiler by cyclones and bag-house.

A separate air source is used for fluidisation to assure clean hot air for gas turbine operation. If some portion of compressor air is used for fluidisation, thorough clean-up is required prior to joining the main air stream for introduc­tion into gas turbine.

Heat transfer tubes used with fluidised-bed system are both over the bed and immersed in the bed. Air from the compressor enters the over-bed tubes and proceeds down to the in-bed tubes, which operate at the highest temperature. Tube material is selected for both corrosion resistance on the outside surface and high temperature. Ceramic tubes are available with external extended surface rings.

The control of the system is achieved by control of fuel as well as air supply .The air should never be less than that required keeping the bed in fluid state.

ii. Closed Cycle Gas Turbine System :

In the closed system, the working fluid (gas) flows under pressure through a compressor, heat exchanger, fluidised-bed gas heater, gas turbine, again through the heat exchanger and then through the pre-cooler back to the compressor inlet. The schematic diagram is shown in Fig. 6.7.

Closed Cycle Gas Turbine System

The gas may be air, nitrogen or helium, which is not in direct contact with the products of combustion. The heat rejected by intercooler and pre-cooler can be recovered by a secondary heat transfer loop to generate low pressure steam to activate an absorption chiller for a cold storage or to produce additional power through an organic bottoming cycle. The cycle efficiency of a closed-loop gas turbine system is well above 42%.

Control of air can be accomplished by passing air from the compressor discharge around the regenerator and to the turbine exhaust. While compressor power remains almost constant the turbine output decreases as a result of simultaneous decrease in turbine mass flow, expansion ratio and efficiency. The fluidised bed combustion unit will have both bed-immersed tubes and over-bed tubes.

The fluidised bed unit can work in conjunction with various cycle configu­rations using steam turbines, gas turbines, and combined cycles with and without cogeneration of thermal loads. The preferred system for burning many types of biomass is fluidised bed combustion with circulating system and bubbling beds more suitable for coarser sized biomass.

Essay # 7. Biomass Gasification:

Gasifier is essentially a thermochemical reactor in which the biomass undergoes partial oxidation and producer gas is obtained. The agricultural and forest residues can first be dried in solar driers to restrict the moisture content below 15 per cent.

These are pressed in compaction briquetting machines to prepare feed size of 50 – 75mm for the gasifier. The biomass briquets are ignited in the gasifier and air flow is controlled to ensure partial combustion. The producer gas is reduced to CO and H 2 by carbon present in the burnt lower layers. The main constituents of fuel gas are CO, H 2 and CH 4 .

The gas produced by the gasifier is hot and contains tar, vapours and soot particles. To make it engine worthy, it is cooled to near ambient conditions and cleaned to remove tar and dust by cross current water scrubbers. Air and clean gas are supplied to the engine in pre-specified proportions. On an average 1 kg of biomass produces 2.5 nm 3 of fuel gas and 1 kWh of shaft energy to drive the irrigation pump.

The diesel engine utilizes the gas as a supplementary fuel operating on dual-fuel mode. The solar driers, briquetting machines and gasifiers are now made in India. The total cost of a biomass gasifier with gas cooler and scrubber of 15m 3 /hr capacity, 5 kW/1500 rpm diesel engine and 100 × 100 mm centrifu­gal pump with necessary controls and accessories is about Rs. 37000.

There are a variety of types of biomass gasifiers:

1. Fixed Bed Gasifiers:

The three main designs of fixed bed gasifiers are up-draught, down-draught and cross draught gasifiers depending upon the direction of flow of air.

2. Fluidised bed gasifiers which have many advantages over fixed bed gasifiers.

(i) Quick start up,

(ii) High combustion efficiency,

(iii) High output rate,

(iv) Consistent rate of combustion,

(v) Usage of fuel with high moisture content,

(vi) Rapid response to fuel input changes,

(vii) Fuel flexibility,

(viii) Good heat storage capacity,

(ix) Compact size,

(x) Reduced emission of harmful nitrogen oxides,

(xi) Simple operation.

Fig. 6.9 gives the flow diagram of oxygen donor gasifier commercial plant along with various applications of fuel gas.

Biomass Gasifier

Chemistry of Gasification Process :

The reactions take place in three zones of the gasifier bed- oxidation, reduction and distillation.

Biomass (C) + O 2 + 3.79N 2 = 3.79N 2 + CO 2 + Heat

The oxidation reaction is exothermic and 395,000 k/kg atom of carbon in biomass heat is produced.

The carbon dioxide formed is reduced in the presence of carbon. Over 90% of CO 2 is reduced to CO at 900°C.

C + CO 2 + 3.79N 2 + Heat = 3.79N 2 + 2CO

It is an endothermic reaction and 172,000 kJ/kg atom of carbon heat is absorbed in the reaction.

The oxygen requirement is 0.25 – 0.3 kg/kg of biomass.

The dry gas has the following composition by volume:

H 2 : 36.2%

CO 2 : 19.1%

CH 4 : 0.3% 

Essay # 8. Energy Plantation:

Biomass energy concepts under study are resulting in the cultivation of large forests in areas not suitable for food production. Energy plantation may yield 10 to 20 tons/acre per year. The energy plantation would be perhaps 125 to 500 km^ in land area. The trees are to be harvested by automated means, then chipped and pulverized for burning in a power plant that would be located in the middle of the energy plantation.

The choices of plants to be cultivated in India are Casuarina, Eucalyptus and Sorghums, etc. The properties of common species recommended for energy plantations are given in Table 6.3.

Common Species for Energy Plantation

Other schemes envision aquatic farms growing algae, tropical grasses, floating kelp, water hyacinth and others. In controlled environments, they could yield several hundred tons/acre year. One interesting idea is to use hot con­denser cooling water from a power plant to grow algae in large quantities or increase the yield of other crops.

Fast growing trees, sugar, starch and oil containing plants can also be cultivated for bio-energy. The sugar beet and cane have about 5% efficiency of the solar energy utilization. Special studies are required to increase the efficiency of solar energy use in the growth of crops to 10—11%.

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Biomass Uses Essay Sample

Biomass is natural organic matter that can be used as fuel. It has been used for centuries to provide heat, light, and power. Biomass is composed of four main categories: wood, crops, wastes (including sewage), and other biomass sources like manure, animal bones, or carcasses. Biomass is an extremely important part of the energy mix in the United States with biomass providing about 40% of our renewable electricity generation capacity; it also provides significant amounts of heating and cooling in buildings across the country.

Essay Sample On Biomass Uses

  • Thesis Statement – Biomass Uses Essay
  • Introduction – Biomass Uses Essay
  • Conventional sources of energy VS. Bio-mass
  • Types of Biomass energy
  • Strengths of biomass fuel
  • Weakness of biomass
  • Public issues related to the usage of biomass as a source of energy
  • Conclusion – Biomass Uses Essay
Thesis Statement – Biomass Uses Essay Biomass energy is a clean form of renewable energy that can be used to power homes, cook food, and produce heat. Biomass is a plant-based material that can be grown in intense situations without taking away from the farmland or food production. Introduction – Biomass Uses Essay In today’s scenario, there are several issues in front of the world’s society that are very crucial. Availability of sources of energy is one of the important issues. The world is facing a strong threat related to the production of energy and sources of energy. As technology is progressing rapidly, the need for energy is increasing is also at a fast pace. But the source of energy is very limited. The conventional sources of energy, for example, coal, petroleum, firewood, and many more. But the main disadvantage related to these types of sources is that the conventional sources of energy are limited and non-renewable. Because of this reason, the excessive usage of these sources presents a major threat of scarcity of energy in the future perspective. This threat related to energy sources calls for serious attention from scientists and researchers. About this, scientists and researchers are trying to search for new, innovative, and non-conventional sources of energy. There are several non-conventional sources of energy which is generally used in today’s scenario. These non-conventional sources are including solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, bio-energy, etc. There are several different advantages and disadvantages related to the usage of these sources. As these sources are new for international society, several different issues are also engaged with these types of sources of energy. These sources are renewable and reusable. Furthermore, in the list of non-conventional sources of energy, bio-energy is one of the most prominent types of energy which is generated by biomass. The usage of biomass as the source of energy has emerged as an important topic for debate in front of scholars and researchers across the globe. There are several important issues related to the topic. There are various strengths of this source of energy because of which the source is recommended and preferred to conventional sources of energy by researchers and scientists. Vis-a-Vis, there is also some weakness of this source of energy which is making use of this source of energy more complex and difficult (Biomass, 2010). The paper is aimed to present an analysis of the bio-mass as the source of energy. For this purpose, various strengths and weaknesses of bio-fuel are detailed in the paperwork. The paperwork is also trying to make it clear that whether the usage of bio-mass will be beneficial for international society or it is just a wastage of time and money, which is spending heavily in the research and development of biomass as a source of energy. Further, the strengths and weaknesses of the bio-mass are detailed in the context of the conventional sources of energy, so that a clear comparison between the conventional sources of energy and the bio-mass energy can be carried out, clearly. The paper is also aimed to detail some of the important issues related to the usage of bio-mass as non-conventional sources of energy. The paperwork is providing some important insight information related to bio-mass and concerned issues so that the reader can get comprehensive knowledge about the topic. Get Non-Plagiarized Custom Essay on Biomass Uses in USA Order Now Main Body – Biomass Uses Essay Conventional sources of energy VS. Bio-mass Conventional sources of energy are the sources of energy, which are used by human society traditionally. These are the sources that are provided by nature and are limited in quantity. These are the non-reusable sources of energy which implies that once these sources get over, there is no possibility of regaining these sources. These conventional sources of energy include coal, lignite, peat, petroleum, and natural gas. These sources have been primarily used for obtaining energy to provide heat, light, and power for many years. On the other hand, Bio-mass is an inevitable form of non-conventional source of energy. This is a renewable source of energy. Basically, through this type of source, biological energy is primarily used for the production of heat or the generation of electricity. For this purpose, different biological matter from living and recently dead biological organisms are extracted in various forms such as wood, alcoholic fuel, biological wastage, hydrogen gas, etc. Fundamentally, the Bio-mass is recognized as various matters extracted from the living plant. These plant-driven materials which are then used as the source of energy are mainly the product of the photosynthetic reaction. Besides it, woody plants, remainders of farming, residues of forestry such as dead trees, dry leaves, dry branches of the tree, etc. which can be used for burning as fuel, various organic compounds from the living organism, and industrial wastes. Earlier, biomass was used in the form of firewood but in today’s scenario, the other forms of biomass such as wood, dugs, forestry, and agricultural wastage are also used widely as an important source of energy. Biomass is actually the form of all the organisms on the earth. Biomass is also included as the wastage of living plant and animal organisms. Biomass converts solar energy into chemical energy. The biomass collects and stores the energy from the sun i.e. solar energy. When the Biomass is used, this solar energy is subjected to conversion in the form of chemical or thermal energy. In the case when the biomass is subjected to burn, eat and digest, the energy of the biomass is subjected to release. The energy which is released from the biomass is known as bio-energy. This form of energy can be used in various general and specific usage such as heating, cooking, generation of electricity, lightning. But now in today’s scenario, the span of Biomass energy is subjected to increase. Earlier, Biomass energy was used primarily in rural areas. Because of several advantages of biomass energy, the usage of biomass energy is significant, increasing in urban areas, small and medium scale industries (Biomass, 2010). Types of Biomass energy As it is mentioned earlier, the span of Biomass energy has become much broader and the number of different forms of Biomass energy is also available. Biomass energy primarily can be divided into five different and important classes which are detailed below: Virgin Wood –  Basically, Virgin wood is known as the woods and other woody matters of plants such as branches, barks and trunks, wood chips, and sawdust. In this type of wood, there is no kind of chemical treatments exposed to finishing. This type of wood contains only natural substances. Various physical and chemical characteristics of this type of wood vary according to their source plant. Physically, virgin wood is natural, untreated, and clean. Because of the harvesting and growing process, various physical inclusions such as mud, stones, etc are also included with these types of woody materials. Further, in the absence of any external treatment, there are various internal chemical kinds of stuff from the soil, water, air, and various pesticides in the form of heavy metals, halogens, and minerals that are also found in this type of wood. But the level of these types of chemical agents in the wood is very low. Energy crops –  Energy crops are the crops that are cultivated to obtain biological fuel in the form of biological petrol. Several different crops are farmed because of their fuel value. These energy crops are also including various food crops such as sugarcane, corn, and many other non-food crops, for example, various popular woody trees and switch grasses such as Miscanthus and Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass). The farming of various energy crops requires low investments and maintenance. These energy crops contain a higher amount of carbohydrate content. Because of these reasons, various energy crops including maize, Sudan grass are used for the production of Biogas. Agricultural residues –  In this category, various remainders, from agriculture are included. There are two different types of residues of Agriculture namely dry residues and wet residues. In the dry residues category, various substances that have a minimum content of water such as straws, dry crops, where the wet residues consist of substances that are having water contents such as animal slurry. Food waste –  These are the wastes of food that take place in hotels, restaurants, and individual houses. Again, this type of biomass can be differentiated into two different categories namely dry and wet wastage. These wastages have a higher degree of carbohydrate contents. For this reason, this can be used primarily for the production of biogas. Industrial waste and co-products –  There are various woody and non-woody materials that are produced as the byproducts of various industrial processes and manufacturing operations. These co-products are the industrial wastages that can be used as biomass fuel (What is BIOMASS? 2008). Strengths of biomass fuel The usage of biomass as a prominent source of energy is increasing rapidly day by day. There are several prominent strengths of biomass fuel because this biomass is preferred over conventional sources of energy. These strengths are detailed below: Less Pollutive source of energy – the Increasing rate of pollution is the major reason for worry in front of world society. Because of the increasing pollution, several environmental problems such as the greenhouse effect, increasing temperature of the earth, and climate change. The usage of fossil fuel or petroleum products is the main reason for air pollution. When fossil fuel is used, it leaves a higher amount of carbon footprint in the air. The usage of biomass sources of energy leads to fewer carbon prints in the environments as compared to conventional sources of energy. Further, the biomass sources of energy emit less harmful gases in the environment. Especially less emission of sulfur, which is very harmful to human society from the health perspective, in the environment, takes place in the case of biomass energy. For this prominent reason, biomass energy is used widely.   Cost efficiency –  The biomass sources of energy are comparatively more cost-efficient than conventional sources of energy. A less expensive setup is required for the production of energy from biomass sources. Furthermore, when biomass is oxidized for the production of energy, it produces less ash in comparison to coal. Less production of ash leads to less disposal cost. It also helps the industries to cut down their requirements of land where this ash can be dumped. Due to this reason for industrial purposes, bio-mass is now preferred and recommended in place of coal. Further, the ash produced because of the combustion of biomass is not as harmful as ash from coal combustion. Moreover, biomass ash is also having various recycled benefits, because of which the ash is used for the amendment of soil in farmland. Effective and efficient use of wastes –  Various biological wastes are the prominent source of biomass energy. This implies that for the production of biomass energy there is no need for specific raw material. Various biological products which are generally considered as garbage and wastes can be used for the production of energy. In today’s environment, million-ton garbage is produced from livestock, agriculture, industrial or manufacturing processes, and households. Dumping this waste or garbage is a complex problem. This garbage is used for the production of biomass energy. There is plenty of availability of this type of biological wastes, thus the production of biomass has become easier in comparison to various conventional sources of energy such as fossil fuel, natural gas, etc. which are available in a limited amount. Support of government –  Biomass energy contains several different advantages. These are also providing several different benefits to the government and society. For this purpose, this type of energy source is promoted by the government. The government is making a lot of efforts for making biomass energy popular. For encouraging the cultivation of energy crops, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is running a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Through this program, the government is also trying to control soil erosion and chemical runoff. The government has marked the land under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which is specially reserved for the energy crops on which the crop other than energy crop will not be permitted. Because of the strong support of the government, biomass energy sources have plenty of opportunities for the future perspective. In conditions where the world is facing severe threats related to the scarcity of conventional sources of energy such as petroleum products, the sources of biomass energy can be proved as the important and most economic sources of energy for the government. Social and political supports –  Various sources of biomass energy are also backed by the social and political environment of the country. As climate change has emerged as a serious issue in front of international society, there is a kind of political pressure on every country for decreasing the level of pollutions. In this scenario, the countries are supporting the means of non-conventional energy such as biomass. From the social perspective also, the usage of biomass energy sources contains greater strengths. Biomass energy sources are more popular in rural areas than conventional sources of energy. These sources are supported by socialists also because these sources create and retain more jobs in the rural economy. It also encourages agricultural practices which lead to providing full-time employment to people of rural areas. Furthermore, the agriculture of the energy crops provides a sort of diversity to the farmer, because of which the dependency of a farmer over a particular type of crop decreases. The agriculture of these types of crops is relatively cheaper. These types of crops also have high resistance against diseases. All these reasons impose farmers to farm these types of energy crops (Environmental and Social Benefits/Costs of Biomass Plantations, n.d.). In this way, these all presented strengths of biomass over conventional sources of energy provide a broad scope of non-conventional sources of energy. Weakness of biomass In the above section of the paper, several different strengths of biomass are described. But as every coin has two different parts, biomass energy is also having certain disadvantages which become the prominent weakness of this type of non-conventional source of energy. Because of these disadvantages, despite having several different advantages over conventional sources of energy, the biomass sources of energy are not as much as popular as other sources of energy. Some of the prominent weaknesses of biomass energy and its sources are listed below: Availability of biomass crops –  The biggest and utmost weakness of biomass is that various energy crops which are the major sources of biomass energy can not be available for the whole year. As with the other crops, a particular energy crop can only be grown in a particular season of the year. Further, various woody trees are very slow growing by nature. Because of these reasons, availability has become one of the most prominent weaknesses of biomass energy sources. Whereas the conventional sources of energy such as petrol, natural gas, and coal are not seasonable and can be retrieved at any season of the year however the quantity of these types of sources is limited. Collection of biomass –  as is mentioned earlier that animal and industrial waste and garbage can be used for the production of biomass energy, it is necessary to collect this waste and garbage. But the collection of this type of waste is not an easy task. It demands a lot of effort from the government and people. For the collection of the waste, the administration of cities must employ pre-specified drainage and sewerage system, which leads to extra expenses of government. The requirement of agricultural land – For farming of the energy crops there is a requirement of the land. In today’s scenario where it becomes difficult to provide adequate living space due to the increasing population, it is very hard to provide adequate space for farming such types of crops. For replacing fossil fuel with biofuel there is a need for vast agricultural land. This agricultural land can also be used for feeding a large population of the world. The extra cost for processing the waste – Not only a collection of wastes and garbage is a critical task, but the further process and recycling of this waste is also a complex task. There is a need for installing various new technologies for compacting, splintering, and shredding biomass which is available in huge quantities. These new technologies are costly. Because of this reason, the establishment of the biomass energy project is not an easy task.  Unawareness about the source –  In the present scenario, the level of awareness among common people about biomass energy sources is very is low. Although, the government is employing various projects for encouraging the usage of biomass energy still people prefer to use conventional sources of energy because these sources are easily available and ready for use.  Low energy density –  various researchers and studies have shown the energy density which is provided by biofuel is less than the energy density which is provided by conventional sources of energy such as coal, petroleum products, and natural gas. This implies that a higher amount of biomass is needed for the production of energy.  Emission of greenhouse gases –  Biomass is an organic matter which is used for the production of energy and when an organic compound burns, it emits the carbon-di-oxide. Which is a greenhouse gas? Because of this reason the biomass is also a source of air pollution. For avoiding this problem, there is a need for a special kind of technology which is known as Exhaust gas cleaning technology. But such type of technologies is not as much efficient and economically viable in the case of small energy plants. Transportation –  Furthermore, the transportation of biomass energy sources is not as much easy as conventional sources of energy such as coal (Biomass Energy Disadvantages, n.d.). These are some important weaknesses of biomass fuel which are the main cause of the less popularity of these types of energy sources In comparison to various conventional sources of energy. Public issues related to the usage of biomass as a source of energy There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages related to biomass energy sources. There are different public issues are also engaged with the use of biomass energy source which is needed to be considered by the government of the country. First of all, the issue related to the sustainability of these types of energy sources. There is a need for a higher and well-diversified biological ecosystem and a high level of forestry and agricultural production so that adequate stock of organic matter can be available. For this reason, the deforestation and degradation of the forest are growing rapidly. This scenario raises an important issue related to the management and governance of forests, especially in developing countries. The excessive usage of the land is also put an important issue in front of the international society. For increasing the usage of biomass sources of energy, there is a need for vast agricultural land. This requirement calls for the deforestation and use of agricultural land for the production of various types of energy crops in place of crops that are necessary for feeding a large population. The excessive usage of the land for the production of energy crops also results in the decreased productivity of the land which is very harmful to the farmer. The government needs to take some steps for addressing this issue in the most efficient manner (Sustainability of Biomass: Report, 2010). Furthermore, identifying the role of biomass sources in the country’s future energy projects is also an important point that needs a lot of considerations and effort from the government. How much investment will be adequate for biomass energy products, how much benefit, the country can have with help of these sources, which entity will be benefited the most by the employment of these projects, what will be the outcomes and problems related with projects how it can be overcome? These are some questions which are needed to be answered by the government of the country (Lynd, 2007). Buy Customized Essay on Biomass Uses At Cheapest Price Order Now Conclusion – Biomass Uses Essay Biomass sources of energy are an important type of non-conventional source of energy. The paper has presented various aspects related to this type of source of energy. Based on the review of the paper, it can be concluded that biomass energy sources can be an important means for answering various environmental challenges which are presenting a major threat in front of the international society. In the present situation, because of the increasing need for energy, the usage of conventional sources of energy is also subjected to increase rapidly. But these conventional sources such as petrol, natural gas, coal, and fossil fuel are found in limited quantity in nature. Because of this, there is a need for a more sustainable source of energy. For accomplishing this need, biomass energy sources can be a prominent option. Biomass energy is produced with the help of various organic matter which is extracted from a living or dead organism. For this purpose, the waste and garbage of living animals and industries are also very important raw materials for the production of biomass energy. In the paper, there are several advantages and strengths of this type of source of energy also described. These strengths are the characteristics of the biomass sources of energy which make the sources more valuable and unique. Further, there are certain shortcomings and weaknesses of this type of source of the energy such as availability, transportation, collection, and many more also detailed in the paper. For making the sources more viable and feasible, it is necessary to find a solution to these problems. There are several public-related issues also engaged with the usage of this type of source of energy. For the better and efficient usage of this type of energy, the government should address these issues in a well and efficient manner. References Biomass Energy Disadvantages. (n.d.). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from BIOMASS. (2010). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from Environmental and Social Benefits/Costs of Biomass Plantations. (n.d.). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from Lynd, L. (2007). Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from Sustainability of Biomass: Report. (2010). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from What is BIOMASS? (2008). Retrieved, November 25, 2010, from,17304&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL Hire USA Experts for Biomass Uses Essay Order Now  

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  • Essay on Ethanol

Biomass Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Ethanol , Fuel , Airline , Aviation , Solar Energy , Energy , Fossil Fuels , Gasoline

Published: 11/04/2020


E85 is a fuel form that contains 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol is a renewable fuel derived from organic matter through fermentation. In the United States, ethanol is produced from plants such as corn, grasses, and sugarcane (Ethanol par. 1). Ethanol blended fuels such as E85 are deemed desirable as they reduce overdependence on fossil fuels and lower greenhouse emissions from vehicles. The economy has been receptive to blended fuels as consumption rose from 1.7 to 13.2 billion gallons between 2001 and 2013. However, ethanol use is contentious because the fuel can only be used in flexible-fuel cars. Also, ethanol has lower energy content than pure gasoline, which leads to fewer miles per gallon. Other negative attributes of ethanol blended fuels include lower availability and competition for land use with food crops. This is a paper on E85 and aviation biofuel. E85 should replace conventional fuels in America. This is because apart from emission reduction, E85 fuel use has other advantages which outweigh its demerits as a fuel. For example, the fuel is locally produced, which reduces the expenditure of importing petroleum. Also, ethanol fuel is less likely to cause engine knock than fossil fuels. Finally, the extra cost of adapting normal engine for E85 use is negligible (Ethanol par. 11). For these reasons, it would be more economical and beneficial to the environment to use E85 fuel in light vehicles than using gasoline. Aviation biofuel is derived from plants whereby ethanol from organic matter is blended with fossil fuels. Aviation biofuel, just like E85, reduces greenhouse emissions from jet engines. The aviation industry is responsible for 2% of the total annual emissions. This value is expected to rise to 3% by 2050 (Biofuel Use par.4). Globally, a few airlines have adopted aviation biofuel use for commercial flights. However, aviation biofuel technology has not yet matured as there are several challenges that hinder its application. One of the limiting factors is that the fuel oxidizes at low temperatures. Stabilizer additives that are currently used are only effective over a small temperature range. Also, biofuels cause hoses and rubber seals to shrink (Biofuel Use par.12). Both of these two issues pose a serious safety threat and therefore, more research is warranted in aviation biofuel before it can be commercially used.

Works Cited

“Biofuel Use.” Accelerating Development & Commercialization of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, n.d. Web. 29 Jun. 2015. “Ethanol.” Efficiency and Renewable Energy. U.S Department of Energy, n.d. Web. 29 Jun. 2015.


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Essay on Biomass (For School and College Students) | Energy Management

biomass essay

Are you looking for an essay on ‘Biomass’? Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Biomass’ especially written for school and college students.

Essay on Biomass

Essay Contents:

  • Essay on the Energy Plantation Using Biomass

Essay # 1. Introduction to Biomass :

Biomass is an organic matter from plants, animals and micro-organisms grown on land and water and their derivatives. The energy obtained from biomass is called biomass energy.

“Biomass” is considered as a renewable source of energy because the organic matter is generated everyday.

Coal, petroleum, oil and natural gas do not come in the category of ‘biomass’, because they are produced from dead, buried biomass under pressure and temperature during millions of years.

i. “Biomass” can also be considered a form of solar energy as the latter is used indirectly to grow these plants by photosynthesis.

ii. “Biomass fuel” is used over 85 percent of rural households and in about 15 percent urban dwellings. Agriculture products rich in starch and sugar like wheat, maize, sugarcane can be fermented to produce ethanol (C 2 H.OH). Methanol (CH 3 OH) is also produced by distillation of biomass that contains cellulose like wood and begasse. Both these alcohols can be used to fuel vehicles and can he mixed with ‘diesel’ to make biodiesel.

Essay # 2. Biomass Resources :

In our country, there is a great potential for application of biomass as an ‘alternate source of energy’. We have plenty of agricultural and forest resources for reproduction of biomass.

The following are the biomass resources:

1. Concentrated Wastes:

(i) Municipal solid

(ii) Sewage wood products

(iii) Industrial waste

(iv) Manure at large lots.

2. Dispersed Waste Residue:

(i) Crop residue

(ii) Logging residue

(iii) Disposed manure.

3. Harvested Biomass:

(i) Standing biomass

(ii) Biomass energy plantations.

The biomass sources are highly dispersed and bulky and contain large amount of water (50 to 90%). Thus, it is not economical to transport them over long distances, and as such conversion into usable energy must take place close to the source, which is limited to particular regions. However, biomass can be converted to liquid or gaseous fuels, thereby increasing its energy density and making transportation feasible over long distances.

Essay # 3. Availability of Biomass :

a. The total terrestrial crop alone is about 2 x 10 12 metric tonnes.

This includes:

(i) Sugar crops such as sugarcane and sweet sorghum;

(ii) Herbaceous crops, which are non- woody plants that are easily converted into liquid or gaseous fuels; and

(iii) Sihiriculture (forestry) plants such as cultured hybrid poplar, sycamore, sweatgum, alder, eucalyptus, and other hardwoods.

b. The terrestrial crops have energy potential of 3 x 10 22 joules. The efficiency of solar energy utilisation in natural photosynthesis is only 0.1 to 2 percent. At present only 1 percent of world biomass is used for energy conversion.

Current research focuses on the screening and identification of species that are suitable for short-rotation growing and on optimum techniques for planting, fertilization, harvesting, and conversion. Fast growing trees, sugar, starch and oil containing plants can be cultivated which have about 5 percent efficiency of solar energy utilisation.

c. The estimated production of agricultural residue in India is 200 million tonnes per year and that of wood is 130 million tonnes.

d. Aquatic crops are grown in fresh sea and brackish waters, both submerged and emergent plants. These include seaweeds, marine algae etc.

e. Animal and human wastes are an indirect terrestrial crop from which methane for combustion, and ethylene can be produced while retaining the fertilizer value of the manure. The daily produce of cowdung is about 13.5 kg per cattle which can be used to produce 0.46 m 3 of biogas in ‘Gobar gas plant’. This gas is sufficient to produce 1 kWh of electricity in a biogas engine.

The human waste can also be used for production of biogas. Community latrines can be planned in the villages for collection of night soil for feeding to biogas plants. Wastes of 200 persons can be used to produce about 5 m 3 of gas per day to extract 12 kWh of equivalent energy by running a biogas engine.

Essay # 4. Limitations of Utilising Biomas s:

Following are the limitations of utilising biomass:

1. Relatively expensive energy conversion.

2. Low conversion efficiency (i.e. small percentage of sun light is converted to biomass by plants).

3. Relatively low concentration of biomass per unit area of land and water.

Essay # 5. Environmental Effects of Biomass :

Following are the effects of biomass:

1. Biomass can pollute air when it is burned but less than those of fossil fuels.

2. Biomass, when burned, does not release green-house gases (or CC 2 ).

3. Burning biofuels do not produce pollutants like sulphur that results in acid rain.

4. When biomass crops are grown, nearly equivalent amount of CO 2 is captured through photosynthesis.

Essay # 6. Methods to Obtain Energy from Biomass :

Energy from biomass can be obtained by using the following methods:

1. Combustion;

2. Anaerobic digestion;

3. Pyrolysis;

4. Hydrolysis and ethanol fermentation;

5. Gasifier.

1. Combustion:

‘Combustion’ is the process, now in commercial operation, that uses biomass to produce energy. Direct combustion requires biomass with a moisture content around 15% or less, so it may require drying prior to combustion for most of the crops.

2. Anaerobic Digestion:

The biogas plants using anaerobic digestion are simple in construction with low capital outlay.

The anaerobic digestion process has the following advantages:

(i) It utilises biomass with high percentage of water.

(ii) Small units are available, which can be operated as individual farms.

(iii) The residue has fertilizer value.

The major “limitation” with this process is that large quantity of waste water is to be disposed of after digestion.

3. Pyrolysis:

‘Pyrolysis’ is an irreversible change brought about by the action of heat in the absence of oxygen; the energy splits the chemical bonds and leaves the energy stored in biomass. It may yield either solid, liquid or gaseous fuel.


(i) Compactness;

(ii) Simple equipment;

(iii) Low pressure operation;

(iv) High conversion efficiency of the order of 83 percent

(v) Negligible waste product.

4. Hydrolysis and Ethanol Fermentation:

The process of hydrolysis converts cellulose to alcohols through fermentation. Ethyl alcohol can be produced from variety of sugar by fermentation with yeasts.

5. Gasifier:

Pyrolysis-gasification is a promising conversion technology. It appears to be economically competitive with natural gas, using biomass wastes.

Essay # 7. Process Used for Biomass Conversion to Energy:

The following processes are used for the biomass conversion to energy or to biofuels:

a. Densification.

b. Combustion and incineration.

c. Thermo-chemical conversion.

d. Biochemical conversion.

a. Densification :

In this process bulky biomass is reduced to a better volume-to-weight ratio by compressing in a die at a high temperature and pressure. The biomass pressed into briquettes or pellets (easier to transport and store) can be used as clean fuel in domestic chulhas, bakeries and hotels.

b. Combustion and Incineration :


Combustion is the process of burning in presence of oxygen to produce heat (utilised for cooking, space heating, industrial purposes and for electricity generation), light and by­products.

The combustion of biomass is more difficult than other fuels since it contains relatively higher moisture content. Biomass is free from toxic metals and its ash.

This method is very inefficient with heat losses to 30 to 90% of the original energy contained in the biomass.

The technology of “ fluidised bed combustion” may be used for the efficient combustion of forestry and agricultural waste material such as sawdust, wood chips, hog fuel, rice husks, straws, nutshells and chips.

In fluidised bed combustion of biomass, the biomass is fed into a bed of hot inert particles, such as sand kept in fluidised state with air at sufficient velocity from below. The operating temperature is normally controlled within the range 750- 950°C; ideally it is kept as high as possible in order to maximise the rate of combustion and heat transfer but low enough to avoid the problem of sintering of the bed particles. The rapid mixing and turbulence within the fluidised bed enables efficient combustion to be achieved with high heat releases, as well as effective transfer, than in a conventional boiler. This can result in more compact boiler with less number of tubes.


It is the process of burning completely the solid masses to ‘ashes by high temperature oxidation.

Although the terms ‘combustion’ and ‘incineration’ are synonymous, yet the “combustion process” is applicable to all fuels (i.e., solid, liquids and gases); “incineration” is a special process which is used for incinerating municipal solid waste to reduce the volume of solid refuse (90 per cent) and to produce heat steam and electricity.

Wood, dung, vegetable waste can be dried and burnt to provide heat or converted into low calorific value by pyrolysis. In the pyrolysis process, the organic material is converted to gases, solids and liquids by heating to 500 to 900°C in the absence of oxygen.

c. Thermo-Chemical Conversion:

It is a process to decompose biomass with various combinations of temperatures and pressures.

Thermo-chemical conversion takes the following two forms:

(i) Gasification;

(ii) Liquification.

(i) Gasification:

It is the process of heating the biomass with limited oxygen to produce ‘low heating value’ or by reacting it with steam and oxygen at high pressure and temperature to produce ‘medium heating value gas’.

The output gas is known as “producer gas”, a mixture of H 2 (15-20%), CO (10 to 20%), CH 4 (1 to 5%), CO 2 (9 to 12%) and N 2 (45 to 55%). As compared to solid mass the gas is more versatile, it can be burnt to produce heat and steam, or used in I.C. engines or gas turbines to generate electricity.

(ii) Liquification:

a. Biomass can be liquified through fast or flash pyrolysis, called “pyrolytic oil” which is a dark brown liquid of low viscosity and a mixture of hydrocarbons.

b. Biomass can also be liquified by “methanol synthesis”. Gasification of biomass produces synthetic gas containing a mixture of H 2 and CO. The gas is purified by adjusting the composition of H 2 and CO. Finally, the purified gas is subjected to liquefication process, converted to methanol over a zinc, chromium catalyst.

Methanol can be used as liquid fuel.

d. Biochemical Conversion :

In biochemical conversion there are two principal conversion processes:

i. Anaerobic digestion;

ii. Fermentation.

(i) Anaerobic Digestion:

This process involves ‘microbial digestion’ of biomass and is done in the ‘absence of oxygen’.

The process and end products depend upon the micro-organisms cultivated under culture conditions. (An anaerobe is a microscopic organism that can live and grow without external oxygen or air; it extracts oxygen by decomposing the biomass at low temperatures upto 65°C, in presence of moisture).

This process generates mostly methane (CH 4 ) and CO 2 gas with small impurities such as hydrogen sulphide. The output gas obtained from anaerobic digestion can be directly burnt, or upgraded to superior fuel gas (methane) by removal of CO 2 and other impurities. The residue may consist of protein-rich sludge and liquid effluents which can be used as animal feed or for soil treatment after certain processing.

Aerobic decomposition is done in the presence of oxygen and it produces CO, NH 3 and some other gases in small quantities and large quantity of heat. The final by-product of this process can be used as fertilizer. (ii) Fermentation:

Fermentation is the process of decomposition of organic matter by micro-organisms especially bacteria and yeasts.

i. It is a well-established and widely used technology for the conversion of grains and sugar crops into ethanol (ethyl alcohol).

ii. Ethanol can be blended with gasoline (petrol) to produce gasohol (90% petrol and 10% ethanol). Processes have been developed to produce various fuels from various types of fermentations.

biomass essay

(ii) Downdraft (or Cocurrent) Gasifier. Refer to Fig. 6.8.:

In downdraft gasifier (where fuel and air move in a cocurrent manner, air enters at the combustion zone and the gas produced leaves near the bottom of the gasifier.

i. Fuel (biomass) is loaded in the reactor from the top. As the fuel moves down it is subjected to drying (120°C) and pyrolysis (200-600°C) where solid char, acetic acid, methanol and water vapour are produced.

ii. Descending volatiles and char reach the oxidation zone (900 to 1200°C) where air is injected to complete the combustion.

iii. The products moving downwards, enter the reduction zone (900 to 600°C), (reaction being endothermic) where ‘producer gas’ is formed by the action of C0 2 and water vapour on red hot charcoal. The producer gas contains products like CO, H 2 and CH 4 ; it is purified by passing it through coolers, tar is removed by condensation, whereas soot and ash are removed by centrifugal separation.

The downdraft gasifier is most commonly used for “engine applications” because of its ability to produce a relatively clean gas.

Fixed bed gasifiers can attain efficiency upto 75 percent for conversion of solid biomass to gaseous fuel.

(iii) Crossdraft Gasifiers:

In this type of gasifier, the gas produced passes upwards in the annular space around the gasifier that is filled with charcoal. The charcoal acts as an insulator and a dust filter.

These gasifiers are suitable for power generation upto 50 kW; however, these do not find much application.

2. Fluidised Bed Gasifiers :

A fluidised bed gasifier is most versatile and any biomass, including sewage sludge pulping effluents etc., can be gasified by using this type of gasifier. (Refer to Fig. 6.9.)

Fluidised Bed Combustion (FBC) constitutes a hot bed of inert solid particles of sand or crushed refractory supported on a fine mesh or grid. An upward air current fludizes the bed material.

The pressurised air starts bubbling through the bed and the particles attain a stage of high turbulence, and the bed exhibits fluid like properties. A uniform temperature within the range of 750 to 950°C is maintained so that the ash zones do not get heated to its initial deformation temperature and this prevents clinkering or slagging.

i. In the fluidised bed, a large surface is created and the constantly changing area per unit volume provides a higher conversion efficiency at low operating temperatures, compared to fixed beds.

Low grade fuels of even non-uniform size and high moisture content can be gasified by the high heating capacity of sand and uniform temperature of fluidized bed.

ii. To put the gasifier in use the bed material is heated to ignition temperature of the fuel and biomass is then injected causing rapid oxidation and gasification. The fuel gas thus obtained is conditioned and cleaned for utilisation as an engine fuel.

Fluidized Bed Gasifier

Advantages of Fluidised Bed Gasifier:

1. High heat storage capacity.

2. Simple operation.

3. Compact size.

4. Consistent combustion rate.

5. High output rate.

6. Quick startup.

7. Fuel flexibility.

8. High moisture content fuel can be used.

9. Uniform temperature throughout the finance volume.

10. Reduced emission of nitrogen oxides.

Essay # 9. Conversion Technology of Biomass:

The “Urban Waste” is disposed off suitably by “Waste-to-Energy” conversion systems including:

1. Landfill Gas Energy Plants.

2. Waste Incineration Cogeneration Plants.

3. Biochemical Conversion Plants.

One of the most important biomass conversion technologies is Incineration (Combustion).

The applications of “Incineration process” are given below:

biomass essay

Waste-to-Energy Incineration Process :

The energy route of the waste-to-electrical energy by incineration process is given below:

biomass essay

Processing of Wood and Wood-Waste (Fuel) for Feeding to the Incineration Plant:

The incineration plant is usually located in the forest and near saw mill. This reduces the expenditure of transportation of wood and makes it competitive as a fuel for producing electricity.

The various steps involved in the process are:

(i) Felling of trees in the forest.

(ii) Segregating logs, tree barks, leaves etc.

(iii) Transporting the logs and other residue to central store.

(iv) Storing the logs in a circular store.

(v) Drying of wood in the circular store.

(vi) Collecting dried wood by means of central crane in the circular store and transporting the wood to power plant for incineration.

(vii) Shredding (making smaller pieces).

(viii) Feeding to the furnace.

Essay # 10. Energy Plantation Using Biomass:

When land plants are grown purposely for their fuel value, by capturing solar radiation in is called Energy plantation. ‘Energy plantations’ by design are managed and operated to provide substantial amounts of unusable fuel continuously throughout the year at the costs competitive with other fuels. Annual plants, typical of important farm crops, are unsuitable for providing a year-around supply of fuel.

Biomass energy concepts under study are resulting in the cultivation of large forests in areas not suitable for food production. Energy plantation may yield 10 to 20 tonnes per acre per year. The energy plantation would be perhaps 125-500 m 2 in land area. The trees are to be harvested by automated means, then chipped and pulverised for burning in a power plant that would be located in the middle of the energy plantation.

The properties of plants to be cultivated in India are given in table 6.3.

Common Species for Energy Plantation

i. Some schemes envision ‘aquatic farms’ growing algae, tropical grasses, floating kelp, water hyacinth and others. These could yield several hundred tonnes/acre year in controlled environments.

ii. An interesting idea may be to use hot condenser cooling water from a power plant to grow algae in large quantities or increase the yield of other crops.

iii. Fast growing trees, sugar, starch and oil containing plants can also be cultivated for bio-energy.

Advantages of Energy Plantation:

1. No storage losses vis-a-vis harnessing solar energy (Plants, as they grow, serve as their own energy accumulator).

2. Wide flexibility, if the crop maturity cycle extends over years.

3. Under optimised conditions, the cost of energy obtained through plantation works out to be lesser than present fossil fuel cost on heat value basis as obtained by direct burning of wood.

4. The problem of SO 2 pollution by combustion of biomass is practically nil.

5. The ash obtained after burning vegetable matter is rich in plant nutrient-minerals, unlike ash of fossil fuels, and can be used as a manure.

6. Energy plantation will convert large tracks of semi-barren land into green belt and thus ecological conditions can be restored.

7. Growth of biomass consumes CO 2 as much (as produced by consumption of biomass, and as such the atmosphere is not polluted. Combustion of fossil fuel releases CO 2 in very large amounts and also they consume huge amounts of O 2 from the atmosphere).

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Biomass is referred to the material made from living organisms that have died and are in the process of decay. In most cases, biomass used by human beings comes from the remains of plants and other plant-derived materials. Biomass is of great interest to humans since it can be used in order to provide energy. This type of energy is renewable, meaning it has the ability to avoid depletion with good management. The fuel that is derived from decayed plants and plant-derived materials is referred to as biofuel. Biofuel can be harnessed from the plant materials in three major ways; these are: through biochemical conversion, chemical conversion, and through thermal conversion. Details about these three processes are contained in this essay. This essay also aims at analyzing the importance of embracing biomass as a source of fuel to promote environmental conservation.


Humans are in dire need of energy reserves that are renewable since extinction is realistically far from sight. Most of the energy forms that humans have been using are non-renewable. This is a big economic challenge. Continued depletion of the sources of fuel greatly relied on by the human begins is likely to stall economic development. Fuel is a subject of the law of demand, which states that an increase in demand causes an increase in the prices for the acquisition of the commodity. On the other hand, when the demand is low, the prices go down. However, demand for a product is dictated by the supply, especially if the commodity is an essential one. Fuel is one of them. Depletion of sources of fuel means that the supply will be low with time, therefore, the prices will increase.

Biomass is one of the most suitable alternatives to evade the dangers of depletion of over-relied fuels, such as oil and nuclear deposits. Biomass can be used in order to generate electricity by using gasifies or steam turbines, as well as combustion of plant materials. Wood is one of the major sources of biomass. One might argue that wood is non-renewable fuel, but continued planting of trees, as they are cut down, ensures that wood does not get depleted. Some industrial activities use plant and animals materials to derive biofuel. Some of the often used materials include switchgrass, hemp remains, corn stalks and leaves after harvesting, poplar, willow branches and leaves, miscanthus sorghum stems and leaves after harvesting, sugarcane residues, palm oil trees residues, bamboo stems, and leaves, as well as tree species like eucalyptus.

Though people have taken a slow toll in embracing this type of energy, there is a steady growth in the usage of biofuel all over the world. Well done case studies have been conducted in the American countries, especially in the US, where this subject is proven. Though the country greatly relies on nuclear and petroleum for fuel, 14% of the energy used in the country is alternative. Of the 14%, 11% comes from biofuel.

Biomass Sources

As stated above there is a variety of resources used to derive biofuel. Research has estimated a total of 146 billion tons of biomass produced yearly throughout the world. The major contributor to this tonnage is decayed wild plants materials. There are six principal sources, which biomass is derived from; they include: garbage, landfill gases, alcohol fuels, plants, wastes, and wood.

Wood is one of the most important sources of biomass. It is derived using the second generation biofuel techniques, basically referred to as lignocellulose biomass. This is done by either direct combustion of wood and wood products or by collecting wood wastes from streams and using them to make biofuel. The paper, pulp, and paperboard industries have discovered the largest source of biofuels from wood. These plants produce pulping liquor or so-called black liquor, which is used to generate energy.

The second-largest source of biofuel is waste energy. This energy is derived from the day-to-day waste products, such as municipal solid wastes from garbage and sewage, manufacturing waste products, and landfill gases.

The first-generation biofuels, which include sugars and oils, such as corn and sugarcane, are also used to produce biomass energy. In this perspective, bioethanol, an alcohol fuel, is derived from these materials. Studies have shown that people prefer the above second-generation biofuels to the first generation ones since the former are comparatively simple to extract and use because they are directly used in most cases; they can also be processed, and the procedure is quite simple. However, first-generation biofuels are accompanied by the food vs. fuel conflict, both of which are essential to human beings.

Biomass can be converted into other forms of renewable and environmentally friendly energy forms, such as methane gas, and transportable energy forms, like ethanol and biodiesel. Biodiesel is vegetable oil or animal fat-based diesel that consists of long chains of alkyl groups. Production of biodiesel involves the reaction of a lipid, such as vegetable fats or animal oil, and alcohol. As a result, a fatty acid ester is formed. Biodiesel can be used either in its pure form (B100) or combined with petroleum diesel and used in machinery. Pure biodiesel produces less carbon dioxide and other toxic gases in the atmosphere, as compared to blended biodiesel. However, blending biodiesel with petroleum diesel reduces the potential of the latter to release toxic substances to the environment that causes pollution. Biodiesel used in the vehicles has, however, been noted to breakdown rubber gaskets and hoses, even though at a slow rate. In retaliation, manufacturers of automobiles that use this type of fuel have been advised to use FKM, which is resistant to the reactive effect of biodiesel. When vehicles or other machinery change their fuel preference from petroleum diesel to biodiesel, there is a noted clogging of engine and fuel filters. This is because biodiesel is known to break down deposits of residues or petroleum fuels formerly used in the engines. As a result, it is recommended changing the fuel filters, when changing from the use of petroleum diesel to biodiesel in order to avoid engine knocks. The use of biodiesels has been approvingly embraced in the motor vehicles industry, aircraft, and railway transport, ever since its first research and application was conducted by Rudolf Diesel’s in 1893.

Other sources of biomass fuels are constantly being explored in the world. Algal fuel has been of great interest to researchers since it is independent of food sources. On the other hand, it has a higher potential than other sources of biofuel, producing 5 to 10 times the amount of fuel derived from plants and agricultural and waste products. Algal biomass can be used to produce a range of fuels, such as ethanol, methane, butanol, hydrogen, and biodiesel. There is diversity in production of such biofuels. It can be used commercially to produce the above mentioned fuels. It can also be produced as a byproduct of nutrient removal systems like the algal turf scrubber. This is used to restore oxygen in aquatic habitats and other waste water treatment plants. Researchers are banking on the genetic engineering and modification to identify the species of algae that are best suited for biofuel production. They are targeting the species that will produce the maximum amount of biofuel attainable from this technique with fewer risks.

Conversion of Biomass

Thermal combustion.

Heat is the main technique of deriving energy in this process. However, the chemical reaction involved should be established before choosing the alternative techniques, which include pyrolysis, torrefaction, combustion, and gasification. This is mainly determined by the availability of oxygen in the process and the temperature, under which the process is taking place. Dendrothermal energy that is derived from burning biomass is most suitable in areas that experience a temperate kind of climate. This is because trees are the major vital input in this energy source. Temperate regions provide suitable conditions for the rapid growth of trees, therefore, avoiding depletion of the energy source. Researchers are spending time on other experimental techniques, such as hydrothermal upgrading or hydroprocessing. Some processes aim at deriving more useful energy from highly moist biomass, such as aqueous slurries. Some other techniques in thermal combustion involve a combination of heat, power, and co-firing (combustion of two different biomass materials at the same time). This provides a cheaper way of harnessing energy since one existing plant can be used to burn another different plant and the fuel derivatives can be combined.

Chemical Conversion

In an effort to produce biofuel that is more convenient, transportable, and storable, chemical processes are employed in biomass conversion. Some of these processes include Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methanol production, and olefins (ethylene and propylene). In almost all these techniques the first step of derivation involves gasification. This is the most expensive step of these processes. On the other hand, it involves a lot of technical know-how and technical risks. Since biomass is in most cases shapeless in nature, it is hard to feed in pressure vessels. As a result, combustion of biomass is done at atmospheric pressure. The problem with this step is that the atmospheric pressure does not provide the necessary conditions for the complete combustion of the materials. Therefore, the products contain a mixture of combustible gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and trace elements of methane. This producer gas (mixture of gases) can provide fuel for various important processes, which include internal combustion engines, as well as an alternative for oil used in furnaces. This process is far much better than ethanol or biomass production since any biomass can undergo combustion; hence, gasification. It provides an easy way of converting solid waste products into useful energy gases.

There are other chemical commodities that have successfully been produced using biomass. Halomethanes are some of them. These are produced using a combination of A. fermentants and engineered S. cerevisiae. This technique is aimed at converting materials like sugarcane, poplar, corn stover, or switch grass and sodium salts into halomethanes. S-adenosylmethionine, a compound naturally occurs in S. cerevisiae facilitates the transfer of a methyl group in the conversion process. This process is an evidence of the fact that biomass can be used to produce multiple commodity chemicals.

The fact that biomass is natural makes it a subject to decomposition by various microorganisms and other biochemical processes. Many of these processes involved in the decomposition can be harnessed and be converted to energy. There are the three processes that involve microorganisms. These are anaerobic digestion, fermentation, and composting. However, other techniques use other different biochemical processes in harnessing energy. A good example is biodiesel derived from transesterification. This is both a biological and a chemical process of converting straight and waste vegetable oils into biodiesel. Fermentation involves breaking down the carbohydrates, and simple sugars contained in waste products to provide alcohol. However, perfection of this technique is yet to be done, since it has to be set under the right temperature and pressure conditions in case if the products are commercially targeted.

Environmental and Economic Impact

It has been noted that use of biomass fuel has reduced the prevalence of environmental pollution. Combustion of these fuels produces low levels of toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Currently, global warming is one of the latest and greatest global concerns. The ozone layer is gradually getting depleted and, therefore, exposing people and other living organisms to the harmful radiation from the sun. This has led to an increased prevalence of diseases related to the UV rays, such as skin cancer and other catastrophes like tsunamis and hurricanes. The recent incidences have been experienced in North America (hurricane Sandy) and Japan. Also, global warming has changed the weather patterns around the globe. Sub-Saharan African drought period has increased, leading to increased famine and food shortages. One of the main contributors to global warming is use of energy forms that release harmful substances in the atmosphere. These fuel forms include petroleum and nuclear energy, which are used almost all over the world. Therefore, there is a need to develop sustainable energy sources that will help to reduce or curb these misfortunes. Biomass fuel is one vital source that has provided an alternative for averting these environmental issues.

There has been an increased reliance on petroleum, nuclear, and other sources of energy that are subjected to depletion. As these sources undergo depletion, the demand is continuing to increase, as a result of the ever increasing global population. This has increased the cost of accessing fuel and, therefore, the general cost of every commodity. This is because energy is essential in the production. The cost of living is increasing, dragging the economic development of countries and individuals. The use of sustainable and renewable sources of energy has provided a way of counteracting this challenge. Apart from hydroelectric power, solar energy and hydrogen energy, biomass fuel provides renewable and sustainable energy that doubles as environment-friendly. As long as people are continuing to use manufactured products, agricultural products, and rearing livestock, there is an assurance that biomass will always be available.

Biomass energy provides a way of cleaning the environment. Collection of plant and animal waste products provides a suitable and useful way of disposal of waste. The collection of agricultural and industrial waste has helped to avert environmental pollution. The waste products that would have been heaped on earth or let loose to pollute both soil and air are subjected to economic use. Therefore, a system of energy production aimed at sustainability is used for industrial as well as domestic purposes.

Techniques used in harnessing energy from biomass have been noted to be less technical and less expensive, as compared to other energy harnessing techniques, such as oil refinery, nuclear energy production, and hydroelectric power plants. Therefore, this process provides a less expensive and easy way of energy generation, as long as the right conditions and requirements are met.

Available research for large-scale commercial production on biomass energy is still limited. However, scientists are spending more time on involved projects to come up with highly productive techniques. There has been a slow pace in the way people are embracing this type of energy. This might be due to the tradition in many people that petroleum and nuclear energy are the most suitable energy forms. Automobile manufacturers should emphasize on making products that use this type of energy. Society should also be enlightened on the effects of over-relying on polluting and ever depleting energy sources.

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Biomass Essays

Solar energy as an alternative fuel in rural kenya.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 90% of the rural population worldwide relies on traditional biomass to meet their basic energy needs (IEA, 2006). Kenya is one of the developing countries that largely contributes to this statistic. With its estimated population of over 45 million and 70% living in rural areas, its citizens, more so the rural people heavily rely on the traditional biomass fuel including wood, agricultural by-products, and dung (Angwere & Kipchirchir, 2016). While the use […]

Environmental Policies Turkey | Politics Dissertation

4. Energy and Environmental outlook of Turkey Energy is accepted as a most important factor in economic development. On the other hand environmental impacts of industrial and economical development becomes more evident in recent years. In order to mitigate the environmental effects of industrial and economical development is to take long term solutions for sustainable development. Therefore, this chapter explains the main characteristics of Turkey’s general energy outlook and environmental indicators. It starts begin to lay out the diversity of […]

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The Research Methodology

Introduction General Introduction The following chapter will introduce the dissertation topic by means of its intended goals, outline of content within each chapter and the research methodology. The research goals present the author’s aims to be achieved, core objectives and hypothesis to test. The chapters shall be briefly described as to their particular topic area. Research methodology will establish the research process, planning, data collection methods utilized and finally mention limitations encountered throughout completing the dissertation. Research Goals Aim To […]

Biotech Products

Chloroplast factories for sustainable and high yield production of biotech products Abstract World demand for energy has been projected to double by 2050 and be more than triple by the end of the century. Since industrial revolution in the 1850s, the human consumption of fossil fuels has been one of the growing causes of international concern and unease among some industrial nations. The reasons for which can be attributed to the rapidly depleting reserves of fossil fuels. Over the past […]


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  6. What is biomass energy? Definition and some examples

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  1. Essay on Biomass: Top 7 Essays

    Essay # 1. Introduction to Biomass: ADVERTISEMENTS: Biomass a renewable energy source is biological material from living or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, (hydrogen) gas and alcohol fuels. Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce heat.

  2. Biomass

    biomass, the weight or total quantity of living organisms of one animal or plant species ( species biomass) or of all the species in a community (community biomass), commonly referred to a unit area or volume of habitat. The weight or quantity of organisms in an area at a given moment is the standing crop.

  3. Biomass Energy

    Biomass is organic, meaning it is made of material that comes from living organisms, such as plants and animals. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, wood, and waste. These are called biomass feedstocks. Biomass energy can also be a nonrenewable energy source.

  4. A review on biomass: importance, chemistry, classification, and conversion

    Biomass is currently the most widespread form of renewable energy and its exploitation is further increasing due to the concerns over the devastative impacts of fossil fuel consumption, i.e., climate change, global warming and their negative impacts on human health. In line with that, the present articles reviews the different sources of biomass available, along with their chemical composition ...

  5. Essay on Biomass

    Essay # 1. Definition of Biomass: Any type of animal or plant material that can be converted into energy is called biomass. This includes trees and shrubs, crops and grasses, algae, aquatic plants, agricultural and forest residues plus all forms of human, animal and plant waste (1).

  6. An Overview on the Conversion of Forest Biomass into Bioenergy

    Biomass plays a crucial role in mitigating the concerns associated with increasing fossil fuel combustion. Among various types of biomass, forest biomass has attracted considerable attention given its abundance and variations. In this work, an overview is presented on different pathways available to convert forest biomass into bioenergy.

  7. Biomass explained

    Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass contains stored chemical energy from the sun that is produced by plants through photosynthesis. Biomass can be burned directly for heat or converted to liquid and gaseous fuels through various processes

  8. Saving the planet: What is the role of biomass? :: BioResources

    It is proposed in this essay that the answer is "yes, but". Yes, trees and other plants will continue to serve as "the lungs of the planet," converting CO 2 to O 2 by photosynthesis. But saving the world will not be easy. Biomass scientists will not be able to solve the problems alone. Rather, mitigation of problems related to climate ...

  9. The Environmental Impacts of Biomass Energy

    When we burn biomass for heat or electricity, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, biomass sources, such as crops and trees, also capture carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and sequester it. The carbon cycle remains in balance if trees and other plants absorb as much carbon dioxide as they emit during biomass combustion.

  10. The Top Pros And Cons of Biomass Energy

    Jacob Marsh Updated Mar 9, 2022 5 min read Why trust EnergySage? Table of contents Top pros and cons of biomass Advantages of biomass Disadvantages of biomass Biomass refers to any organic matter used to create energy. This could include everyday animal matter as well as different crops.

  11. Bioenergy Basics

    Bioenergy Basics. Bioenergy is one of many diverse resources available to help meet our demand for energy. It is a form of renewable energy that is derived from recently living organic materials known as biomass, which can be used to produce transportation fuels, heat, electricity, and products.

  12. Biomass Energy Definition, Pros & Cons

    Biomass energy is one of these alternatives. Biomass energy comes from organic materials like sugar cane, wood, animal waste, grasses, food crops, and algae. These sources are called biomass ...

  13. (PDF) Biomass as Renewable Energy

    This paper discusses biomass as a renewable energy source. The paper defines the resources as well as the ways biomass energy is converted into electricity, technologies involved in extracting...

  14. Biomass: Compilation of Essays on Biomass

    Essay # 1. Introduction to Biomass: Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material living or recently living organisms like wood, waste, hydrogen gas and alcohol fuels. Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to produce electricity or heat.

  15. Environmental Studies Essays

    Biomass Energy The use of biomass energy as a wide spread, renewable power source provided with proper knowledge, state control and technological how-to, can change both the earth's environment and our attitude towards alternative power resources.

  16. What Is Biomass?

    What Is Biomass? Decent Essays 717 Words 3 Pages Open Document Variations: Virtual Resources| News | Did You Know? | Additional Activities MAYBE—Difficult and technical--Mill and Logging Residue Activity: Youth will do calculations associated with forest biomass and wood wastes and the transportation of those items.

  17. Biomass: Compilation of Essays on Biomass

    Essay # 3. Biomass Conversion: Biomass can either be utilized directly as a fuel, or can be converted into liquid or gaseous fuels, which can also be used as feedstock for industries. Most biomass in dry state can be burned directly to produce heat, steam or electricity. On the other hand biological conversion technologies utilize natural ...

  18. Free Short Essay on Biomass Energy Uses Sample Essay

    Biomass energy is a clean form of renewable energy that can be used to power homes, cook food, and produce heat. Biomass is a plant-based material that can be grown in intense situations without taking away from the farmland or food production. Introduction - Biomass Uses Essay

  19. Biomass Essay

    Biomass Essay Good Essays 1094 Words 5 Pages Open Document Agricultural residue biomass is highly recommended as clean and renewable sources of energy that increases the possibility of replacing the consumption of conventional energy fossil fuels.

  20. Essay About Biomass

    Biomass Essay Examples Type of paper: Essay Topic: Ethanol, Fuel, Airline, Aviation, Solar Energy, Energy, Fossil Fuels, Gasoline Pages: 2 Words: 450 Published: 11/04/2020 ORDER PAPER LIKE THIS E85 is a fuel form that contains 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol is a renewable fuel derived from organic matter through fermentation.

  21. Essay on Biomass (For School and College Students)

    Essay on Biomass Essay Contents: Essay on the Introduction to Biomass Essay on Biomass Resources Essay on the Availability of Biomass Essay on the Limitations of Utilising Biomass Essay on the Environmental Effects of Biomass Essay on the Methods to Obtain Energy from Biomass Essay on the Process Used for Biomass Conversion to Energy

  22. Biomass

    Details about these three processes are contained in this essay. This essay also aims at analyzing the importance of embracing biomass as a source of fuel to promote environmental conservation. Introduction. Humans are in dire need of energy reserves that are renewable since extinction is realistically far from sight.

  23. Biomass Essay Examples

    Biomass Essays Essay examples Essay topics 4 essay samples found Solar Energy as an Alternative Fuel in Rural Kenya According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 90% of the rural population worldwide relies on traditional biomass to meet their basic energy needs (IEA, 2006).