According to official World Bank data, biomass accounts for around 13% of all primary energy consumed globally. When we look back 30 years, the official figure was almost 0%.
The new estimate was made because it was evident that bioenergy, despite not being sold, was extremely important in many countries. Despite the fact that total energy use has increased by roughly 30–40 percent in the last 20 years, the 13 percent has stayed relatively steady in the case of biomass energy. It is hard to believe the constant rate of biomass energy contributes to fuel energy.
Because much of it is rotting in fields or woodlands, the true biomass production is still much larger. According to some estimates, biomass output will be around 300,000–600,000 TWh/y, or 2–4 times current energy consumption.
Forests are the best testimonies to the importance of bioenergy in human civilisation. For as long as woods and food-producing areas have existed, they have had a profound impact on world civilizations.
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia’s capital, is a prominent example of dependency on wood fuel. For thousands of years, the first steps toward industry, such as charcoal-based iron smelting, were likewise reliant on biomass resources. About 2500 years ago, archaeologists believe this was the primary cause of deforestation surrounding Lake Victoria.
The administration was forced to transfer from region to region when resources ran out before securing a reliable source of biomass. According to some historians, the Industrial Revolution would not have been possible without an abundant wood supply, because biomass resources were initially the sole resource available.
Britain is a prime example of a country that leveraged its natural resources to become one of the world’s most powerful countries. The timber and charcoal produced by these forests paved the way for the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.
The woods of Britain, mostly oak, covered two-thirds of the kingdom. Biomass fuels are utilized in the cooking of many families, organizations, and small enterprises.
Many new facilities are being constructed to directly supply energy from biomass via combustion, electricity generation, or combined heat and power. For the global economy, biomass energy is a key source of energy. For three primary reasons, biomass usage has been constant or is increasing over the world:
• Increasing rate of Population
• Urbanization and improvement in living requirements
• Increasing environmental concerns
Currently, biomass energy remains the primary source of energy in many developing countries, particularly in its traditional forms, meeting the energy demands of three-quarters of the world’s population on average. In the poorest developing countries, this figure ranges between 60% and 90%.
Modern biomass energy uses, on the other hand, are quickly expanding in both developed and developing nations, accounting for 20–25 percent of total biomass energy usage. For example, the United States gets roughly 4% of its main energy from biomass, whereas Finland and Sweden get 20%.
It can provide electricity, liquid, and gaseous fuels, and can be a direct competition to other sources of energy. The success of any new form of biomass energy will depend on the use of reasonably advanced technology.
Sources of Biomass
Agricultural Crop Residue
Several solutions exist for utilizing agricultural resources on existing lands without interfering with the production of food, feed, fiber, or forest products. Agricultural crop remnants, such as stalks and leaves, are abundant, diverse, and widely distributed over the United States.
Wheat straw, oat straw, barley straw, sorghum stubble, and rice straw are all examples of corn stover (stalks, leaves, husks, and cobs). The sale of these leftovers to a local biorefinery offers farmers an extra source of income.
Forest biomass feedstocks are classified into two types: woody waste left behind from logging and whole-tree biomass collected specifically for bioenergy. Following timber harvest, dead, sick, poorly shaped, and other unmarketable trees are all good sources of bioenergy.
There are other possibilities for making use of surplus biomass on millions of acres of forest. Excessive woody biomass harvesting can minimize the danger of fire and pests while also assisting in forest regeneration, productivity, vitality, and resilience. This biomass might be collected for bioenergy without compromising the health and wellness of the forest’s ecological structure and function.
Several animal wastes available in our environment can be used as biomass energy sources. Animal and poultry manure are the most prevalent sources.
Previously, this material was collected and sold as fertilizer or simply scattered on agricultural land, but with stronger environmental regulations on odor and water pollution, some sort of waste treatment is now necessary that even triggers to convert waste into fuel.
Wood Processing Residues
Wood processing produces byproducts and waste streams known as wood processing leftovers, which generate significant power. During the processing of wood for commodities or pulp, for example, undesired sawdust, bark, branches, and leaves/needles are created.
These scraps can then be used to create biofuels or bioproducts. Because these leftovers are already collected during the processing stage, converting them to fuel would be a simple and cost-effective operation.
The food industry produces a large amount of trash and byproducts that could be used to generate biomass energy. All aspects of the food business, including meat processing and confectionary, produce these waste products. They can be utilized to generate power.
Fruit and vegetable waste, food that does not meet quality control requirements, pulp and fiber from sugar and starch extraction, filter sludges, and coffee grounds are also frequently discarded in landfills.
Meat, fruit, and vegetables must be washed. Liquid waste is produced by blanching fruits and vegetables, pre-cooking meats, poultry, and fish, cleaning and processing activities, and wine making. These waste fluids contain sugars, carbohydrates, and other liquid and solid organic compounds.
There are various commercial examples of waste-to-energy conversion, and these industrial wastes have the potential to be anaerobically digested to produce biogas or processed to produce ethanol.
Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW)
Municipal solid waste can be converted to energy by either direct combustion or natural anaerobic digestion in a landfill. The gas produced by the natural decomposition of MSW, known as landfill gas or LFG, is collected from the stored trash and filtered before being fed into internal combustion engines or gas turbines to generate heat and electricity at landfill sites.
The organic component of MSW can be anaerobically stabilized in a high-rate digester to produce biogas for electricity or steam production. Sewage is a biomass energy source similar to that of other animal wastes. Anaerobic digestion can be utilized to recover energy and make biogas from sewage. To generate more biogas, the residual sewage sludge can be burned or pyrolyzed.
Pros and Cons of Biomass
It removes several problems connected with fossil fuels and provides extra benefits as a carbon-neutral fuel source. Similarly, it appears to be the appropriate solution to many of the issues that our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources has created.
Renewable Source of Energy.
Because our civilization generates waste such as rubbish, wood, and manure on a constant basis, the organic resources required to produce biomass are limitless. It has the potential to surpass traditional fossil fuels if efforts are made to protect the resources used for biomass energy through concerted replanting and replenishment.
Biomass fuels only emit the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as plants absorb during their life cycle as a byproduct of photosynthesis.
Reduce Overreliance of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels do not only have a finite supply; they also have environmental effects, such as the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the pollution produced during extraction, transportation, and manufacturing.
When compared to drilling for oil or constructing gas pipelines, the costs of harvesting biomass fuels are quite low. These lower prices make biomass more appealing to producers, who may be able to earn more with less work.
Biomass energy may commonly be used to generate energy from garbage that would otherwise decay in landfills. This reduces the environmental impact of such areas, which is particularly obvious in terms of damaging surrounding ecosystems and killing animals.
Larger firms may lose monopoly power of energy production if biomass fuel is used. This means that people are no longer relying on utility companies and their expenses. Biomass may be generated and used by almost everyone in their home due to its nature.
Not as Efficient as Fossil Fuels
Some biofuels, such as ethanol, are relatively inefficient when compared to gasoline. In reality, it has been reinforced with fossil fuels in order to increase its performance.
Not Entirely Clean
While biomass is carbon neutral, the use of mammalian waste increases methane emissions, which are equally hazardous to the environment. Furthermore, the pollution produced by the combustion of wood and other natural materials is similar to that produced by the burning of coal and other energy resources.
Can Lead to Deforestation
Because wood is one of the most often utilized biomass energy sources, massive volumes of wood and other waste products must be burnt to provide the necessary quantity of electricity. While there is now adequate wood waste, there is a possibility of deforestation in the future.
Require a lot of Space
A large amount of room is necessary to cultivate the materials used in biomass energy. This space may not always be available, particularly in densely populated areas like cities. This also limits where biomass energy power plants may be built, as they must be close to fuel sources to save money on delivery and other costs.
A frequently ignored disadvantage of biomass energy is the amount of water required in manufacturing. Water is required for all plants to survive, so supplies must be available at all times.
This not only raises irrigation expenses but may also reduce the availability of water supplies for humans and wildlife.
Additionally, given that water is an alternative type of energy that is considerably cleaner than biomass energy, it raises the question – why not use hydro energy?
Economic and Environmental Consideration
When evaluating the economic benefits of biofuels, the energy required to produce them must be taken into account. For example, agricultural equipment, fertilizer manufacture, crop transportation, and ethanol distillation all require fossil fuels.
Biofuels offer environmental advantages as well, but depending on how they are produced, they can also have severe environmental downsides.
Because plant-based biofuels are a renewable energy source, they have no net influence on global warming or climate change; the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during combustion is removed from the atmosphere sooner when growing plants engage in photosynthesis.
“Carbon neutral” describes this type of material. However, the industrial manufacturing of agricultural biofuels could result in additional greenhouse gas emissions, which could balance the advantages of using a renewable fuel.
Carbon dioxide is released via the combustion of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process, while nitrous oxide is released from nitrogen-fertilized soil. In this regard, cellulosic biomass is regarded to be more beneficial.
Land usage is also an important consideration when weighing the benefits of biofuels. Corn and soybeans are essential crops, and their usage in fuel production may have an impact on the economics of food pricing and availability.
By 2007, roughly one-fifth of maize production in the United States had been devoted to biofuel production, and one research found that even if all corn acreage in the United States was utilized to generate ethanol, it could only replace 12 percent of gasoline use.
Furthermore, biofuel crops have the potential to compete with natural ecosystems around the planet. For instance, a focus on maize ethanol is turning grasslands and brushlands into corn monocultures, while a focus on biodiesel is destroying ancient tropical forests to make way for palm plantations.
Natural habitat loss can alter hydrology, increase erosion, and diminish wildlife biodiversity in general. Clearing land can also result in the rapid release of a substantial amount of CO2 as the plant stuff contained inside it is burned or allowed to decay.
Some of the drawbacks of biofuels are mostly associated with low-diversity biofuel sources such as maize, soybeans, sugarcane, and oil palms, which are conventional agricultural products. One option is to employ very varied species combinations, with the North American tallgrass prairie as an example.
Converting degraded agricultural land to high-diversity biofuel sources could improve wildlife habitat, prevent erosion, clean up waterborne contaminants, store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as carbon compounds in the soil, and restore fertility to degraded soils. These biofuels could be burned directly to generate energy or converted into liquid fuels as technology advances.
The optimal method for developing biofuels that can cover all demands at the same time will likely continue to be a topic of trial and debate, but biofuel production will continue to grow rapidly.
Biomass has always been regarded as a significant resource, and it will remain so in the future. While producing heat or electricity is beneficial, it is rarely the best use of biomass unless it is done using waste that cannot be used elsewhere.
Electricity can also be generated from organic waste. It could be utilized to produce high-value products such as biogas or hydrogen utilizing bacteria or enzymes.
In this regard, second-generation biofuels will be particularly interesting because they are predicted to produce higher yields for the same planted area. Micro seaweeds are an attractive choice since they produce yields that are exponentially higher than terrestrial crops.
Farming this resource from the water has the potential to significantly increase the quantity of biomass that can be retrieved from the ground.
In the future, the supply of organic molecule carbon will be a serious issue. Both fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) and biomass include this type of carbon. As a result, biomass will become a major carbon source in the future.
The main problem is that biomass has a wide range of applications. The most important thing is to eat. Finding novel “green chemistry” ways to uncover alternative sources from which to synthesize the key organic compounds currently sourced from crude oil will be a major issue if fossil fuels become scarce.
The cost of gathering and transporting significant amounts of biomass materials for energy generation can be high since biomass waste is widely dispersed, unlike fossil fuel reserves.
As a result, the most appealing sources of biomass energy today are typically biomass resources acquired for other purposes rather than biomass resources cultivated and managed as a specialized energy crop.