​​Biomass Energy



Biomass Time line:


  • A gas company in London, England, demonstrates the first commercial use of pyrolysis, heating biomass in an oxygen-free environment to produce a liquid oil.

  • First commercially used biomass gasifier, in view of supplying fuel substitutes for road transport,etc; is built in France.

  • Wood is the primary fuel for heating and cooking in homes and businesses, and is used for steam in industry, trains and boats.

  • Gasifiers are used with engines for power generation.

  • The Otto Cycle, invented by German scientist Nicolaus August Otto, is the first combustion engine to use ethanol-blended gasoline.

  • Henry Ford uses ethanol to fuel one of his first automobiles, the quadricycle.

  • Coal begins to displace wood used in steam generation.

  • Vegetable oil is used as a diesel fuel when German inventor Rudolf Diesel demonstrates that a diesel engine can run on peanut oil.

  • When designing his Model T car, Henry Ford expects ethanol to be the major fuel used by motorists. He builds an ethanol fermentation plant in Atchison, Kansas, to manufacture ethanol for motor fuels.

  • Although wood remains the fuel of choice in rural homes in North America, coal begins to replace the use of wood in city homes.

  • Kerosene and fuel oil begin to replace wood as primary energy source.
  • In the United States, ethanol is used to fuel cars well into the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1930s, for example, more than 2,000 service stations in the U.S. Midwest sell “gasohol” (ethanol made from corn).

  • After World War II, the ethanol fuel industry closes down in the United States, with the arrival of low-priced, abundant petroleum fuels.

  • Electricity and natural gas displace wood heat in most homes and commercial buildings.

  • Concerns about crude oil supplies and environmental quality lead to renewed interest in ethanol and other biomass energy sources. Governments begin to fund research into converting biomass into useful energy and fuels.
  • Companies such as Chevron, Texaco and Amoco Oil Company begin to market ethanol-blended fuels to U.S. consumers.

  • High energy prices create new interest in biomass energy in Canada. In Atlantic Canada, for example, large institutions and schools modify district heating systems to run on wood wastes.
  • Biomass power plants are built in North America.
  • A large biomass power industry quickly develops in California. By 1985, the state has 850 megawatts of installed biomass power capacity.

  • As public concerns about environmental issues such as air pollution and climate change grow, governments in Canada and elsewhere take a greater interest in using renewable energy, such as biomass, to decrease greenhouse gases and other emissions.

  • In the United States, the Clean Air Act mandates the sale of oxygenated fuels (such as ethanol-blended gasoline) in areas of the country with higher levels of carbon monoxide. The Act helps to stimulate rapid growth in the use of ethanol fuels for transportation. Ethanol production grows from 175 million gallons (approximately 663 million liters) in 1980 to 2.8 billion gallons (approximately 10.6 billion liters) in 2003.
  • Increasing environmental concerns and changes in government policies spur production of bio diesel fuels in Europe and the United States.
  • According to the United Nations, biomass energy consumption is about 6.7 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption.

  • The Canadian government grants an excise tax exemption for ethanol used in blended fuels.

  • A survey of 133 countries by the International Energy Agency shows that the biomass share of total energy consumption is 10.5 per cent.

* Nicolaus Otto built the first four-stroke engine called the "Otto Cycle Engine". Soon after that he completed it he built it into a motorcycle.*

ford.gif * The first developed automobile was by Henry Ford. After two years of experimentation, Ford had completed his first experimental automobile. He called his creation Quadricycle, because it ran on four wheels. The success of the vehicle led to the Henry Ford Company and the Ford Motor Company. *

* Rudolf Diesel's first engine ran on peanut oil at the World Exhibition in Paris 1900 much to astonishment of scientists and engineers. But he died before his vision of vegetable oil powered engines became a reality. *

Q.) What is biomass?
A.) Biomass is a renewable energy source, its a biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, (hydrogen) gas, and alcohol fuels. Despite its wide use in developing countries, biomass energy is usually used so inefficiently that only a small percentage of its useful energy is obtained.

Past: The Plains Indians and the early settlers used buffalo chips to build a fire and to heat their tepees and sod huts. This was the first use of biomass energy in America.
Plutarch writes about "eternal fires," probably a reference to natural gas. Hopi Indians use coal for cooking, heating, firing pottery.

1800's: Up until the 1860s, the U.S. used biomass, in the form of wood, for nearly 91% of all energy consumption. Wood is the primary fuel for heating and cooking in homes and businesses. In 1890 coal begins to displace wood for usage of steam generation.

1900's: The overall efficiency in use is only 5-15%. The first small plants began producing electricity in 1922-1923. Instead of burning non-renewable resources, biomass power plants com bust wood waste to generate electricity. Coal begins to replace wood in city homes. Electricity and natural gas displace wood heat in most homes and commercial buildings. Although presently the majority of humankind’s energy requirements are fulfilled by fossil fuel combustion, 14% of the world still utilizes biomass. Governments begin to fund research into converting biomass into useful energy and fuels. High energy prices create new interest in biomass energy in Canada. Canada and elsewhere take a greater interest in using renewable energy because of problems such as air pollution and climate change. According to the United Nations, biomass energy consumption is about 6.7 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption. The Canadian government grants an excise tax exemption for ethanol used in blended fuels.

Present: Today biomass supplies almost 15 times as much energy in the United States as wind and solar combined-and has the potential to supply much more. There are a wide variety of biomass energy resources such as trees and grass crops and forestry, agricultural, and urban wastes. It's the oldest source known to humans. Since our ancestors learned the secret of fire. The average American produces more than 1,600 pounds of waste a year. The use of biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide, biomass is the fourth largest energy resource after coal, oil and natural gas.


^^ One way biomass can be burned and then used. ^^

Sources: ---->


Biofuels are a form of renewable energy that are made from once-living materials.

Energy Crops: Plants grown specifically for energy production
Biomass Residues: Waste that can be converted into energy

Ways to Covert Biomass into Energy:
1. Burning

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2. Co-firing

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3. Thermochemical

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4. Biochemical

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5. Chemical

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Sources Cited:




Overall biofuel/biomass is cheaper than regular gasoline. The estimated cost to make electricity from biomass ranges from 5.2 to 6.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. How much it cost depends on financing, location, system design and fuel cost. New gasification technologies may lower the cost of generating electric power, in the near future. The new technologies could cost 2.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. For biomass-fueled power planets the continuous supply of fuel may be uncertain. It takes large amounts of biomass to make fuel. The fuel transportation, storage and handling cost are a major part of the energy production.


Naturally-occurring anaerobic digestion in solid waste landfills produces methane, which can be used to generate electricity. In Oregon, electricity from landfiil gas is cost-competitive with nature gas power. It costs around 2.9 to 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
At wastewater treatment plants that use anaerobic digesters as part of the treatment system, methane is a by-product of the treatment process. Wastewater treatment planets will somethimes use digester gas to make electricity and change the cost of buying the power. The treatment planets get an 'income' for treating wastewater, so the planets have a declining feedstock cost for power generation from their methane gas. The making of electric power from anaerobic digestion of animal dung is about 3.7 to 5.4 cent per kilowatt-hour.

car_powered_by_biogas.jpg<-------this car is runned by biogas

The cost of this farm-site manure digester depends on the conditions and the number of animals on that farm. The plug-flow digester is designed to process the dung of 500 cows, in which will make you $230,000 to $260,000. Any electricity and heat generates from digester gas will decrease farm energy costs. The cost of building and operating the equipment the digester can be found from the sales of the products and also from the energy cost savings. It is very expensive to construct a manure digester.There's a cost to a alternative manure management and cleanup measures that gives no income for the dairy operator.

Ethanol Production:

The cost of making ethanol depends on the cost of the feedstock used and the amount of the production. About 85% of ethanol production capacity in the US relies on corn feedstock. Producing ethanol from corn cost around $1.10 per gallon. Even though there is no current commercial production for ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks, (examples: agricultural wastes, grasses and wood), its production cost of the cellulosic feedstocks is around $1.15 to $1.43 per gallon.

ethanol.gif<---------this is a ehtanol molucle

Since a gallon of ethanol has less energy than a gallon of gas, the production cost of ethanol must be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to make an energy-cost comparison with gasoline. This means that if ethanol cost $1.10 per gallon to produce, then the effective cost per gallon to equal the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is $1.65. In contrast, the current wholesale price of gasoline is about 90 cents per gallon.

The federal motor fuel excise tax on gasohol is 5.4 cents less per gallon than the text on straight gasoline. Which also means that the federal subsidy is 54 cents per gallon of ethanol, when the ethanol is blended with gasoline. This subsidy makes ethanol-blened fuel competitive in the marketplace and stimulates the growth of an ethanol production and distribution infrastructure.

Biodiesal Production:


this is rapeseed

A major commercial biodiesel production is the cost of producin the fuel. Vegetable oil seed procurement, transport, storage, and oil extraction accounts for at least 75%of the cost of producing biodiesel. The cost depends on the feedstock used. For example, based on the market price for industrial rapeseed grown in Washington and Idaho, the cost of making biodiesel is $2.56 per gallon of rapeseed methyl ester. Current estimates put the cost of production around $1.30 per gallon (using waste grease feedstock) to $2.00 or more per gallon (using soybean oil).


If we blended fuel of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel, then it could decrease the production cost to around $1.10 per gallon. This is only assuming that petroleum diesel costs 90 cents per gallon and soybean biodiesel costs $1.80. If we use lower-cost organic oil feedstock, (for examplewaste food-processing oil or tallow) then this would decrease the production cost of biodiesel and biodiesel-blended fuel.


Local Expert:

Biomass is matter usually thought of as garbage. Some of it is just stuff lying around. Dead trees, tree branches, yard clippings, left-over crops, wood chips and bark and sawdust from lumber mills. It can even include used tires and livestock manure. Your trash, paper products that can't be recycled into other paper products, and other household waste are normally sent to the dump. Your trash contains some types of biomass that can be reused. Recycling biomass for fuel and other uses cuts down on the need for landfills to hold garbage.

How Biofuel effects our environment

Unlike any other energy resource, using biomass to produce energy is often a way to dispose of biomass waste materials that otherwise would create environmental risks. In the following ways, using biomass for energy can deliver unique environmental dividends as well as useful energy.
Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and certain other gases are called greenhouse gases because they trap heat in the Earth´s atmosphere. The global concentration of and other greenhouse gases is increasing. A natural greenhouse effect of trace gases and water vapor warms the atmosphere and makes the Earth habitable. However, human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are having an effect on regional climate and weather patterns. The rate and magnitude of climate change effects are not yet clear.
When biomass crops are grown, a nearly equivalent amount of carbon dioxide is captured through photosynthesis. Each of the different forms and uses of biomass impact the environment in a different way.The smoke from burning wood contains pollutants like carbon monoxide and particulate matter, some areas of the country won't allow the use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves on high pollution days. A special clean-burning technology can be added to wood-burning fireplaces and stoves so that they can be used even on days with the worst pollution.Burning municipal solid waste ( garbage) and wood waste to produce energy means that less of it has to get buried in landfills. Like coal plants, waste-to-energy plants produce air pollution when the fuel is burned to produce steam or electricity. Burning garbage releases the chemicals and substances found in the waste. Some of these chemicals can be dangerous to people, the environment, or both, if they are not properly controlled.Plants that burn waste to make electricity must use technology to prevent harmful gases and particles from coming out of their smoke stacks. The particles that are filtered out are added to the ash that is removed from the bottom of the furnace. Because the ash may contain harmful chemicals and metals, it must be disposed of carefully.
Biogas is a gas composed mainly of methane and carbon dioxide that forms as a result of biological processes in sewage treatment plants, waste landfills, and livestock manure management systems. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases associated with global climate change.1 Many of these facilities capture and burn the biogas for heat or electricity generation. Burning methane is actually beneficial because methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The electricity generated from biogas is considered "green power" in many states and may be used to meet state renewable portfolio standards.

Trees and plants remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, forming new biomass as they grow. Carbon is stored in biomass. When biomass is burned, carbon returns to the atmosphere in the form of. This cycle makes it possible for biomass
energy to avoid increasing the net amount of in the atmosphere.There is no net increase in atmospheric if the new growth of plants and trees fully replaces the supply of biomass consumed for energy. However, if the collection or processing of biomass consumes any fossil fuel, additional biomass would need to be grown to offset the carbon released from the fossil fuel.
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The climate change is growing very large by the way biomass is affecting the earth. Human activity, primarily through the combustion of fossil fuels, has released hundreds of millions of tons of so-called greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The concern is that all of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will change the Earth’s climate, disrupting the entire biosphere which currently supports life as we know it. Biomass energy technologies can help minimize the concern. Although both methane and carbon dioxide pose significant threats, CH4 is 20 times more potent (though shorter-lived in the atmosphere) than carbon dioxide. Capturing methane from landfills, wastewater treatment, and manure lagoons prevents the methane from being vented to the atmosphere and allows the energy to be used to generate electricity or power motor vehicles.In other words, the carbon dioxide released while burning biomass is absorbed by the next crop growing.

The technology of direct combustion as the most obvious way of extracting energy from biomass is well understood, straightforward and commercially available. Combustion systems come in a wide range of shapes and sizes burning virtually any kind of fuel, from chicken manure and straw bales to tree trunks, municipal refuse and scrap tyres. Some of the ways in which heat from burning wastes is currently used include space and water heating, industrial processing and electricity generation. One problem with this method is its very low efficiency. With an open fire most of the heat is wasted and is not used to cook or whatever.
Combustion of wood can be divided into four phases
  • Water inside the wood boils off. Even wood that has been dried for ages has as much as 15 to 20% of water in its cell structure.
  • Gas content is freed from the wood. It is vital that these gases should burn and not just disappear up the chimney.
  • The gases emitted mix with atmospheric air and burn at a high temperature.
  • The rest of the wood (mostly carbon) burns. In perfect combustion the entire energy is used and all that is left is a little pile of ashes.
Three things are needed for effective burning:
  • high enough temperatures;
  • enough air, and
  • enough time for full combustion.

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Biomass power in use today is burned for heat or used to make ethanol, more efficint technologies are also being developed.
  • biomass power plants across the country burn agricultural waste to generate electricity for industries and residents. A biomass plant in burlington, Vermont, for instance, uses wood waste to generate 50 magawatts of electricity annually, or enough to power more than 120,000 area homes.
  • More than 100 biomass plants in 31 states burn methane gas generated from landfill.
  • in the southeast and pacific northwest, the lumber, pulp and paper industries supply 60% of the energy they need to run thir factories by burning wood waste.

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