Biomass As a Credible Energy Alternative

With all that’s been said about biomass, it seems, literally, to be the reply to the energy crisis. Biomass presents the planet with a self-sustaining and replenishable energy resource in perpetuity. Among its benefits are listed job development, carbon neutrality plus a capacity that all but replaces fossil fuels.

Biomass energy is the utilization of energy stored in organic matter. These organic matters are occasionally burned directly to produce heat or processed to produce fuel such as ethanol or other alcohol fuels which can be converted to liquid transportation fuels, used readily by current-generation vehicles. The fuel cycles created by biomass processing wouldn’t have any greenhouse emissions, and this processing is currently easily convertible and compatible with the present infrastructure of energy in the world.

Plants and sunlight

Plants have many properties that make them perfect for biomass energy use and processing. Using biomass energy is actually an indirect way of using energy in the sun. Because plants are solar collectors, they readily store energy as a fact of their biology. Plants are self-regenerating as well, and they are totally and thickly recyclable.

The timber industry generates sawdust, wood mill and slash scrap that are all considered organic substances. In South Africa where some 18 million tons of wood per annum have chosen the output signal of forest biomass is estimated to be approximately 6.7 million tons. The accessible portion is approximately 60 percent of the entire which equates to approximately 1.5 million tons of biomass annually. Viewed broadly this biomass could replace about one million tons of coal, making carbon neutral forest biomass a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

By no means exclusive to forestry, biomass is virtually everywhere. In the agricultural industry, residuals like bagasse (fibers) from sugarcane, straw from rice and nutshells as well as manure lagoons from cattle, poultry and hog farms are useable. In towns, newspaper and yard wastes are acceptable for biomass processing. See: Heizomat Canada | Fully Automated Woodchip Heating

Biomass generates electricity

These organic substances can be captured and converted to fuels suitable for generating electricity. The planting of plants such as fast-growing trees and grasses particularly for energy production, also can prevent soil erosion and reduce global warming.

As per a recent paper entitled’Carbon sequestration through biomass power’,

Worldwide, biomass accounts for 15 percent of the energy source. Considerably more significant as a power supply in developing nations than in industrial countries, Biomass supplies 70-90% of the energy needs of Africa, 32 percent in China, and in Brazil, 33%.

In contrast, the USA gets just four percentage of its energy from biomass. However, in america, investment and accessible technology can raise the feasibility and efficacy of developing biomass as an energy crop and converting biomass into some more carbon-neutral energy source.

Estimates of energy capacity in the US generated from biomass range from 7 000 into 10,000 MW. Greater competition in the energy industry and technological improvements in biomass power generation are likely to increase the possible levels of energy from biomass. If these increases in biomass capacity replace some of the energy supplied by fossil fuels, this will lessen the US CO2 emission rate by as much as one third.

In South Africa, among the Nation’s biomass projects is at Mondi Business Paper’s Richards Bay Mill, about 180km away from Durban.

Coal-fired boilers are presently used at Mondi Richards Bay to create heat and power for the production of pulp and linerboard. If necessary, modifications will be performed to existing precipitators so as to take care of emissions from the additional biomass load in the boiler and to ensure that emissions amounts comply with national legislation.

The project focuses on the collection and recovery of biomass waste, to be used in the generation of renewable energy as an alternate fuel to coal for overall purposes and specifically to create steam from the power boiler onsite.

The collections consist of penalties, wood chips and logs currently being used as landfill at a Richards Bay Municipal Landfill site and a few plantation waste now abandoned in the plantations to rust.

Mondi SilvaCel and other wood processors (chippers) in the region of Richards Bay presently transportation and landfill their biomass waste in a local municipal landfill site. With the execution of this project, these surgeries will no longer use biomass waste as crap. In addition, other potential sources of biomass waste from surrounding plantations (stumps, off-cuts( and branches) normally abandoned in the plantations can be retrieved and processed into gasoline.

A more high profile job is at the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ). An investment of R70 million was secured for a biomass fuel project which will supply 10 000 tons of the product a month to European markets.

Job production

The plant is going to be among the largest among the 285 biomass operations worldwide. Based on Eastern Cape Biomass Fuel Pellets CEO Willie Claassen, the project would create approximately 100 jobs during the building of the plant, an extra 60 direct jobs and approximately 3000 indirect work in the Eastern Cape rural places.

The Coega plant will use forest residue, sawmill waste and alien vegetation in the Eastern Cape and part of the southern Cape as well as some scrap wood in the government’s working for water programme.

Weighing up it, energy biomass, as a carbon-neutral source of energy, some say, is perfect for replacing fossil fuels. This has the extra benefit of counteracting the impact of global warming and in so doing could be eligible for the usage of carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Others state that Biomass cannot fully replace the big volumes of petroleum and other fossil fuels currently in use but it may make a significant contribution to supplying fuels and chemicals similar to those derived from oil.