The Advantages of Biomass Combustion

February 23, 2012

Learn bioethanol, biodiesel, and other biofuels are produced, and the key advantages of biomass over conventional fuels.

Biomass Fuel And Alternatives

The advantages of biomass combustion are many. While biomass combustion, also known as biomass gasification, is more expensive than standard fuel combustion, it has benefits for the environment that standard fuel power does not.

  • Lower carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide produced by biomass combustion tends to be quite low in comparison with that made during standard combustion. It's typically rated at about one kilogram of carbon monoxide produced per one ton of biomass that is utilized. The number is several times that for standard fuel
  • Lower particulates. When standard fuel is burned, a large quantity of particulate matter is ejected into the atmosphere. This contributes to greenhouse gas, heating of the environment, general pollution and more. However, when biomass combustion takes place, a relatively smaller amount of particulate matter is produced. Additionally, this particulate matter can be controlled more easily
  • Ash production. The ashes made during biomass combustion can be burned away to a degree of 99 percent through simple removal techniques. Those produced by standard fuel combustion are much more difficult to get rid of and can cause a number of different problems for fuel disposal teams

How Fuel Comes from Biomass

Anything that is living is called as biomass. This type of fuel can be made from a variety of plants, vegetable oils or animal fats. Biofuels are becoming more common and have enjoyed increased attention from both the scientific community and the public.

Bioethanol
This biofuel is made by producing an alcohol from fermenting sugar components of various plants. It is usually created from sugar or starch crops such as corn, wheat, sugar cane, or sugar beets. Bioethanol, in its purest form can be used to power a car. It is more frequently used as an additive to gasoline to increase the octane levels. It is widely used in America and Brazil. The majority of modern cars can run on fuel with ethanol levels up to 15 percent. The energy required to grow, harvest, and process the crops used in ethanol largely offset the gains it offers.

Biodiesel
This fuel is made from animal fats, vegetable oils and even recycled grease. The process of transesterification is used to convert the vegetable oils and fats to biodiesal. Common sources of biodiesel are soy, mustard, flax, sunflower and rapeseed. Just like bioethanol, it can be used in its pure form to power a vehicle. It is more commonly used as an additive in diesel fuel. It helps reduce the amount of carbon monoxide and particulates released by diesel powered vehicles. It is most commonly used in Europe. Pure biodiesel is called B100. Most modern vehicles can run on diesel that is up to 15 percent biodiesal.

Other Biofuels
While bioethanol and biodisel are the two most common biofuels, there are numerous others in development and use. Additional biofuels that are creating interest are vegetable oil, green diesel, biogas, syngas, and solid biofuels.

Interesting Facts about Biomass Fuels

  • Most waste agricultural products can be used to create biofuels. For example, certain plants can be used to produce liquid alcohol fuels like ethanol and methanol. Both ethanol and methanol can be used to run trucks and cars and buses for transport. The most ethanol and methanol are produced by Midwestern states as they produce a huge amount of corn that is used to ferment and produce the alcohol. The types of biomass fuels will also depend on the source materials that are used to create it. For example, gasohol is a fuel mixture of gas and biomass fuel or ethanol that is commonly used in the Midwest
  • Municipal solid waste or MSW is also commonly used to create biomass. Almost 20% of the biofuels used nowadays are from MSW. This waste can include organic waste like wood, paper, food water and yard waste like leaves. There are at present about 116 waste to energy facilities in the US that deal with producing waste energy
  • Landfill gas is also produced from the breakdown of organic material at landfills. This gas is added to natural gas pipelines to generate energy
  • Production of biomass is labor intensive and most production units are located close to the raw material source. As a result, you will find that a good biomass unit will create employment opportunities for the rural population where the plant is located
  • Biomass fuels also protect the environment, as they are produced from waste products which would have been burned. They are also low in sulfur and other contaminants

The fact is that properly managed fuel and resources can make biofuels one of the best renewable resources that we can have. At present, the process is still in the nascent stages. Fuel prices for the fuel have not yet been fixed and the process is not standardized.

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