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Biomass & Pellets

Biomass

Biomass is organic matter, which includes forest and mill residues, agricultural crops and wastes, wood and wood wastes, animal wastes, livestock operation residues, aquatic plants, and municipal and industrial wastes. The biomass industry is receiving increasing attention from the public as scientists, policy makers, and growers search for clean, renewable energy alternatives. Compared with other renewable resources, biomass is very flexible; it can be used as a fuel for direct combustion, gasified, used in combined heat and power technologies, or biochemical conversions.

Pelletizing Biomass

Biomass pelletization is the process of reducing the bulk volume of the material, by mechanical means for easy handling, transportation and storage of material. In addition to the practical advantage of increased convenience, putting biomass in pellet form also decreases the moisture content, increases the density and maintains a high heating value.

Pelletizing Biomass - Pellet Specs
Advantage Specification
Uniform Size 1 1/2 long by 1/4" to 5/16" diameter
Uniform Density min. 40 lb/cu ft
Uniform Moisture Content 6 to 8% (wb)
High Heating Value 18.5 GJ/t
Chlorides (limited salt content) < 300 parts per gallon

Pellets for Fuel

Once wood waste biomass is compressed into pellet form, then those pellets can be distributed to consumers and used as fuel to heat a home via freestanding pellet stove, fireplace insert or furnace, or used as fuel in a dual coal-fired plant or as a stand-alone pellet-fueled electricity plant. If the biomass utilized is wood pellets then they will burn carbon-neutral. That means, that there will be no more carbon released into earth’s atmosphere by burning the wood pellets than a tree can absorb from the atmosphere. Essentially, there is a closed circle and no additional CO2 is emitted. The only residue from using wood pellets for fuel is a limited amount of ash that can be utilized as fertilizer.

Biomass Demand


Climate Change

One of the most pressing reasons for seeking alternative sources of energy and fuel lies in the form of climate change. While some detractors still doubt the reality of climate change, the concept has been whole-heartedly embraced by governments and consumers alike, becoming one of the most pressing issues of the early 21st Century.

Scientific evidence suggests that the combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2), which is considered to be a potent ‘greenhouse gas’ (GHG) – which, in turn, is considered to be responsible for global warming. Evidence of a global warming trend was deemed “unequivocal” by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 2, 2007. The IPCC further declared that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years.

Further evidence of climate change is apparent in that the flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade, and the increased number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes have nearly doubled in the last 30 years. Scientists also contend that plants and animals are not exempt from the ongoing climate crisis as more than 279 species have been forced from their current habitat and are moving towards the poles.

Hurricane Katrina - Satellite photo of the eye Hurricane Katrina IR image - Aug 26

In the IPCC’s recent report on the phenomenon, it warned that the earth’s average temperature, if left unchecked, could rise by as much as 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, leading to an increase in sea levels of 7 to 23 inches, a lack of drinking water for 1.1 to 3.2 billion people, famine for 200-600 million people and endangering the lives of up to 700 million people with floods.

As a result, governments around the world are attempting to alter their existing energy mix, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. At the same time, international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, mean that many governments are turning to new forms of renewable energy – such as biomass, biofuels, geothermal, hydro, solar and wind – in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the generation of power from non-hydro renewable sources will grow six-fold between now and 2030, mainly driven by wind and biomass. Biomass – and the biofuels derived from it – has great potential due to strong government backing and adequate availability of biomass sources.


Oil Dependence

An associated and similarly compelling reason to seek alternative energy solutions is to reduce the world’s reliance on oil by utilizing alternative forms of energy, e.g., biomass.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) contends in its 2007 World Energy Outlook that the price of oil will rise based on increased demand from industrializing nations (especially China and India), and the increased reliance on oil provided by OPEC nations. The IEA also predicts an average annual growth in demand of 2.2% for the next five years, which equates to approximately 96 million barrels a day. At the same time, the oil supply from non-OPEC nations will increase by just one percent (1%) a year and the reliance of large consuming countries on OPEC will continue to grow resulting in higher oil prices.

Oil’s rising prices and increasing demand, combined with the negative environmental impact associated with fossil fuel-energy combustion, is leading to a change in the public’s attitude. Reducing the world’s energy dependence on oil is imperative. In fact, according to the IEA, if world governments stick with their current policies the world’s energy needs would be more than 50% higher in 2030 than today, and global energy-related CO2 emissions will jump by 57% by 2030. As a result, IEA claims that “[U]rgent action is needed if greenhouse-gas concentrations are to be stabilized at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.”

U.S. Consumption, Production, & Imports of Oil, 1949-2005

Business Insights. The Biofuels Market Outlook. 2007.
NY Times, Global Warming, Science. February 2, 2007.
Krabill, W., E. Hanna, P. Huybrechts, W. Abdalati, J. Cappelen, B. Csatho, E. Frefick, S. Manizade, C. Martin, J, Sonntag, R. Swift, R. Thomas and J. Yungel. 2004. Greenland Ice Sheet: Increased coastal thinning. Geophysical Research Letters 31.
Emanuel, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436: 686-688.
http://www.climatecrisis.net/thescience
Business Insights. The Biofuels Market Outlook. 2007