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Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. It most often refers to plants or plant-derived materials which are specifically called lignocellulosic biomass. As a renewable energy source, biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Conversion of biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods which are broadly classified into: thermal, chemical, and biochemical methods. Historically, humans have harnessed biomass-derived energy since the time when people began burning wood to make fire. Even in today's modern era, biomass is the only source of fuel for domestic use in many developing countries.
1 Biomass sources 2 Comparison of total biomass yields (dry basis) 2.1 Common commodity food crops 2.2 Woody crops 2.3 Not yet in commercial planting 2.4 Genetically modified varieties 3 Biomass conversion process to useful energy 3.1 Thermal conversion 3.2 Chemical conversion 3.3 Biochemical conversion 4 Environmental impact 5 See also 6 References 7 External links
Living systems and collection of organic substances produced by living systems that are exploitable as materials, including recent postmortem residues. Note 1: Modified from ref.  to be more general. Note 2: In energy, fossil substances like oil and coal that are issued from the long-term transformation of substances of the biomass are sometime considered as parts of the biomass. Note 3: Living systems also produce minerals that are not integrated in biomass. 
Biomass is all biologically-produced matter based in carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The estimated biomass production in the world is 104.9 petagrams (104.9 * 1015 g) of carbon per year, about half in the ocean and half on land. Based on the source of biomass, biofuels are classified broadly into two major categories. First generation biofuels are derived from sources such as sugarcane and corn starch etc. Sugars present in these biomass are fermented to produce bioethanol, an alcohol fuel. Which can be used directly in a fuel cell to produce electricity or serve as an additive to gasoline. However, utilizing food based resource for fuel production aggravates food shortage problem. Second generation biofuels Wood is a typical source of biomass on the other hand utilize non food based biomass sources such as agriculture and municipal waste. It mostly consists of lignocellulosic biomass which is not edible and is a low value waste for many industries. Despite being the favored alternative economical production of second generation biofuel is not yet achieved due to technological issues. These issues arise mainly due to chemical inertness and structural rigidity of lignocellulosic biomass.
branches and tree stumps). total – 2. ethanol.5–8 tons of grain per hectare. Plant energy is produced by crops specifically grown for use as fuel that offer high biomass output per hectare with low input energy. Also.5–5. Waste energy is the second-largest source of biomass energy. Efforts are being made to identify which species of algae are most suitable for energy production. In the second sense. butanol. such as wood residues. willow. Algal biomass may be produced commercially for this specific purpose or as a byproduct of nutrient removal systems like the Algal Turf Scrubber used to re-oxygenate aquatic dead zones and waste water treatment. manufacturing waste. switchgrass.Wood remains the largest biomass energy source today.” a waste product from processes of the pulp.3 tons/acre Canola: seeds –.5 tons/acre. and agricultural and human waste. ranging from eucalyptus to oil palm (palm oil). or collecting from wood waste streams." Crops. Wood energy is derived by using lignocellulosic biomass (second generation biofuels) as fuel. biomass due to the fact that it’s a non-food resource and can be produced at rates 5 to 10 times those of other types of land-based agriculture. Rotting garbage. paper and paperboard industry. total – . Energy derived from biomass is projected to be the largest non-hydroelectric renewable resource of electricity in the U. carbon dioxide. are common in the United States. Animal husbandry residues. and landfill gas. examples include forest residues (such as dead trees. sugarcane. The use of plants as a biofuel source not only provides sustainability but also a way to reduce a major greenhouse gas. wood chips and even municipal solid waste. which typically yield 7. Plant biomass can also be degraded from cellulose to glucose through a series of chemical treatments. including miscanthus. biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research. stalks –. another transportation fuel. yard clippings. all release methane gas—also called "landfill gas" or "biogas. Once harvested. This is either using harvested wood directly as a fuel.9–2. and the resulting sugar can then be used as a first generation biofuel. and a variety of tree species. The grain can be used for liquid transportation fuels while the straw can be burned to produce heat or electricity. There is a great deal of research involving algal. Forest by-products.8 tons/acre. Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.6–2. including biofuels. and methane. which typically yield 3. corn. or algae-derived. mainly corn and soy. can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel. straw – 0. Biodiesel. it can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol. and straw. The biomass used for electricity generation varies by region. Agricultural waste is common in Mauritius (sugar cane residue) and Southeast Asia (rice husks). Some examples of these plants are wheat. such as poultry litter. can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. sorghum. bamboo. biomass includes plant or animal matter that can be converted into fibers or other industrial chemicals. The largest source of energy from wood is pulping liquor or “black liquor. poplar.S between 2000 and 2020.[citation needed ] The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste (MSW).5–5 tons per hectare in the UK. Comparison of total biomass yields (dry basis) Common commodity food crops Alfafa: 4–6 tons/acre Algae: Barley: grains – 1. as well as biodiesel and hydrogen. such as corn and sugar cane. Genetic engineering approaches could also be utilized to improve microalgae as a source of biofuel. are common in the UK. hemp. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants.
4–5.3–3.9 tons/acre.3–8.4 tons/acre.9–3. total – Rye: grains – 2.8–7. total – 5.5–5.8 tons/acre Sorghum: Soyabeans: Sugar beets: Sugar cane: Sun flowers: Sweet potatoes: Triticale: Wheat: grains – 1. total – 4.4 tons/acre.4–3.3 tons/acre Jerusalem artichokes: tubers –. straw – 1.6 tons/acre Potatoes: tubers –. total – Oats: grains – 1.2–4. tops –. total – 3. total – 2. stalks –.9 tons/acre Woody crops Coconuts: Gliricidia: Oil palm: Pine: Poplar: Not yet in commercial planting Energy beets Energy cane Giant miscanthus: 5–15 tons/acre  Switchgrass: 4–6 tons/acre Genetically modified varieties Energy Sorghum Biomass conversion process to useful energy .1–2.5–8.2 tons/acre.Corn: grains – 3. stalks and stovers – 2.6–3.1 tons/acre.4 tons/acre.4 tons/acre.2–4. straw – 1.8 tons/acre. straw – 2.
is particularly suited for countries where the fuel wood grow more rapidly. and allow them to be fuel for production of dendrothermal converted into more convenient forms. can provide fuel for various vital processes. and gasification are separated principally by the extent to which the chemical reactions involved are allowed to proceed (mainly controlled by the availability of oxygen and conversion temperature). In most cases. transported or stored. Production levels of 150 mg L-1H-1 iodomethane were achieved. efficiencies range from 7–27% (HHV basis). where only particular biomass materials can be used to produce a fuel. the first step involves gasification. Biomass is more difficult to feed into a pressure vessel than coal or any liquid. Chemical conversion A range of chemical processes may be used to convert biomass into other forms. This gas mixture. Biochemical conversion . glucose. Many of these processes are based in large part on similar coal-based processes. These chemical are then further reacted to produce hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels. or to exploit some property of the process itself. when used in power plants as a fuel for production of energy. olefins (ethylene and propylene). hydrogen. Some of the applications of thermal energy conversion are combined heat and power (CHP) and co-firing. and similar chemical or fuel feedstocks. Some have been developed for use on high Biomass briquettes are an example moisture content biomass. Other chemical processes such as converting straight and waste vegetable oils into biodiesel is transesterification. more experimental or proprietary thermal processes that may offer benefits such as hydrothermal upgrading (HTU) and hydroprocessing.g. NaI is significantly less hazardous than I2.Thermal conversion Thermal conversion processes use heat as the dominant mechanism to convert biomass into another chemical form. S-adenosylmethionine which is naturally occurring in S. such as to produce a fuel that is more conveniently used. There are a number of other less common. Biomass cofiring with coal. corn stover. Because any biomass material can undergo gasification. Conversion of biomass to biofuel can also be achieved via selective conversion of individual components of biomass. biomass gasification is a desirable process due to the ease at which it can convert solid waste (such as wastes available on a farm) into producer gas. called a producer gas. as well as substitute for furnace oil in direct heat applications. such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. methanol production. torrefaction. also known as dendrothermal energy. this process is far more attractive than ethanol or biomass production. typically occurs at efficiencies near those of the coal combustor (30–40%. and traces of methane. Energy created by burning biomass (fuel wood). Biomass also has the potential to be converted to multiple commodity chemicals. For example cellulose can be converted to intermediate platform chemical such a sorbitol. which is a very usable fuel. an advantage of this method is that it uses NaI rather than I2. pyrolysis. e. hydroxymethylfurfural etc. This method may be applied to produce ethylene in the future. In a typical  dedicated biomass power plant. In addition. cerevisiae allows a methyl group to be transferred. or poplar into halomethanes. biomass gasification is frequently done at atmospheric pressure and causes incomplete combustion of biomass to produce a combustible gas consisting of carbon monoxide. Therefore. tropical countries. HHV basis). cerevisiae. This method converts NaX salts and unprocessed biomass such as switchgrass. This type of energy is technically called dendrothermal energy. However. such as internal combustion engines. The basic alternatives of combustion. which step generally is the most expensive and involves the greatest technical risk. sugar cane. including aqueous slurries. fermentans and engineered S. At these levels roughly 173000L of capacity would need to be operated just to replace the United States’ need for iodomethane. Halomethanes have successfully been by produced using a combination of A. by contrast.
A microbial electrolysis cell can be used to directly make hydrogen gas from plant matter. many highly efficient biochemical processes have developed in nature to break down the molecules of which biomass is composed. and composting. As biomass is a natural material. VOCs (volatile organic compounds).4 percent of the U. The 140 MW facility uses sugar cane fiber (bagasse) and recycled urban wood as fuel to generate enough power for its large milling and refining operations as well as to supply renewable electricity for nearly 60. Using biomass as a fuel produces air pollution in the form of carbon monoxide. .000 MW of summer operating capacity actively supplying power to the grid. NOx (nitrogen oxides). which consists of approximately 11. carbon dioxide. produces about 1. and by recycling sugar cane and wood waste.000 homes. In 2009 a Swedish study of the giant brown haze that periodically covers large areas in South Asia determined that it had been principally produced by biomass burning. fermentation. Currently.S. The facility reduces dependence on oil by more than one million barrels per year. which is associated with recent plant life rather than with fossil fuels. preserves landfill space in urban communities in Florida. microorganisms are used to perform the conversion process: anaerobic digestion. A cogeneration station in Metz. Black carbon – a pollutant created by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. biofuels. Environmental impact The biomass power generating industry in the United States. The 45MW boiler uses waste particulates and other pollutants. in some cases at levels above those from traditional wood biomass as energy source. France. Researchers measured a significant concentration of 14C. electricity supply. In most cases. and many of these biochemical conversion processes can be harnessed. fuel sources such as coal or natural gas. and to a lesser extent by fossilfuel burning. and biomass – is possibly the second largest contributor to global warming. the New Hope Power Partnership is the largest biomass power plant in North America. Biochemical conversion makes use of the enzymes of bacteria and other microorganisms to break down biomass.
S. When a tree’s carbon is released into the atmosphere in a single pulse. The grass sequesters the carbon in its increased root biomass. use of fossil fuels. many of the biomass plants are old. many are based on technologies developed during the term of U. use outdated technology and were not built to comply with today’s stringent standards. When the biomass is from forests. both living and dead. . plant matter used as a fuel can be replaced by planting for new growth. Biomass is sometimes considered a carbon neutral source of energy because the carbon dioxide released into atmosphere by using biomass is recovered again by growth of new biomass. Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas by trapping heat leading to a rise in global warming. built up over years. According to a study conducted in early 2012. biomass is expected to be about twice as expensive as natural gas. President Jimmy Carter. In the United States. On combustion. In another EIA study released. In contrast. Biomass power plant size is often driven by biomass availability in close proximity as transport costs of the (bulky) fuel play a key factor in the plant's economics. alternative electricity-production sources on the whole generate about 13% of power. Despite harvesting.It is also proposed that use of biomass as an alternative source of energy will reduce further increase of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. Current studies indicate that "even after 50 years the forest has not recovered to its initial carbon storage" and "the optimal strategy is likely to be protection of the standing forest". Such small power plants can be found in Europe. the time to recapture the carbon stored is generally longer. that rail and especially shipping on waterways can reduce transport costs significantly. include inconsistent fuel supplies and age. biomass crops may sequester carbon. intact forests sequester carbon more effectively than cut-over areas. releases "new carbon" which has been locked away in the form of hydrocarbon fuels in the earths crust since millions of years. The proposal that biomass is carbon-neutral put forward in the early 1990s has been superseded by more recent science that recognizes that mature. Industry professionals claim that a range of issues can affect a plant’s ability to comply with emissions standards. It has to be noted. The pros and cons of biomass usage regarding carbon emissions are summed up in the ILUC factor.S. of the 107 operating biomass plants in the United States. The biomass industry has been trying to avoid or delay the usage of the ILUC factor. the agency assumed that 598 million tons of biomass would be available. Typically. according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. however. biomass contributes approximately 11% of the alternative production. who created the United States Department of Energy in 1977. For example. the production of these plants has increased 14%. and much less expensive than solar panels. Energy Information Administration projected that by 2017. which has led to a global biomass market. slightly more expensive than nuclear power. and much less soil disruption in cultivation. it contributes to climate change much more than woodland timber rotting slowly over decades. The amount of carbon stored in dry wood is approximately 50% by weight. 85 have been cited by federal or state regulators for the violation of clean air or water standards laws over the past 5 years. unique to biomass plants. soil organic carbon has been observed to be greater in switchgrass stands than in cultivated cropland soil. The adoption of biomass-based energy plants has been a slow but steady process. the carbon from biomass is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO 2). The U. concerning the government’s plan to implement a 25% renewable energy standard by 2025. of this fraction. Furthermore. the fuel can be in the form of building debris or agricultural waste (such as deforestation of invasive species or orchard trimmings). This data also includes minor infractions. accounting for 12% of the renewable energy in the plan. In fact. However. The type and amount of the fuel supply is completely reliant factors. Over the past decade. perennial crops sequester much more carbon than annual crops due to much greater non-harvested living biomass. and the carbon storage capacity of the forest may be reduced overall if destructive forestry techniques are employed. Some of these challenges. a cycle similar to the water steam power process just with an organic working medium. To make small plants of 1 MWel economically profitable those power plants have need to be equipped with technology that is able to convert biomass to useful electricity with high efficiency such as ORC technology. especially at depths below 12 inches.
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