BIOMASS Biomass is obtained from any plant, human or animal derived organic matter.

Wood from trees, agricultural crops, wood factory waste, and the construction industry Burnt wood from forest fires..Animals and animal droppings. Biomass was the first fuel mankind learned to use for energy. Burning wood for warmth and cooking and keeping wild animals away. Some of the earliest power plants in America were fueled by wood material. It was an abundant fuel in many parts of the country where logging took place. It burned much cleaner than coal and it was available before abundant oil and natural gas was discovered Many cultures used animal dung to burn, and some are still doing this today Biomass Resources Biomass resources include any organic matter available on a renewable basis, including dedicated energy crops and trees, agricultural food and feed crops, agricultural crop wastes and residues, wood wastes and residues, aquatic plants, animal wastes, municipal wastes, and other waste materials. Material handling, collection logistics and infrastructure are important aspects of the biomass resource supply chain. Resources Herbaceous Energy Crops Herbaceous energy crops are perennials that are harvested annually after taking two to three years to reach full productivity. These include such grasses as switchgrass, miscanthus (also known as Elephant grass or e-grass), bamboo, sweet sorghum, tall fescue, kochia, wheatgrass, and others. Woody Energy Crops Short-rotation woody crops are fast growing hardwood trees harvested within five to eight years after planting. These include hybrid poplar, hybrid willow, silver maple, eastern cottonwood, green ash, black walnut, sweetgum, and sycamore. Industrial Crops Industrial crops are being developed and grown to produce specific industrial chemicals or materials. Examples include kenaf and straws for fiber, and castor for ricinoleic acid. New transgenic crops are being developed that produce the desired chemicals as part of the plant composition, requiring only extraction and purification of the product. Agricultural Crops These feedstocks include the currently available commodity products such as cornstarch and corn oil; soybean oil and meal; wheat starch, other vegetable oils, and any newly developed component of future commodity crops. They generally yield sugars, oils, and extractives, although they can also be used to produce plastics and other chemicals and products. Aquatic Crops A wide variety of aquatic biomass resources exist such as algae, giant kelp, other seaweed, and marine microflora. Commercial examples include giant kelp extracts for thickeners and food additives, algal dyes, and novel biocatalysts for use in bioprocessing under extreme environments. Agriculture Crop Residues Agriculture crop residues include biomass, primarily stalks and leaves, not harvested or removed from the fields in commercial use. Examples include corn stover (stalks, leaves,

husks and cobs), wheat straw, and rice straw. With approximately 80 million acres of corn planted annually, corn stover is expected to become a major biomass resource for bioenergy applications. Forestry Residues Forestry residues include biomass not harvested or removed from logging sites in commercial hardwood and softwood stands as well as material resulting from forest management operations such as pre-commercial thinnings and removal of dead and dying trees. Municipal Waste Residential, commercial, and institutional post-consumer wastes contain a significant proportion of plant derived organic material that constitute a renewable energy resource. Waste paper, cardboard, wood waste and yard wastes are examples of biomass resources in municipal wastes. Biomass Processing Residues All processing of biomass yields byproducts and waste streams collectively called residues, which have significant energy potential. Residues are simple to use because they have already been collected. For example, processing of wood for products or pulp produces sawdust and collection of bark, branches and leaves/needles. Animal Wastes Farms and animal processing operations create animal wastes that constitute a complex source of organic materials with environmental consequences. These wastes can be used to make many products, including energy.


BIOMASS COMBUSTION The simplest way, and oldest way, of generating electricity from biomass is to burn it. This is called direct combustion. Direct combustion (or “direct-fired”) systems burn biomass in

boilers to produce high pressure steam. This steam turns a turbine connected to a generator. As the steam causes the turbine to rotate, the generator turns and electricity is produced. Most of the world’s biomass power plants use direct combustion. In some cases, the steam from the plants is also captured to heat water and buildings. These are known as cogeneration facilities. Although this technology is dependable and proven, its efficiency is limited. Direct combustion systems typically have thermal efficiencies around 20 per cent. These efficiencies can be increased through cogeneration.

What Is a Biorefinery? A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and chemicals from biomass. The biorefinery concept is analogous to today's petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum. Industrial biorefineries have been identified as the most promising route to the creation of a new domestic biobased industry.

By producing multiple products, a biorefinery can take advantage of the differences in biomass components and intermediates and maximize the value derived from the biomass feedstock. A biorefinery might, for example, produce one or several low-volume, but highvalue, chemical products and a low-value, but high-volume liquid transportation fuel, while

generating electricity and process heat for its own use and perhaps enough for sale of electricity. The high-value products enhance profitability, the high-volume fuel helps meet national energy needs, and the power production reduces costs and avoids greenhouse-gas emissions. Conceptual Biorefinery NREL's biorefinery concept is built on two different "platforms" to promote different product slates. The "sugar platform" is based on biochemical conversion processes and focuses on the fermentation of sugars extracted from biomass feedstocks. The "syngas platform" is based on thermochemical conversion processes and focuses on the gasification of biomass feedstocks and by-products from conversion processes. Integrated Biorefineries In addition to reducing dependence on foreign oil, fostering a domestic biorefinery industry modeled after petrochemical refineries is a primary objective of the Biomass Program. Existing industries such as wet-mill corn processing and pulp and paper mills fit the multipleproducts-from-biomass definition of a biorefinery, but the goal is to foster new industries converting lignocellulosic biomass into a wide range of products, including ones that would otherwise be made from petrochemicals. As with petrochemical refineries, the vision is that the biorefinery would produce both high-volume liquid transportation fuel (meeting national energy needs) and high-value chemicals or products (enhancing operation economics). Sugar Platform Biorefineries would likely break biomass down into different types of component sugars for fermentation or other biological processing into various fuels and chemicals. Thermochemical biorefineries would likely convert biomass to synthesis gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) or pyrolysis oil, the various components of which could be directly used as fuel or converted to other fuels and chemicals by chemical catalysis.

Thermochemical Platform
Biomass combustion, such as burning wood, has been one of man's primary ways of deriving energy from biomass from prehistoric times to the present. It is not, however, very efficient. Converting the solid biomass to a gaseous or liquid fuel by heating it with limited oxygen prior to combustion can greatly increase the overall efficiency, and also make it possible to instead convert the biomass to valuable chemicals or materials. U.S. Department of Energy Biomass Program researchers help lead a national effort to develop thermochemical technologies to more efficiently tap the enormous energy potential of lignocellulosic biomass. In addition to gasification, pyrolysis, and other thermal processing, program research focuses on cleaning up and conditioning the converted fuel, a key step for effective commercial use of thermochemical platform chemicals. Biomass Gasification When biomass is heated with no oxygen or only about one-third the oxygen needed for efficient combustion (amount of oxygen and other conditions determine if biomass gasifies or pyrolyzes), it gasifies to a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen—synthesis gas or syngas.

Combustion is a function of the mixture of oxygen with the hydrocarbon fuel. Gaseous fuels mix with oxygen more easily than liquid fuels, which in turn mix more easily than solid fuels. Syngas therefore inherently burns more efficiently and cleanly than the solid biomass from which it was made. Biomass gasification can thus improve the efficiency of large-scale biomass power facilities such as those for forest industry residues and specialized facilities such as black liquor recovery boilers of the pulp and paper industry—both major sources of biomass power. Like natural gas, syngas can also be burned in gas turbines, a more efficient electrical generation technology than steam boilers to which solid biomass and fossil fuels are limited. Most electrical generation systems are relatively inefficient, losing half to two-thirds of the energy as waste heat. If that heat can be used for an industrial process, space heating, or another purpose, efficiency can be greatly increased. Small modular biopower systems are more easily used for such "cogeneration" than most large-scale electrical generation. Just as syngas mixes more readily with oxygen for combustion, it also mixes more readily with chemical catalysts than solid fuels do, greatly enhancing its ability to be converted to other valuable fuels, chemicals and materials. The Fischer-Tropsch process converts syngas to liquid fuels needed for transportation. The water-gas shift process converts syngas to more concentrated hydrogen for fuel cells. A variety of other catalytic processes can turn syngas into a myriad of chemicals or other potential fuels or products.

Pyrolysis and Other Thermal Processing Solid biomass can be liquefied by pyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, or other thermochemical technologies. Pyrolysis and gasification are related processes of heating with limited oxygen. Conditions for producing pyrolysis oil are more likely to include virtually no oxygen. Pyrolysis oil or other thermochemically-derived biomass liquids can be used directly as fuel, but also hold great promise as platform intermediates for production of high-value chemicals and materials. Pyrolysis Fast pyrolysis is a thermal decomposition process that occurs at moderate temperatures with a high heat transfer rate to the biomass particles and a short hot vapor residence time in the reaction zone. Several reactor configurations have been shown to assure this condition and to achieve yields of liquid product as high as 75% based on the starting dry biomass weight . They include bubbling fluid beds, circulating and transported beds, cyclonic reactors, and ablative reactors.

Fast pyrolysis of biomass produces a liquid product, pyrolysis oil or bio-oil that can be readily stored and transported. Pyrolysis oil is a renewable liquid fuel and can also be used for production of chemicals. Fast pyrolysis has now achieved a commercial success for production of chemicals and is being actively developed for producing liquid fuels. Pyrolysis oil has been successfully tested in engines, turbines and boilers, and been upgraded to high quality hydrocarbon fuels although at a presently unacceptable energetic and financial cost. Anaerobic Digestion Decomposing biomass with natural consortia of microorganisms in closed tanks known as anaerobic digesters produces methane (natural gas) and carbon dioxide. This methane-rich biogas can be used as fuel or as a base chemical for biobased products. Although the Biomass Program is not currently doing much research in this area, a joint Environmental Protection Agency/Department of Agriculture/Department of Energy program known as AgStar works to encourage use of existing technology for manures at animal feedlots Biofuels A variety of fuels can be made from biomass resources including the liquid fuels ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels such as hydrogen and methane. Biofuels research and development is composed of three main areas: producing the fuels, applications and uses of the fuels, and distribution infrastructure. Biofuels are primarily used to fuel vehicles, but can also fuel engines or fuel cells for electricity generation. For information about the use of biofuels in vehicles, see the Alternative Fuel Vehicle page under Transportation. See the Transportation page for information about the biofuels distribution infrastructure. See the Hydrogen page for more information about hydrogen as a fuel. Fuels Ethanol Ethanol is made by converting the carbohydrate portion of biomass into sugar, which is then converted into ethanol in a fermentation process similar to brewing beer. Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel today with current capacity of 1.8 billion gallons per year based on starch crops such as corn. Ethanol produced from cellulosic biomass is currently the subject of extensive research, development and demonstration efforts. Biodiesel Biodiesel is produced through a process in which organically derived oils are combined with alcohol (ethanol or methanol) in the presence of a catalyst to form ethyl or methyl ester. The biomass- derived ethyl or methyl esters can be blended with conventional diesel fuel or used as a neat fuel (100% biodiesel). Biodiesel can be made from soybean or Canola (rapeseed) oils, animal fats, waste vegetable oils, or microalgae oils. Biofuels from Synthesis Gas Biomass can be gasified to produce a synthesis gas composed primarily of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, also called syngas or biosyngas. Hydrogen can be recovered from this syngas, or it can be catalytically converted to methanol. It can also be converted using Fischer-Tropsch catalyst into a liquid stream with properties similar to diesel fuel, called

Fischer-Tropsch diesel. However, all of these fuels can also be produced from natural gas using a similar process. Conversion Processes Biochemical Conversion Processes Enzymes and microorganisms are frequently used as biocatalysts to convert biomass or biomass derived compounds into desirable products. Cellulase and hemicellulase enzymes break down the carbohydrate fractions of biomass to five and six carbon sugars, a process known as hydrolysis. Yeast and bacteria ferment the sugars into products such as ethanol. Biotechnology advances are expected to lead to dramatic biochemical conversion improvements. Photobiological Conversion Processes Photobiological processes use the natural photosynthetic activity of organisms to produce biofuels directly from sunlight. For example, the photosynthetic activities of bacteria and green algae have been used to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight. Thermochemical Conversion Processes Heat energy and chemical catalysts are used to break down biomass into intermediate compounds or products. In gasification, biomass is heated in an oxygen-starved environment to produce a gas composed primarily of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In pyrolysis, biomass is exposed to high temperatures in the absence of air, causing it to decompose. Solvents, acids and bases can be used to fractionate biomass into an array of products including sugars, cellulosic fibers and lignin.

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