What is biomass?Biomass is the term used to describe all the organic matter, produced by photosynthesis that exists on the earth’s surface. The source of all energy in biomass is the sun, the biomass acting as a kind of energy store. To make use of biomass for our own energy needs we can simply burn it in an open fire to provide heat for cooking, warming water or warming the air in our home. More sophisticated technologies have been developed for extracting this energy and converting it into useful power and heat in more efficient and convenient ways.
Until relatively recently it was the only form of energy which was used by humans and is still the main source of energy for more than half the world’s population for their domestic energy needs. The extraction of energy from biomass is split into 3 distinct categories:
1. Solid biomass
The use of trees, crop residues, animal and human waste (although not strictly a solid biomass source, it is often included in this category), household or industrial residues for direct combustion to provide heat. Often the solid biomass will undergo physical processing such as cutting, chipping, briquetting, etc. but retains its solid form.
Organic material to produce a combustible gas known as methane. Animal waste and municipal waste are two common feedstocks for anaerobic digestion
3. Liquid Biofuels
These are obtained by subjecting organic materials to one of various chemical or physical processes to produce a usable, combustible, liquid fuel. Biofuels such as vegetable oils or ethanol are often processed from industrial or commercial residues such as bagasse (sugarcane residue remaining after the sugar is extracted) or from energy crops grown specifically for this purpose. Biofuels are often used in place of petroleum derived liquid fuels.