What Is Biomass? | Different Method of Biomass Conversion | Method of Biomass Conversion

Biomass Conversion

What Is Biomass?

What Is Biomass.

Biomass is a renewable source of energy obtained from burning wood and other organic materials. Biomass is one the oldest forms of energy & has been used for centuries. It can also be defined as the organic matter that comes from plants and animals.

Biomass mostly consists of stored energy from the sun. Through the process of photosynthesis, the plant absorbs the sun’s energy & converts it into chemicals energy in the form of glucose or sugar. Therefore, when it is burnt, the energy stored in the form of chemical energy is released in the form of heat. Burning is the only way to releases energy into biomass.

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Different Method of Biomass Conversion:

In general, biomass-to-energy conversions technologies have to deal with a feedstock that can be highly variable in mass & energy density, size, moisture content & intermittent supply. Therefore, modern industrial technology is often hybrid fossil-fuel/biomass technologies that use fossil fuels for drying, preheating, & maintaining fuel supply when the biomass supply is interrupted.

It can also convert into other forms that are beneficial, such as methane gas and transportation fuels such as biodiesel & ethanol. Methanes gas is an important component of biogas & is obtained from agricultural waste, garbage, and other organic waste, which is decomposed in specially designed digesters. It can also be obtained from landfills.

When crops such as sugarcane or corn are fermented, they create a fuel commonly known as ethanol that is useful for vehicles. When vegetable oils and animal fats are decomposed, biodiesel is obtained, which is commonly used as a transportation fuel. Biomass is considered the building block of biofuels.

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Method of Biomass Conversion:

There are currently three types of biomass conversion technologies available that can result in specific energy and potentially renewables products:

#1. Direct Combustion Processes

Direct combustion furnaces can be divided into two broad categories & are used to produce direct heat or steam. Dutch ovens, spreader-stokers, and fuel cell furnaces use two stages. The first stage is for drying & possible partial gasification, & the second is for complete combustion.

More advanced versions of these systems used vibrant rotator grates to facilitate ash removals, some of which require water cooling. The second group includes suspension & fluidized bed furnaces commonly used with fine particle biomass feedstocks and liquids.

In suspension furnaces, the particles are burned while being kept in suspension by injection of turbulent preheated air, into which the biomass particles may already be mixed. In Fluidized Bed Combusters, a boiling bed of preheated sand at a temperature of 500 to 900 °C provides the combustions mediums, into which the biomass fuels are either dropped if it is densest enough to sink into the boiling sands or particles or liquids if injected.


Modern practices that have allowed biomass feedstocks an early and cheap entry point into the energy market is the practice of co-firing a fossil fuel, usually coal, with a biomass feedstock.

There are many advantages to co-firing, especially where the power output is output. First, where the conversion facility is located near an agro-industrial or forestry product processing plant, there is a large amount of low-cost biomass residue available.

These residues may represent a low-cost fuel feedstock, although there may be other opportunity costs. Second, it is now widely accepted that fossil-fuel power plants are generally highly polluting in terms of sulfur, CO2, and other GHGs.

The use of existing equipment, perhaps with some modifications, and co-firing with biomass could represent a cost-effective means to meet more stringent emissions targets. The low sulfur and nitrogen relative to coal content of biomass fuels and near-zero net CO2 emission levels allow biomass to offset the high sulfur and carbon content of fossil fuels.

Third, if an agro-industrial or forestry processing plant wants to make more efficient use of residues generated by co-generation electricity, but has a highly seasonal component to its operation schedule, co-firing with fossil fuels would allow economic production—electricity throughout the year.

Agro-industrial processors such as the cane sugar industry can produce large amounts of electricity during the harvesting & processing season; & however, during the off-season, the plants will remain idle. This has two drawbacks; first, it is an inefficient use of equipment that has a limited lifespan, and second, power distribution utilities will not pay the full premium for power supplies that cannot be relied upon for year-round production.

In other words, the distribution utility needs a guarantee of supply throughout the year and, therefore, may have to invest in its production capacity to cover off-season gaps in supply, along with associated costs in equipment and fuel. If, however, agro-processors can guarantee a year-round power supply through the burning of alternative fuels, it will make efficient use of its equipment & receive premium payments for its electricity by the distribution facility.

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#2. Thermochemical Processes

Thermals biomass conversion processes use heat as the key mechanism to upgrade biomass into better and more practical fuels.

2.1 Pyrolysis

The biomass feedstocks are subjected to high temperatures at low oxygen levels, thus preventing complete combustion, and can be done under pressure. Biomass is degraded into single carbon molecules (CH4 and CO), and H2 is producing a gaseous mixture called “producer gas.”

Carbon dioxide can also be produced, but it is reduced back to CO and H 2 O under the pyrolytic conditions of the reactor; This water further aids in the reaction. Liquid phase products arise from temperatures that are too low to break down all long-chain carbon molecules, resulting in the production of tar, oil, methanol, acetone, etc.

Once all the volatiles is removed, the residual biomass takes the form of char which is virtually pure carbon. Pyrolysis has recently attracted attention for the productions of liquid fuels from cellulosic feedstocks by “fast” & “flashes” pyrolysis in which the biomass has a shorts residence time in the reactor.

A more detailed understanding of the physicals and chemical properties that govern pyrolytic reactions has allowed optimization of the reactor conditions required for this type of pyrolysis. Further work is now focusing on the use of high-pressure reactor conditions to produce hydrogen and on low-pressures catalytic techniques requiring zeolites for alcohols production from pyrolytic oil.

2.2 Carbonization

It is a centuries-old pyrolytic process adapted for the production of charcoal. Traditional methods of charcoal production centered on the use of earthen mounds or covered pits in which the wood is piled. Control of the response situation is often crude and relies heavily on experience.

The conversion efficiency is believed to be very low using these conventional techniques; Depending on the weight, Openshaw estimates that the wood-to-charcoal conversion rate for such techniques ranges from 6 to 12 tons of wood per ton of charcoal. Most of the volatile components of wood are eliminated during carbonization; This process is also called “dry wood distillation”. Carbon accumulates mainly due to a decrease in the level of hydrogen and oxygen in the wood.

Wood undergoes many Physico-chemical changes as the temperature increases. Between 100 & 170 °C, mosts of the water evaporates; Between 170 °C and 270 °C, gases evolve into condensate vapors, CO and CO. These condensed vapors form on-chain carbon molecules pyrolysis oil, which can then be used to produces chemicals or as fuel after cooling & scrubbing.

Between 270 °C and 280 °C, exothermic reactions develop, which can be detected by spontaneously generated heat. The modernization of charcoals production has led to a large increase in production capacity, with large-scale industrial production in Brazil now achieving a capacity of over 30% by weight.

There are three basic types of charcoal making.

  • Heated internally by controlled combustion of raw materials,
  • Externally heated fuel using wood or fossil fuels, and
  • Hot circulating gas retort or converter gas is used for the production of chemicals.

Internally heated charcoal furnaces are the most common form of a charcoal kiln. It is estimated that 10 to 20% (by weight) of the wood is sacrificed, and 60% (by weight) is lost from these kilns due to the exchange and release of gases into the atmosphere. Externally heated reactors allow oxygen to completely exclude and thus largely provide superior quality charcoal.

However, they require the use of an externals fuels source, which can be provided from a “producer gas” once the pyrolysis begins. Recirculating heated gas systems offer the potentials to generate larges quantities of charcoal & related by-products but are currently limited by the high investments costs for large-scale plants.

2.3 Gasification

Due to the high temperature and controlled environment, almost all the raw material is being converted into gas. This happens in two stages. In the first stages, the biomass is partially combusted to produce productive gas & charcoal.

In the second stage, the C02 & H2O produced in the first stage are chemically reduced by charcoal, forming CO & H2. The compositions of the gas are 18 to 20% H2; an equals part CO, 2 to 3% CH4, 8 to 10% CO2, & the remainder nitrogen.

These phases are spatially separated in the gasifiers, with the gasifier design relying heavily on the feedstock characteristics. The gasification requires a temperature of around 800 °C and is carried out in a closed top or open top gasifier.

These gasifiers can be operated at atmospheric pressures or higher. The gas’s energy density is typically less than 5.6 MJ/m3, lower than natural gas at 38 MJ/m3, which provides only 60% of the diesel’s power rating when used in modified diesel engines.

Gasification technology had existed since the turn of the century when coal was extensively gasified in Britain and elsewhere in homes for electricity generation and cooking, and lighting. The gasifier was used extensively for transport in Europe during World War II due to oil shortages, with a closed top design being the predominant one.

2.4 Catalytic Liquefaction

This technology has the potential to produce high-quality products of greater energy density. This product should also require less processing to produces marketable products.

Catalytics liquefactions are a low-temperature, high-pressure thermochemical biomass conversion process performed in the liquid phase. This requires either a catalyst or a high hydrogen partial pressure. Technical problems have limited the opportunities for this technology so far.

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#3. Biochemical Processes

The use of microbes to produce ethanol is an ancient art. However, in recent times such organisms have been regarded as biochemical “factories” for the treatment and conversion of mosts forms of human-generated organic wastes.

Microbials engineering has encouraged the use of fermentation techniques aerobic and anaerobic for use in the production of energy (biogas) and fertilizer and in the removal of unwanted products from water and waste streams.

  • Anaerobic Fermentation
  • Production of methane in landfills
  • Ethanol Fermentation
  • Biodiesel

3.1 Anaerobic Fermentation

Anaerobic reactors are commonly used to produce methane-containing biogas from manure (human and animal) and crop residues. They use mixed methanogenic bacterial cultures that are characterized by defined optimum temperature ranges for growth.

These mixed cultures allow digesters to operate over a wide temperature range, i.e. from 0°C to above 60°C. When working well, the bacteria convert about 90% of the feedstock energy content into biogas (containing about 55% methane), an easily usable energy source for cooking and lighting. The sludge produced after the manure passes through the digester is non-toxic and odorless.

In addition, it loses relatively little nitrogen or other nutrients during the digestion process, making it a good fertilizer. In fact, digester sludge has a higher nitrogen content than animal manure left to dry in the field; Many nitrogen compounds in fresh manure evaporate during drying in the sun.

On the other hand, some of the nitrogen in the digested sludge is vaporized, and some of the nitrogens are converted into urea. Urea is more readily accessible by the plant than many nitrogen compounds found in dung, and thus the fertilizer value of sludge may actually be higher than that of fresh dung.

Various types of anaerobic digesters were widely distributed throughout India and China. Extension programs promote biogas plants as ideal candidates for rural use because of their energy and fertilizer production efficiencies as well as their superior health benefits.

The health benefits mainly arise from the cleaner combustion products of biogas, unlike other biomass or fossil fuels that can be used in the domestic environment, with an estimated 5 to 6 million units now in use in these two countries.

The reliability problem has arisen from a number of problems such as manufacturing defects, the mixed nature of bacterial populations, the need for a digester for water, and the maintenance of an optimal nitrogen ratio of the medium. Another problem is the demand for dung from the digester, which may have alternative uses.

Modern designs have addressed many of these problems, and digesters are becoming useful again, especially with regard to the ability of digesters to remove toxic nutrients such as nitrates from the water supply; The levels of which are now more strictly controlled in many industrialized countries.

The combination of energy production with the potential to increase crop yields makes biogas technology a good candidate for more widespread use now to demonstrate reliable operation. Recent Danish business experience with large-scale digesters provides useful examples.

3.2 Methane Productions In Landfills.

Anaerobic digestion in landfills brought about by microbial decomposition of organic matter in waste. The level of organic matter produced per capita varies greatly from developed countries to developing countries. The Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) percentage in Sierra Leone is around 90%, while it is around 60% for US MSW.

The low levels of putrescible in the US MSW are the result of an increased proportion of plastic, metal, and glass, mostly from packaging. The gas generated from landfills is on average half methane and half carbon dioxides with energy contents of 18 to 19 MJ/m3. It is not produced under pressure, and thus the recovery process must be activated.

Commercial production of land gas can also help combat leaching problems now associated with landfill sites. Local communities around landfill sites are becoming more aware of the potential for heavy metals and nutrients to enter the aquifer.

Landfill processing reduces the amount of sludge and nutrient content to be disposed of, facilitating proper disposal. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with substantial amounts derived from unused methane production from landfill sites.

Its recovery, therefore, not only results in stabilization of the landfill site, allowing rapid reuse of the land but also helps in reducing the impact of biospheric methane emissions on global warming.

3.3 Ethanol Fermentation

Ethanols is primarily used as a substitute for imported oil to reduce their dependence on imported energy supplies. Substantial gains made in fermentation technologies now produce ethanol for use as an economically competitive given some assumptions and environmentally friendly petroleum substitute and fuel enhancer.

For example, in Brazil, subsidies for alcohol production are now seen as detrimental to the stability of the ethanol market and thus obsolete and made with environmental benefits. The long-term future and expansion of this program made it a priority for the Zimbabwean government.

Sugarcane is the most commonly used feedstock in developing countries due to its high productivity when sufficient water is supplied.

Where water availability is limited, sweets sorghum or cassava may become the preferred feedstock. Other benefits of sugarcane feedstock include high residue energy efficiencies and modern management practices that allow sustainable and environmentally sustainable production while allowing for the sustainable production of sugar. Other feedstocks include saccharide-rich beet, and carbohydrate-rich potatoes, wheat, and maize.

One of the most promising fermentation techniques recently identified is the “bio still” process that utilizes centrifugal yeast reformation and continuous evaporative removal of ethanol.

This allows the fermentation mediums to be continuously sterilized & minimizes water usage. The bio still processes markedly reduces the production of stillage, while the non-stop nature of the fermentation process allows substrate concentrations to be kept consistently at optimal levels, and hence the fermentation efficiency is maximized.

{Hall, 1991} Improved varieties of yeasts produced through clonal selection techniques also have increased tolerance levels to the yeast’s alcohol concentration, again improving efficiency.

3.4 Biodiesel

Vegetable oils have been used for combustion in diesel engines for over 100 years. In fact, Rudolf Diesels tested his first prototype on vegetable oils, which can be used “raw” in an emergency.

While it is possible to run diesel engines on crude vegetable oils, in general, the oils must first be converted to a chemical similar to petroleum-based diesel. Crude oil can be obtained from various annual and perennial plant species. Perennials include oil palms, coconut palms, physical walnuts, and Chinese tallow trees. Annuals include sunflower, peanut, soybean, and rapeseed.

Many of these plans can produce high yields of oil with positives energy & carbon balance. Crude oil conversion is essential to avoid problems associated with variation in the feedstock. The oil may undergo thermal or catalytic cracking, Kolbe electrolysis, or transesterification processes to obtain betters characteristics.

Untreated oil causes problems through incompletes combustion, resulting in a build-up of soot residue, wax, gums, etc. Also, poor atomization of the oil as a result of incorrect viscosity can also result in poor combustion. Oil polymerization can lead to deposits on the cylinder walls. Generally, the chemicals processing required to avoid these problems is simple and can be done at existing petroleum refineries in the case of soybean oils.

The use of diesels-power vehicles is widespread throughout agriculture, & biodiesel offers environmentally friendly CO2-neutral alternatives. It is now widely promoted in the EC & elsewheres, as its use does not require major modifications to existing diesel engines. More about this source textSource text is required for additional translation information.

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Advantages of Using Biomass

#1. Renewable sources

Biomass is considered a renewable source of energy as compared to other forms of energy. This is mainly due to the raw material that is used, which is available throughout. Its purchase and redevelopment are easy.

#2. Cheaper

Productions of biomass energy are comparatively cheaper than fossil fuels. The raw material is available cheaply. Hence the low cost of electricity generation reduces the bills of the common man. This makes biomass energy more attractive.

#3. Variety of Products

Biomass energy is versatile as it produces so many products. Biomass can be converted into various forms, presence & absence of oxygens. Some of the byproducts are ethanols, biogas, syngas, bio-oil, and bio-char.

#4. Clean Gas

Biomass energy is a clean gas as compared to other forms of energy. Greenhouse gases are not emitted during the combustion of organic matter—minimal pollution results. During the process, less amount of carbon is emitted, which plants absorb for their survival and life cycle.

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Disadvantages of Using Biomass

  • Production of biomass energy requires a continuous and continuous supply of biomass.
  • In comparison to the input of raw materials, the result is comparatively less.
  • All raw materials used are waste products that can cause pollution and odor.
  • Storage and transportation of biogas are difficult due to less advanced technology.
  • Large space is required for the construction of plants.
  • Biomass plants require huge investments.
  • More and more biomass crop is grown, which in turn reduces soil fertility.

To conclude, biomass energy is created by burning or allowing organic matter to decompose. So in this process, the carbon released into the atmosphere is minimal, which is ultimately used by the plants for their life cycle. This is how biomass energy works.

It has more benefits as it is a renewable source of energy that can be easily refilled. If biomass energy is used appropriately and effectively, electricity will soon become a cheap source of energy. More research and technology should be developed to develop biomass energy.

The government should give incentives to start biomass plants. Thus this eco-friendly should be made more popular, which can prove beneficial in the future.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is Biomass Used For?

Biomass can be burned to create heat (direct), converted into electricity (direct), or processed into biofuel (indirect). Biomass can be burned by thermal conversion and used for energy. Thermal conversion involves heating the biomass feedstock in order to burn, dehydrate, or stabilize it.

What Is Biomass Renewable Energy?

Biomass energy is energy generated or produced by living or once-living organisms. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, such as corn and soy, above. The energy from these organisms can be burned to create heat or converted into electricity.


Biomass is plant-based material used as fuel to produce heat or electricity. Examples are wood and wood residues, energy crops, agricultural residues, and waste from industry, farms, and households.

Bioenergy Energy?

Bioenergy is one of many diverse resources available to help meet our demand for energy. It is a form of renewable energy that is derived from recently living organic materials known as biomass, which can be used to produce transportation fuels, heat, electricity, and products.

Biomass Energy System

Biomass energy is energy generated or produced by living or once-living organisms. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, such as corn and soy, above. The energy from these organisms can be burned to create heat or converted into electricity. Photograph by Mary McCabe, My Shot.

Converting Biomass to Energy

Most electricity generated from biomass is produced by direct combustion. Biomass is burned in a boiler to produce high-pressure steam. This steam flows over a series of turbine blades, causing them to rotate. The rotation of the turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.

Advantages of Using Biomass

Some of the advantages of biomass energy are:

  • Biomass is always and widely available as a renewable source of energy.
  • It is carbon neutral.
  • It reduces the overreliance on fossil fuels.
  • It is less expensive than fossil fuels.
  • Biomass production adds a revenue source for manufacturers.
  • Less garbage in landfills.

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