What is Biomass?

Biomass is basically anything that grows and can be burned for fuel. It is the stuff that is used as biofuels. Bioenergy is produced by biofuels. Simple, right? Biomass is a renewable energy source that has gained in prominence in recent years as the technology has advanced and environmental preservation becomes more talked about and relevant.

Biofuel has existed in various forms for thousands of years, with people all over the world burning wood and animal dung for warmth and cooking. The advancement of the technology behind biofuels now means that the energy in biomass can now be harnessed with greater efficiency, making it a more viable energy source. Biofuels now account for 10% of the world’s energy consumption.

What counts as biomass?

There are primary and secondary biofuels. Primary biofuels are things that can be used as fuel in their current state, after being cut down to size. Secondary biofuels are the result of the processing of primary biofuels. Technically, petrol, coal and diesel are biofuels, because they are derived from decomposed plant and animal matter, but they are called fossil fuels because of the millions of years they took to produce.

Examples of biomass:

  • Wood
  • Grass clippings
  • Sugar
  • Corn
  • Food waste
  • Ethanol

How does it work?

If you’ve got a wood burning stove, then you’ve already seen a simple, small-scale version of how biofuels work. You put some organic material into a furnace and burn it for warmth or energy. There are different ways to create energy using biomass.

One is the wood burning stove model but on a larger scale. Waste-to-energy plants will burn organic waste that would normally go to a landfill. Burning it creates steam that rises up and spins turbines to create energy.

Another way is by creating biogas through anaerobic methane. Organic waste like manure or sewage is broken down by bacteria, which then produces methane gas and carbon dioxide. The gas is then trapped to be used as fuel for heating and cooking.

Debate over its environmental benefits

This is not a carbon-neutral way of creating energy, but it does produce less carbon dioxide than burning fossil fuels does. Additionally, growing more plants specifically for use as biofuel will end up reducing carbon dioxide levels further because the plants themselves, while they are alive and growing, will use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

There are debates about the use of crops like corn and sugar, for biofuel and whether they should be used for food production instead. There is also debate over whether the amount of energy required to process primary biomass into secondary biomass cancels out the energy savings of using biomass as fuel.

How does Willshees deal with biomass?

At Willshees, we have wood recycling plants to deal with any old wood you might be looking to throw out; pallets, crates, construction materials etc. We’ll remove any metal and plastic from them and then shred the wood down into tiny chips. The material is then sent off to various recycled energy plants to use it as biofuel. Our facility allows us to choose the consistency, size of the particles, moisture levels and blends to meet the exact requirements of each energy plant. If you would like to know more about how we can help you dispose of your biomass, then please get in touch with the team on 01283 702340 or send us an email at sales@willshees.co.uk.


28th March 2018

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