Biomass for Heating & Power

Decarbonization Avenue : Biomass for Heating & Power


Biomass is one of the oldest sources of energy known to humans. But with decarbonizing large parts of commercial and industrial heating and power applications on the agenda, biomass has started playing a larger role in being the feedstock that can replace coal for industrial heating and power generation.

Biomass based power generation, while lagging behind others such as solar PV, wind power and hydro power, still is a fairly large 140 GW worldwide. Recent efforts have also resulted in some large scale biomass power plants, with a UK power plant having a massive 730 MW of power generation capacity.

Biomass power can supply firm power - 24x7, so it can be a drop in replacement for coal use. Biomass power and heating can also use agricultural and forest waste, and these are available in large quantities in many parts of the world.

Almost every country in the world has access to biomass that can be used as an energy crop.

Biomass can also be co-fired with coal, and thus provides a clean energy transition pathway that can utilize the current massive global coal power generation capacity.

Even without carbon sequestration, biomass power and heating are considered carbon neutral as the CO2 emitted during their use for energy recovery is essentially CO2 the biomass had captured during its growth.

While biomass based power generation and heating are mature sectors with well established technologies, newer technologies and processes are being tried out. Pyrolysis of biomass is one of them, which can convert biomass into all three types of fuels - solid, liquid and gaseous fuels! Torrefaction is another, which enables feedstock users to obtain biomass that is very similar to high quality coal in calorific value and performance. Some of these processes can convert biomass into a near-equivalent of coal - bio-coal.

And with recent efforts in carbon capture and sequestration at biomass power plants, biomass power even has the potential to become carbon negative.

Innovations can also be expected in use of CO2 capture in biomass power plants (BECCS), modular systems for biomass heating, production of bio-coal, enhanced use of digital technologies along the entire value chain - from the source of biomass until energy utilization or export to the grid.

The main drawback with biomass as an energy source is its availability in a distributed and largely unorganised nature, which leads to unreliable supply chains. For instance, India generates an estimated 350 million tons of agricultural waste a year, a large part of which can be converted to energy, which also provides increased valorization for the farmers. But owing to mainly logistical challenges, only a small fraction of the total available agricultural waste has been put to use so far.

Decarbonization potential

Worldwide, about 140 GW of biomass power generation capacity is available. If one were to consider biomass power to be net zero emissions, this capacity would imply an emissions reduction potential of about 350 million tons CO2 per year.

A doubling of biomass based power generation by 2030 could mean 700 million tons of CO2 emissions reduction per annum. But it could be a lot more than that. China, for instance, has plans to produce about 400 million tons of bio-coal by 2030 to replace coal. If successful, this effort alone would have produced CO2 emission savings of about 750 million tons.

Biomass is also replacing coal for heating applications in many industries worldwide. Global production of biomass pellets quadrupled between 2006 and 2015, growing to about 26 million tons by 2015. This alone would have implied a CO2 emissions reduction of about 50 million tons, and pellets form only a small portion of the total biomass used for industrial heating. About 900 million tons of coal are used worldwide per annum in cement clinkers alone. A large manufacturing firm in the food or beverages industry alone could be using about 30,000 tons of biomass briquettes per year for heating.

Industries impacted

  • Agriculture & farming
  • Chemicals & petrochemicals
  • Construction & real estate
  • Food & beverages
  • Mining & metals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Power
  • Paper & forest products
  • Textile & apparel
  • Waste management

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Themes & Topics

  • Biomass for heating

    • Industrial & commercial heating

    • Residential heating

  • Biomass for power

    • Combustion-based

    • Gasification-based

    • Cogeneration in biomass energy power

    • Cofiring of biomass and coal

  • Pyrolysis of biomass

  • Torrefaction and biocoal

  • Biomass energy plus CO2 sequestration - BECCS

  • Biogas from biomass

    • RNG

  • Feedstock

    • Energy crops

      • Bamboo

      • Switchgrass

      • Miscanthus

    • Agro waste for bio-energy

      • Rice husk

      • Rice straw

      • Cotton stalk

      • Mustard stalk

      • Wheat straw

      • Sugarcane trash

      • Corn stover & cobs

 

 

  • Industrial waste

    • Sugar industry

    • Paper industry

    • Wood-based industries

  • Use of biomass as:

    • Pellets

    • Briquettes

    • Bio-coal

  • Training/capacity building

    • Biomass power plant O&M

  • Collaboration

    • With feedstock producers

    • With biomass aggregators

    • With logistics companies

  • Use of IT & digital solutions

  • Case studies

  • Economics

  • Challenges

    • Feedstock challenges

    • Economics challenges

    • Policy challenges

  • Geographical trends

    • North America

    • South America

    • Europe

    • Asia

    • Middle East & Africa

    • Australia