Biomass is a versatile source of energy that can be used for production of power, heat, biomaterials, and transport fuels. Biomass is organic since it is made of materials that comes from living organisms such as animals and plants. Biomass produces energy that is created by the combustion or biochemical conversion of any organic matter to be used in various ways. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, waste and wood. However, this article will exclusively explore on various processes for converting biomass into energy.
The process of obtaining energy from biomass
There are various processes of obtaining energy from biomass. Some of these processes include the following:
Combustion is the most obvious way of converting organic matter into energy. The process of combustion generates heat that is transformed into energy. Burning stuff like waste, wood and other plant matter releases stored chemical energy in the form of heat. Therefore, biomass converted into energy can be used to turn shafts in order to produce electricity.
The process of gasification takes place by using high temperatures and controlling the amount of oxygen and steam when carbon materials such as coal, petroleum, biofuels, and biomass are converted into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. However, this conversion process produces a more efficient product of biomass known as syngas than the process of combustion. Notably, syngas is used to create hydrogen and methanol since it can directly be burned.
This process occurs when biomass is heated in the chamber without presence of oxygen. The products of biomass pyrolysis include: charcoal, water, tar, oil and gases such as methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Charcoal is used in metallurgy absorption applications since it is the most common end-product that is created from processes of pyrolysis. Therefore, chemical changes are determined by the type of biomass that is being processed and how long it takes to heat.
In fermentation, biomass is converted into energy without using combustion. Plants contain chemicals that are in the form of solid, liquid and gas. Notably, some of these chemicals can directly be used while others need to be broken down further through other methods of refining so that they can be useful. For instance, a biomass gasifier is needed so as to use methane from plants. Biomass gasifier is used to extract methane by forcing the plants to release it. The methane is then used in the form of gas to power the turbines that produce electricity. Also, methane is converted into a hydrogen fuel that is used to generate electricity with emissions that are very low.
Allowing animal dung, green plants or wet sewage sludge to decompose in a sealed tank which is under anaerobic conditions leads to production of biogas. Feed stocks like straw and wood shavings may be used in this process even though the digestion takes much longer. However, biomass energy generated can be used as fuel. In addition, biogas can be captured by a machine known as micro turbine and converted into electricity.