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Biomass technology overview

Bhaskar Deol
+44 (0) 753 667 0734

1. Biomass as a source of energy
2. Sources of biomass
3. Major conversion technologies
o Direct combustion
o Gasification
o Pyrolysis
o Anaerobic digestion
o Co-firing
o Major technologies overview
4. Bioelectricity in Europe
5. Economics of biomass
7. Summary

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What is biomass

What is biomass
Biomass is a renewable organic biological material and
includes materials like wood, grasses, energy crops,
residues from agriculture and forestry, organic
components of municipal and industrial wastes, and
fumes from landfills
What is biomass energy
Biomass energy is energy produced from the direct
burning of biomass, or converting it into gaseous or
liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate
electricity or heat for industrial purposes

Source: EIA

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Biomass as a source of energy

Biomass pyramid Comments

•Current total energy use is ~500 EJ/year, biomass is 10% of total
energy usage
•Primary demand in 2050 is forecasted between 600-1000 EJ

•Technical potential for biomass in 2050 is 1500 EJ

•By 2050, between 250-500 EJ can be sustainably met using
• Agricultural and forestry residues~ 100 EJ
• Surplus forest production (over current harvest) ~80 EJ
• Energy crops (areas without soil degradation / water scarcity) ~120 EJ
• Energy crops (areas with soil degradation / water scarcity) ~70 EJ
• Additional potential from agricultural productivity increase ~140 EJ

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Biomass to energy conversion paths

Resources Conversion Products Output

Solid biomass 1
-Forestry residue
Incineration Heat
-Short rotational forestry
-Agricultural residue
-Energy crops
Gasification Fuel gas
Waste Heat / CHP
-Industrial Electricity
3 Bio oil /

Wet biomass 4
Anaerobic Biogas /
-Organic waste
Digestion Landfill gas
-Sewage, sludge


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Direct biomass combustion Incineration

Biomass combustion schematic

Fixed bed
• Biomass burns on a grate that travels thru the
furnace, towards ash removal
• Reliable technology with low investment costs
• Limited range of biomass fuel types
Fluidized bed (bubbling / circulating)
• Fuel burns in a constantly mixing suspension of
inert bed material
Fixed bed Bubbling Circulating Dust firing
Grate furnace fluidized bed fluidized bed • Very effective mixing results in wide range of
usable fuel types, if uniform particle size can be
1. Solid biomass is prepared (dried, baled, chipped,
formed into pellets or briquettes) • High capex and opex is required
2. Solid biomass is burned in boilers
3. Ash is removed from the system either by a grate or Dust combustion
as a suspension in air, depending on design • Small sized particles (e.g. sawdust, fine wood) is
burned as a suspension in air in a combustion

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Biomass gasification Gasification

Gasification schematic
1. Biomass feedstock is converted into gaseous fuel by partial oxidation under
insufficient supply of air and high temperature (~900 oC)
2. Products are H2, CO2, CH4, H20 inorganic residues & oil-tar, with calorific
value ~ 10% to 50% of that of natural gas
3. This gas is burned in boilers; or after cleanup to remove tars in engines or
gas turbines; or reformed to produce methanol or Hydrogen
Fixed bed gasifier
• In an updraft gasifier, air and biomass flow in counterflow, resulting in a high
tar content along with the gaseous product
Updraft Downdraft • In a downdraft gasifier, temperature of 1000 oC results in cracking of some
fixed bed Fixed bed of the tars and results in gas with lower tar content
(countercurrent) (cocurrent)
Fluidized bed gasifier
• In an FB gasifier, drying, pyrolysis and gasification occurs in a fluidized
mixture of inert bed material
• Various types of fluidized beds have been tested (bubbling, circulating, etc)
• These have a wide range of fuel types and can handle wet biomass but fuel
needs to be treated to roughly 50mm size or smaller
• Recent developments couple fluidized beds with a combined cycle steam
turbine (IGCC), which can achieve high efficiencies (~50%)

Bubbling Circulating
fluidized bed fluidized bed

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Biomass pyrolysis Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis schematic
• Pyrolysis is very similar to gasification,
but takes place at a lower temperature
• Any biomass can be considered for
pyrolysis, but most work has been done
on wood due to its consistency
• Biomass breaks down at 500 – 700 oC to
yield partial products of char, a mixture
of gases and the majority product bio-oil
• Bio-oil produced is upgraded and used
in boilers, engines or gas turbines for
Pyrolysis modes and products
electricity / CHP

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Anaerobic digestion Digestion

Anaerobic digestion schematic

• Biomass matter is fed into a tank and
converted into a gas in absence of
• Solid liquid residues from the process
are used as fertilizers
• Anaerobic digestion can handle very wet
feedstocks, e.g. sewage sludge,
agricultural and industrial organic
wastes, animal by-products and organic
municipal solid wastes
• Biogas contains 60-70% CH4 and
remaining CO2

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Co-firing Co-firing

Direct co-firing Direct co-firing

• Appropriately prepared biomass is fed directly into the
coal furnace
• Biomass can be fed into the coal burners or dedicated
biomass burners

Indirect co-firing
Indirect co-firing • Biomass is gasified (or pyrolyzed) separately to produce
a fuel gas, which is burned in the coal fired furnace
• More expensive than direct co-firing and can currently
only use wood fuel

Parallel co-firing
• Biomass is combusted in a separate boiler and the
steam is fed into the coal fired station
Parallel co-firing
• Higher temperate / pressure conditions result in
increased efficiency
• Need for a parallel biomass combustion leads to higher

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Conversion technologies overview
Technology Description Plant Size Comments
Fixed bed Biomass burns in a layer on a grate which moves to • Low capex
transport the fuel to ash removal • Limited range of biomass types
Fluidized bed Fuel burns in a constantly mixing suspension of hot, inert, > 20 MW • Wide range of fuels
combustion granular bed material (e.g. silica sand) • Need uniform size
• Large Capex / Opex
Dust firing Small particles (e.g. sawdust or fine wood shavings) burned 2 - 8 MW • High unit costs
with air in a combustion chamber • Low plant efficiency
Cofiring Direct co-firing Prepared biomass directly fed into the furnace 50-700 MW • Range up to 40% biomass
• Typical commercial 3-5%
• Typically low investment
Indirect-co firing Separate gasification of biomass in a fluidized bed, resulting 15-100 MW
• Lowered SOx and NOx
gas is burned in the coal fired boiler furnace
• Indirect and parallel co-firing require
Parallel co-firing Biomass combusted in a separate boiler and resulting increasing amounts of capital
Gasification steam upgraded to that coming from the coal plant investment
Fixed bed Conversion of biomass to gaseous fuel by partial oxidation Small /
and elevated temperatures Decentralized
Fluidized bed (FB) Conversion of biomass to gaseous fuel in a hot, fluidized Bubbling: • FB gasifiers have high throughput and
mixture with inert bed material and air. Latest 15-80MW can handle various types and condition
Pyrolysis developments try to combine FB with steam turbines Circulating: of fuel (e.g. wet biomass)
(Integrated gasification combined cycle) 40-100MW
Fast pyrolysis Thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of • Pyrolysis concentrates volatile
oxygen, resulting in char, bio-oil and combustible gases components of oil into a transportable
1-stage Liquid biomass is fed into a reactor where it is converted 10kW –
Digestion into biogas and organic material 10MW
2-stage Hydrolysis is carried out as a separate stage in AD, resulting 10kW – • Separating stages allows higher solid
in more stable conditions allowing higher solid content in 10 MW concentration and more stable process
the digester compared to 1-stage

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Development status of major technologies

Research & Demonstration Early Commercial Commercial


Biomass Torrefaction Pyrolysis Pelletization

Densification HTU1

Biomass Gasification Combustion

to heat (boilers and stoves)

Combustion ORC2 Steam cycle

Stirling engine

Gasification IGFC3 IGCC4 Gasification

IGGT5 + Steam cycle

Co-firing Indirect co-firing Parallel co-firing Direct co-firing

Anaerobic Microbial Biogas 2-stage AD 1-stage AD

Digestion fuel cells upgrading

Biomass densification Biomass to heat Biomass to power CHP

1 Hydrothermal upgrading; 2 Organic rankine cycle; 3,4,5 Integrated gasification fuel cell (FC) / combined cycle (CC) / gas turbine (GT)

Source: IEA Bioenergy publication

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Bioelectricity in Europe: markets
Bubble size =
Bioelectricity MW
installed, 2007


US, 0.6%

China, 0.6% Total =966 GW

India, 0.6% Bioelect. = 5 GW
Bio =2

Source: Eurostat, DOE, internet

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Bioelectricity in Europe: sources

Municipal Solid Waste
Wood/Wood Waste
4 Biogas
2007 Installed capacity, GW

Belgium Denmark Spain Netherlands France Czech UK Finland Austria Sweden Italy Germany

Source: Eurostat

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Economics of bioelectricity: capex

Capital cost of biomass by type

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Economics of bioelectricity: levelized

Levelized cost of energy $/MWh

Source: Lazard analysis

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Economics of bioelectricity: future outlook

• Direct combustion is cost
competitive and dispatchable, hence
can act as a base load source of
• Co-firing, gasification and pyrolysis
are broadly competitive to other
renewable technologies and become
attractive when incentivized
• Most technological developments
likely on gasification + combined
cycle. This would also achieve
highest overall efficiency

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Feed-in tariffs for biomass in Europe
Germany Germany Netherlands 2007 France 2009 UK 2009 (Proposed)
Biomass 2007 Waste/Sewage 2007
Type FIT (c€) Type FIT (c€) Type FIT (c€) Type FIT (c€) Type FIT (p)
Basic Tariff 0-150 kW Vegetable Anaerobic
10.99 0-500 kW 7.33 Mixed 2.9 4.9 9
biomass electricity
501 kW - Animal Anaerobic
151-500 kW 9.46 6.35 <50 MW 9.7 5.0 11.5
5 MW waste CHP
Biomass <50
501-5 MW 8.51 Biogas 9.0 9
5 MW - 6.35 >50 MW 7
5-20 MW 8.03 4.5

Duration 20 years 20 years 10 years 15 years

Remarks • Special CHP Bonus • Anaerobic digestion,

• Focus on small installations gasification, pyrolysis,
• Removal of incentive for liquid biomass >150kW dedicated energy crops,
and biomass with CHP fall
under emerging
technologies category and
attract 2ROC/MWh.
• 1 ROC = £ 45.52 on

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SWOT analysis for biomass
Strengths Weaknesses

• High costs and low conversion efficiency

• Low energy density
• Potentially an abundant resource
• Fuel supply risks
• Electricity from biomass and waste using is well
• Difficulty in obtaining PPAs for small project
established and economically viable
• Biomass can provide baseload capacity and is
• No market for fuels, fragmented suppliers
dispatchable, unlike other renewable sources
• Some technologies are sensitive to variety and
physical properties of feedstock

Opportunities Threats / Barriers

• Financing
• Many biomass technologies are commercially • Perception of project complexity and risk makes
viable at small and large scales financing difficult
• Increasing focus on bio energy would result in • Few financiers with biomass experience
increasing production of high-energy density, • Competition from other uses of biomass, such
purpose grown feedstock as biofuels, food, etc.
• Favourable feed-in tariffs continue to support • Competition from other uses of land
small scale installations of biomass • Public perception about emissions
• Long process for obtaining plant permissions

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Major biomass projects
Company Name/Subsidiary Capacity Feedstock Location Status Installer Technology
Greenhunter Energy, Inc. 14MW Wood waste Florida Renovating (2009)
18.5MW Cow manure/ Wood waste California In development (2009)
Renegy Holdings 24MW Paper Mill Sludge / Wood Waste Arizona In operation
US and Canada

Covant a Holding Co. 1,272 MW Total -35 Plants Waste to Energy U.S./Europe In operation
76MW Total -4 Plants Wood waste/ Ag. Residues U.S. In operation
15MW Total -4 Plants Landfill Gas US In operation
Canadian Hydro Developers 25MW Wood waste Alberta In operation
Boralex Power Income Fund 63MW Wood waste Quebec Temporarily shut down
Macquarie Power & Infrastructure I.F. 28MW Wood waste Alberta In operation
31MW Wood waste Quebec In operation
Pristine Power 65MW Wood waste B.C. In development
West Fraser Timber 30MW (50% of 60MW) Wood waste B.C. In development
Run of River Power Inc. 24MW (80% of 30MW) Wood waste B.C. In development
30MW (50% of 60MW) Wood waste B.C. In development
Western Log Group / Western Bio Energy Ltd 10MW Wood Longlands Lane, Wales In operation Eco2 Wood
Animal waste England Aalborg Boilers
Fibropower Ltd 12.7MW In operation
(Poultry/horse/feathers) (Eye Airfield) A/S
SembCorp 30MW Wood England (Wilton 10) In operation SembCorp
England Foster Wheeler Direct combustion,
United Kingdom

EPR 13.5MW Animal waste (Poultry) In operation

(Glanford) Energy Ltd Grate
England Direct combustion,
38MW Straw In operation FLS Miljo
(Ely Power Station) Vibrating Grate
England Taylor Direct combustion,
38.5MW Animal waste (Poultry) In operation
(Thetford) Woodrow Grate
E.on 44MW Wood (Sawmill products) In operation E.on
(Stevens Croft)
Eco2 40MW Straw England (Brigg REP) In development Eco2
40MW Straw England (Sleaford) In development Eco2
Sinclair Knight
Prenergy 350MW Wood pellets Wales (Port Talbot) In development (2011)

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Major biomass projects (contd.)
Company Name/Subsidiary Capacity Feedstock Location Status Installer Technology
Amel (operated by Renogen) 5.3MW Wood residue Belgium In operation Wartsila
BMC Moerdijk 36MW Animal waste (Poultry) Netherlands In operation energy,

Del-Nyirsegi (DBM Zrt) 20MW Wood Hungary In operation
Mortagua (Enenova) 9MW Wood Portugal In operation
Pecs (Pannon Power) 65MW Wood, Natural gas Hungary In operation
Rodao (Altri SGPS SA) 11MW Wood, agricultural waste Portugal In operation
Sanguesa (EHN Group) 30MW Straw Spain In operation

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UK 2020 renewables forecast

Source: DOEACC

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• Share of biomass as an energy source is going to increase over the next several years
• Multiple conversion technologies exist or are being developed efficiently utilize or to
increase the viability of this abundant resource
• Biomass is one of the few renewable sources that can provide base load power and can
be used on small to large scale installations

Technology Implications Project Implications

• Biomass is a potentially large market for cleantech • Coupled with carbon credits and FIT’s, some sources
• Scope for potential investments in companies of biomass attract lucrative project returns
developing technology for gasification, gasification • Further analysis of project returns across biomass
combined cycle, 2-stage anaerobic digestion and sectors needed
parallel co-firing
• Scope for investment in project developers or
interesting business models based on biomass

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Backup slides

Appendix 1:
Energy value / Dispatchability
Average heat energy content of fuels Capacity factors for renewables

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Appendix 2:
Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle

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Appendix 3:
Gasification products

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Appendix 4:
Detailed biomass conversion chart

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