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Biomass Conversion

Posted on July 9, 2017 by Salman Zafar

Bioenergy generation can be tailored to rural or

urban environments, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial
applications. A wide range of technologies are available for realizing the
potential of biomass as an energy source, ranging from very simple systems for
disposing of dry waste to more complex technologies capable of dealing with
large amounts of industrial waste.
Biochemical Conversion Methods
Biochemical processes, like anaerobic digestion, can also produce clean energy
in the form of biogas which can be converted to power and heat using a gas
engine. Anaerobic digestion is a series of chemical reactions during which
organic material is decomposed through the metabolic pathways of naturally
occurring microorganisms in an oxygen depleted environment. In addition,
wastes can also yield liquid fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, which
can be used to replace petroleum-based fuels.

Anaerobic digestion is the natural biological process which stabilizes organic

waste in the absence of air and transforms it into biofertilizer and biogas.
Anaerobic digestion is a reliable technology for the treatment of wet, organic
waste. Organic waste from various sources is biochemically degraded in highly
controlled, oxygen-free conditions circumstances resulting in the production of
biogas which can be used to produce both electricity and heat. Almost any
organic material can be processed with anaerobic digestion. This includes
biodegradable waste materials such as municipal solid waste, animal manure,
poultry litter, food wastes, sewage and industrial wastes.

A variety of fuels can be produced from waste resources including liquid fuels,
such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels,
such as hydrogen and methane. The resource base for biofuel production is
composed of a wide variety of forestry and agricultural resources, industrial
processing residues, and municipal solid and urban wood residues. Globally,
biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for

Thermochemical Conversion Methods

The three principal methods of thermo-chemical conversion are combustion in
excess air, gasification in reduced air, and pyrolysis in the absence of
air. Conventional combustion technologies raise steam through the combustion
of biomass. This steam may then be expanded through a conventional turbo-
alternator to produce electricity. Co-firing or co-combustion of biomass wastes
with coal and other fossil fuels can provide a short-term, low-risk, low-cost
option for producing renewable energy while simultaneously reducing the use of
fossil fuels. Co-firing involves utilizing existing power generating plants that are
fired with fossil fuel (generally coal), and displacing a small proportion of the
fossil fuel with renewable biomass fuels.

Thermochemical Conversion Technologies for Biomass

Gasification of biomass takes place in a restricted supply of oxygen and occurs
through initial devolatilization of the biomass, combustion of the volatile
material and char, and further reduction to produce a fuel gas rich in carbon
monoxide and hydrogen. This combustible gas has a lower calorific value than
natural gas but can still be used as fuel for boilers, for engines, and potentially
for combustion turbines after cleaning the gas stream of tars and particulates.
Pyrolysis is the term given to the thermal degradation of wood in the absence of
oxygen. It enables biomass to be converted to a combination of solid char, gas
and a liquid bio-oil. Pyrolysis technologies are generally categorized as fast or
slow according to the time taken for processing the feed into pyrolysis
products. These products are generated in roughly equal proportions with slow
pyrolysis. Using fast pyrolysis, bio-oil yield can be as high as 80 percent of the
product on a dry fuel basis. Bio-oil can act as a liquid fuel or as a feedstock for
chemical production.

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