The Increasing Biomass Usage in Our Daily Routines is Not Just Positive!
Biomass is an inexhaustible fuel source we use in our everyday lives. Biomass can be wood burned or the fermented and rotting garbage we toss away every day.
Biomass is the methane gas that escapes from landfills and the content of the landfills. It is the human and animal waste, food crops, etc. and is available in every country around the world.
On the downside, biomass can contribute to climate change and global warming. When burned directly, biomass releases pollution in the form of particulate matter into the atmosphere.
Using biomass to produce energy is expensive and when used on smaller scales there is often a net loss of energy.
When you light your fireplace on a cold winter night the fire may be cozy and feel warm but you are losing much of the energy (heat) up the chimney. You must keep adding more wood (biomass) to maintain the fire in part because of the energy lost.
If you drive a car you use ethanol every time you start the engine. Ethanol is a biofuel additive used throughout the U.S. today. Almost all gasoline sold contains 10% ethanol.
The purpose is to reduce the use of fossil fuels but the resulting gas mixture may cause damage to car engines over time (according to auto experts).
More importantly, ethanol production today often relies on using corn as the biomass for producing the fuel. This has increased the cost of corn on the wholesale market and the retail market.
Many farmers have abandoned other food crops to grow more fields of corn. This makes sense in an industry where prices often vary drastically and profit margins are small.
The result is ethanol to power our cars but less corn reaching the retail food market. There is no shortage of corn on U.S. grocery shelves but there is a reduction in the surplus of corn sent to other countries that rely on shipments of food to survive.
Several states such as Oregon have place great emphasis on use of biomass energy production. In these states, biomass production can generate as much as 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity for residents of the state. The biomass used comes from various sources such as:
- Landfill gas
- Industrial wood fiber
- Solid waste combustion
- Home wood heating
- Wastewater treatment digesters
- Dairy cow mature digesters
- Pulping Liquor
Much of the power created using biomass is used for industrial processes rather than for residential power grids. Often the biomass is a process of recovery such as in pulp and paper mills.
In these industries, the excess pulp was once discarded as waste but now is recovered as a biomass fuel. That fuel is then used to produce steam to power the paper plant.
It reduces the cost of standard power needed to run a plant at a time when costs of electricity are increasing.
Landfills are another way biomass is used in our everyday lives. More advanced landfill facilities have huge furnaces that reduce waste by burning it.
The resulting energy (heat) produced generates electric energy. In wastewater treatment plants anaerobic digesters are part of the treatment process. These digesters capture gas that is converted to electrical energy.
Landfills gas (methane) is also captured in some landfill management companies. By capturing the methane and burning it the landfill can use the resulting energy to evaporate landfill liquids.
This replaces fossil fuels energy that was previously used for the same drying process. Removing liquids by evaporation reduces the amount of landfill space needed and adds to the lifetime of a waste collection area.
You may not realize how biomass is used in our everyday lives but it's easy to see the potential of future uses. Biomass may be burned in power plants to replace fossil fuels and create electricity. This could not only preserve fossil fuels but might cut emissions as well.
Biomass is fermented to produce ethanol and other biofuels. This is in common use today and may increase as the technology provides for higher combustion of biofuels in the future.
Biomass can be heated in special furnaces to break it down into gases and those gases then used to produce products, chemicals and to create electric power for a commercial power grid.
When you burn you fireplace or a campfire, you are using biomass energy. When you put lawn clippings into a compost pile you are creating biomass energy as the compost heats up and turns in rich, dark top soil.
You add biofuels to your car's tank and some of the products you buy are manufactured with biomass energy added to the process.