How does biomass energy work?

Published on : 06 May 20203 min reading time

Biomass energy is the first renewable energy used in France. It can produce electricity, heat and fuel. Yes, it can! It is totally true. The heat released by the combustion of certain materials can be useful in everyday life… But what is the definition of this term? And how does it work?

What is “biomass energy”?

Biomass is all animal and vegetable organic matter that can be transformed into energy after combustion, fermentation or synthesis. Biomass energy is therefore all the energy that can be extracted directly or indirectly from biological materials. The most common sources of energy are wood, agricultural waste and manure. For example, the government encourages the cultivation of certain fast-growing plants for use as biomass. For example, we can cite the following examples:

Sugar cane is transformed into bioethanol and corn is used as fuel for vehicles.

fermented manure produces biogas

the corn cobs are burnt to save fuel oil to dry the grains

The different forms of biomass

A biomass power plant produces electricity using the steam generated by the combustion of plant or industrial waste. The main distinction is made between :

Biomass by combustion of waste and wood. It is a rather simple and quick process

Biomass by mechanization. In this case, waste (household, sewage sludge, etc.) is transformed into biogas by fermentation. The latter will then be burned .

The main advantage of bioenergy is that it does not pose a danger to the environment, as it does not emit pollutants such as methane. Moreover, biomass energy is also used for the heating system (wood-fired).

In any case, the functioning of biomass energy is as follows:

By the dry process: combustion, gasification and pyrolysis. The last two consist of the creation of a carbon reaction to create a fuel gas which is then burned in the combustion engine.

By the wet process: mechanization, i.e. the degradation of matter by bacteria.

Through the production of biofuels in order to obtain oils to fuel diesel engines .

The challenges of biomass energy

Biomass energy can help reduce the consumption of oil and gas, which are finite sources. Similarly, waste is available everywhere, and is therefore regularly renewable. Secondly, bio-energy is more profitable and allows considerable savings. For example, wood is a cheap material that can be found everywhere in France. Nevertheless, the yield is limited, because overexploitation can on the contrary lead to harmful impacts on the environment: deforestation, soil pollution, etc.