Energy from biomass is the one generated through thermal, thermochemical or biological processes capable of extracting the energy stored in biomass chemical bonds and turning it into heat or other energy carriers, for example biogas or bio-syngas, which can be used to generate electricity, heat, mechanical power or a combination them.
Woody biomass, agro-industrial waste, digestate, sewage sludge, the organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste… represent a huge source that is generated or regenerated through natural or anthropogenic cycles. Using these resources allows to retrieve a value that would otherwise be lost, in addition to causing pollution and environmental harm.
Thanks to technologies such as RESET SyngaSmart, it is now possible to transform these waste feedstocks into electricity and heat or synthetic fuels, thus reducing or eliminating the consumption of non-renewable fossil sources.
FROM BIOMASS TO ENERGY
In a traditional power plant, biomass is burned in order to heat up a fluid (such as water) which can be used directly as thermal energy or transformed into steam driving a turbine (mechanical energy), thus producing electricity.
A gasification plant, instead, does not burn the biomass directly, but transforms it by changing its physical state from solid to gaseous, thus avoiding the release of dust and particulate typical of combustion plants, like pellet stove or incinerators. The gas generated (bio-syngas in the case of biomass) can be used as fuel in a boiler or engine that will produce heat, electricity or both (in the case of cogeneration). The same applies to anaerobic digestion plants where, however, biomass does not undergo a thermochemical but a biological treatment, releasing a gas (biogas) rich in methane (hence biomethane).
TYPES OF BIOMASS: BENEFITS
Once understood how biomass releases energy and which biomass are suitable for this process, let’s move on to the advantages of energy production from biomass, particularly in the cogeneration configuration that allows to take advantage of a single energy source in an extremely efficient way, developing multiple forms of energy at the same time and with a single process.
Biomass is a renewable source: a sustainable use of biomass from local supply chain allows to displace fossil fuels. On this matter, the most frequent objection is that the use of biomass causes harmful emissions; this is true to a certain extent, although it depends on the technology used. But let’s consider the other perspective: inaction too has its social and environmental costs. In fact, unused and abandoned biomass causes the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases anyway, because of the natural processes of aerobic decomposition that normally occurs in the environment. The traditional processes of disposal and landfilling do not solve the problem, but simply move it from one site to another, generating further pollution due to transport.
Today, thanks to particularly innovative technologies such as RESET SyngaSmart, it is possible not only to produce energy in cogeneration using waste biomass, but also to sequester and remove from the atmosphere a part of the CO2 absorbed by biomass during its growth cycle, and store it permanently in a stable form of carbon (the biochar), thus reversing the more familiar process of carbon dioxide emissions caused by the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas.
WHAT BIOMASS CAN BE USED IN A SYNGASMART PLANT?
RESET has been carrying out several run tests aimed at verifying the suitability of various kinds of biomass with SyngaSmart technology. So far, the following biomass have been tested:
- Wood chips
- Almond shells
- Pallet (shredded and briquetted)
- Digestate (dried and briquetted)
- Olive prunings (shredded and briquetted)
- Olives pomace (mixed with wood residues and briquetted)
- Stabilized Organic Fraction (briquetted)