What is Biomass ?

Biomass is all organic non-fossil material collectively.
In other words, biomass comprises the mass of all biological organisms, dead or alive, excluding biological mass that has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.

The entire earth contains about 75 Billion tons of Biomass.
Humans comprise about 250 million tonnes (0.33%), domesticated animals about 700 million (1.0%), and crops about 2 Billion tons or 2.7% of the Earth's biomass.

In many ways biomass can be considered as a form of stored solar energy. The energy of the sun is 'captured' through the process of photosynthesis in growing plants.
Biomass is sometimes burned as fuel for cooking and to produce electricity and heat. this is called Biofuel.

Biomass used as fuel often consists of, chaff and animal waste, this is often considered a type of alternative energy, although it can be a polluting one if not used in specially designed furnaces.

Central heating units fueled by food grade wheat or maize are available, food products can be cheaper than “usual” fuels largely due to over supply in modernised countries (such as E.U. Member States).

Biomass is also the dried organic mass of an ecosystem, producers ( grass, trees, scrubs, etc.) will have a much higher biomass than animals that consume the producers (deer, insects, etc.).
The level with the least biomass will be the highest predators in the food chain (foxes, eagles, etc.)

What is Biofuel?

Biofuel is any fuel that derives from biomass, ie recently living organisms or their metabolic by products, such as manure from cows.
It is a renewable energy source, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear fuels.
The carbon in biofuels was recently extracted from atmospheric carbon dioxide by growing plants, so burning it does not result in a net increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere.
As a result, biofuels are seen by many as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by using them to replace non renewable sources of energy.
Agricultural products specifically grown for use as biofuels and waste from industry, agriculture, forestry, and households — including straw, wood, manure, sewage, garbage and food leftovers — can be used for the production of bioenergy.
Currently, most biofuel is burned to release its stored chemical energy.
Research into more efficient methods of converting biofuels and other fuels into electricity utilizing fuel cells is an area of very active scientific research.

Bioenergy covers about 15% of the world's energy consumption, most bioenergy is consumed in developing countries and is used for direct heating, as opposed to electricity production.
However, Sweden and Finland supply 17% and 19% respectively, of their energy needs with bioenergy, quite high for industrialized countries. Biomass can be used both for centralised production of electricity and district heat for local heating.
Biomass was defined as ‘any biological mass derived from plant of animal matter”.
This includes raw material from forests, crop derived biomass including timber crops, short rotation forestry, straw, chicken litter and waste material.
Planning & Policy Statement 22 defines biomass as ‘the biodegradable fraction of products, wastes and residues from agricultural (inc plant & animal substances), forestry and related industries, as well as the biodegradable fraction of industrial and municipal waste.

Types of available Biomass Fuel :

Short rotation coppice (SRC)
Cardboard packaging
Wood pellets
Energy crops
Chicken / Turkey Muck

Price Assumptions
  • Wood chip €60 per tonne (@ 25% moisture content)
  • Wood Pellets €180 per tonne (bulk)
  • Heating Oil 65 cent per litre
  • LPG 70 cent per litre
  • Mains gas 8 cent per Kwh

Even though the above are guide prices and may have risen or fallen they can still illustrates the vast differences in cent per Kw for these different fuels.

Useful Websites