What is biomass? How to convert it into Energy?
Biomass contains stored energy from the Sun. Plants absorb the Sun’s energy in a process called photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy it contains is released as heat.
Examples of biomass and their uses for energy:
- Wood and wood processing wastes — burned to heat buildings, to produce process heat in industry, and to generate electricity;
- Agricultural crops and waste materials — burned as a fuel or converted to liquid biofuels;
- Food, yard, and wood waste in garbage—burned to generate electricity in power plants or converted to biogas in landfills;
- Animal manure and human sewage—converted to biogas, which can be burned as a fuel.
Solid biomass, such as wood and garbage, can be burned directly to produce heat. Biomass can also be converted into a gas called biogas or into liquid biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.
Biogas forms when paper, food scraps, and yard waste decompose in landfills, and it can be produced by processing sewage and animal manure in special vessels called digesters.
Ethanol is made from crops such as corn and sugar cane that are fermented to produce fuel ethanol for use in vehicles.
Biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils and animal fats and can be used in vehicles and as heating oil.
Biomass energy in Ukraine
All developed countries are switching to renewable energy. Thus, the EU plans to satisfy 20% of its energy needs from “green” energy by 2020, and at least 32% by 2030.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Austria already satisfy more than one third of their heat and power needs from renewable energy sources. For example, in 2018, this indicator reached 44% in Denmark.
The Energy Strategy of Ukraine by 2035 presupposes increasing the share of heat produced from renewable energy sources to 40%. To achieve this, 24,000 MW of thermal power will be required.
Ukraine is already applying the best European practices on the use of biomass for municipal heat and hot water services. According to the Bioenergy Association of Ukraine, about 2 mln tons of biomass and almost 8,000 heat generating units are used for heat energy production in the country.
The main sources of biomass in Ukraine are:
– agricultural residues (straw, corn and sunflower stems);
– purposefully-grown energy crops (willow, poplar, and miscanthus).
In recent years, unique bioenergy objects have appeared in Ukraine. One of them is a 45-MW biothermal power plant in Kamianets-Podilsky, the third largest facility of this kind in Europe and the fifth in the world. Similar facilities operate in Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin and Helsinki.
The project, which is now satisfying 60% of heat needs of the town, is expected to pay its way in 5 years. It works on domestic biofuels: straw, corn and sunflower waste, wood cracks. Experts assure that competent timber cutting in Kamianets-Podilsky and around it can fully provide the plant with biomass.
New bioenergy facilities have been opened in Kyiv, Cherkady, Lutsk. For the third year in a row, a biofuel boiler house in Slavutych has been satisfying more than one third of the town’s heat needs. Moreover, it is planned to transfer 95% of Zhytomyr’s heating system to biofuels by 2021.
And what is the benefit?
It should be noted that converting biomass into energy has a number of significant advantages in general and for Ukraine in particular.
Affordable biomass. In terms of generating energy from biomass, Ukraine has a huge potential: annually, it produces about 7 mln cubic meters per of forest waste and 30 mln tons of agrarian biomass. As a rule, solid biomass (wood waste, straw, corn stalks, sunflower husks) is used as a fuel; and pulp, silage, and manure are converted into biogas.
Environmental protection. Use of biomass as a fuel to produce thermal energy to meet heating and hot water supply needs will enable reduction in heating costs and allow to reduce carbon emissions by more than 8 mln tons by 2020.
Stable operation. Unlike solar and wind power facilities, biomass and biogas thermal power plants have steady load curves and do not require any replacement capacities.
Economic growth. Thermal power plants contribute to regional economy, as the bioenergy sector requires a high share of the local component. The distance between biomass plants should be at least 200-300 km, which allows involving the maximum number of Ukraine’s regions in its bioenergy development.
In general, development of the renewable energy sector creates new jobs and contributes to increasing payments to the budget.
Improvement of Ukraine’s energy security. Ukraine’s energy sector is dependent on the importing of fossil fuels – natural gas, oil and coal. Energy independence can be achieved through developing renewable energy sources, producing its own natural gas, and improving energy efficiency.