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An Introduction to Biomass Fuels

By Edited Sep 4, 2015 0 0

BIOMASS

Biomass is a renewable energy source produced from living organisms such as waste, wood, garbage, alcohol fuels, or landfill gases. Biomass is often made from growing plant matter to induce electricity or heat. It's mostly used in direct incineration though. Which means that the renewable energy that is produced comes from burning the matter. Biomass does not include the organic fossil fuel material. Fossil fuels are no longer considered biomass simply because they contain carbon that has been out of the carbon cycle for a long period of time.

Industrial biomass is often grown from a several amount of plant matter:

  • Switchgrass
  • Miscanthus
  • Corn
  • Hemp
  • Poplar
  • Willow
  • Sugarcane
  • Many tree species

The foundation of biomass consists of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Sometimes you will find very small amounts of nitrogen and alkali. The energy that produced in plants comes directly from the sun. Plants receive between 0.1 and 1% of all direct sunlight and energy is supplied through photosynthesis.

BIOFUELS

Biomass fuels, also known as biofuels, are derived from biomass. In recent years, biofuels are gaining wide popularity in both the scientific fields and the public realm. This is due to the rise in oil costs, increased energy security, and concern for increased greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Biofuels are being studied and tested for specific use in transportation. Some of these biofuels are fabricated into:

  • Biodiesel
  • Bioethanol
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Green Diesel
  • Bioethers
  • Biogas
  • Syngas
  • Solid biofuels

Some of these so-called "first-generation" biofuels produce tantamount effects to the efficiency of transportation and are quite cost-effective. Each of these biofuels are produced from different living organisms in many different ways to produce the quality of fuel researchers desire.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is produced from oils and or fats by a process called transesterification. It is also quite similar in composition to fossil/mineral diesel. Pure biodiesel, also called B100, is the lowest emission diesel fuel on the market. Biodiesel, if mixed with mineral diesel, can be used in any diesel engine. It is also the most popular biofuel in Europe at the moment.

Bioethanol

Bioethanol is an alcohol created from fermenting sugar components of plant matter. Recently trees and grasses are also used as feedstocks for the production of ethanol fuels. Bioethanol is mostly used as a gasoline additive to improve emissions. It is used throughout the U.S.

Vegetable Oil

The edible vegetable oil cannot really be used as a fuel, but lower quality vegetable oil is commonly used for transportation purposes. Used vegetable oil is often processed into biodiesel, but it also can be stripped of water and particles and used as fuel. Vegetable oil works great with indirect injection engines because of the design of the combustion chambers. This is mostly possible in older diesel engines.

Green Diesel

Green diesel is sometimes referred to as renewable diesel. Most diesel fuels derive from fossil feedstock, but green diesel is obtained from renewable feedstock such as canola, algae, jatropha, and tallow. This sometimes is confused with biodiesel, but the fuels are processed differently. As biodiesel is engineered through the process of transesterification, green diesel oils are processed through a more traditional method called fractional distillation.

Bioethers

More names for bioethers are oxygenated fuels or fuel ethers. Bioethers are very cost-effective and used precisely for octane boosts. Engine performance can be a positive effect of these fuels as well. And some people believe that the quality of air that is produced from these fuels is reason alone to mass produce bioethers.

Biogas

Biogas is methane produced from biodegradable "garbage". It derives directly from biodegrable waste and not landfill waste due to the lack of cleanliness of the biogas produced from basic landfill waste. These gases have potential to become greenhouse gases if escaped into the atmosphere. The process of producing biogas is called anaerobic digestion. Farmers can produce biogas from cow manure by using an anaerobic digester (AD).

Syngas

Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Syngas is processed through a combustion of a small amount of oxygen that does not fully convert it completely to carbon dioxide and water. For this to work, the biomass needs to be dried before combustion. The syngas can be used to produce methanol, DME, and hydrogen. It is sometimes used to create a diesel substitute as well.

Solid Biofuels

Solid biofuels consist of dense forms of wood, sawdust, grass, refuse, charcoal, non-food energy crops, and dried manure. These raw materials are in a perfect form to produce energy by simply burning the material. Any solid biofuel can be directly applied to fire to provide heat or steam. The largest problem with using solid biofuels is that fact that they produce high amounts of pollutants.

Most recently, researchers are producing what's called oilgae which is derived from algae. And in the coming years we'll see an astounding production of biomass fuels being able to sustain countries by themselves. There will no longer be a need to rely on other countries to provide petroleum or other fuel materials. Biomass fuels are the wave of the future and that means cleaner air, longer lives, and safer methods to dispose of waste.

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