Biomass Samantha Fisher, Emily Noyd, and Mariam Hovhannisyan What is Biomass? • The energy comes from the sun, so as long as biomass is produced and extracted sustainably—with only as much used as is grown—the battery will last indefinitely • Biomass is any organic matter that can be converted to use as an energy source • Until the 19th century, wood gave Americans 90% of the energy used in the country. • Today biomass provides about 3.3% of our energy. • Industrial utilities and homes are the biggest users of biomass Biomass Cont. • Burning is not the only way to convert biomass into usable energy – Fermentation produces alcohols (ethanol) • From various plants and waste products – Conversion • Biomass can be converted into gas or liquid fuels by using chemicals or heat – Bacterial Decay • Bacteria feed on dead organisms and produce methane Abundance • Regions holding crop and pasture land with “medium to high conversion potential” are recognized as productive regions for biomass. • Switchgrass (grass crop) and Poplar (wood crop) are produced in high yields by these regions. Distribution • Ethanol production comes in many forms: – Manure (Southern regions) • Feedlots across the country produce billions of pounds of manure each year – Wood-waste • By-products (such as wood chips) from wood processing – Corn and crop remnants (Mid-west) • Crop production on a huge commercial scale and crop waste products after harvesting Extraction- Environment • POSITIVE – Essentially carbon-neutral – Very few pesticides or fertilizers are used. – Reduces CO2 emissions by 90% compared to fossil fuels • NEGATIVE – Deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, damages landscapes, diminishes biodiversity, impoverishes human societies dependent on an area’s resources. Worse in arid, heavily populated areas. – Potentially could lead to a monoculture – Causes significant changes in forest vegetation structure and species composition in the tree layer Extraction- Workers • Already supports 66,000 jobs in the US, but it could end up supporting 3 times as many jobs in the near future. Extraction- Animals • Mild human diversity can boost biodiversity, but intensive disturbances (like the extraction of biomass) can harm biodiversity. • Sariska Tiger Reserve- India – 10 sites underwent biomass extraction – Bird species’ diversity declined, but the number of birds remained the same – Bird community composition effected by extraction on vegetation structure, canopy cover, tree density, and tree height. – More than half of the 48 bird species were affected directly or indirectly. 8 of the species were very sensitive to the extraction (became the indicators of “affected areas”), and 4 species were actually encouraged by the extraction. Biomass Production • Burn biomass in presence of large amounts of air • POWER PLANTS – combustion heats water> steam> turn turbines and generators>electricity • CO-FIRING – Coal and biomass mixed as energy source. • MICROBES – decomposition>biogases (methane)>biogases burned>energy. • GASIFICATION –biomass vaporized at high temp. without oxygen>gaseous mixture>energy • PYROLYSIS – burned without oxygen>pyrolysis oil>burned>electricity Diagrams! Production - Environment • POSITIVE – Renewable – Burns waste products that would otherwise have produced methane emissions during decomposition – Reduces pressure to expand landfills by burning waste • NEGATIVE – Burning of biomass emits CO2, and when sources are overharvested and replacements not planted, has significant effects on environment. Production - Workers • POSITIVE – Simple to operate – Generates employment – Balances trade between US and other countries (reduces dependency) – Can be converted to several different forms of energy • NEGATIVE – Least expensive type of fuel to burn in power plants BUT expensive to collect, harvest and store raw materials. There is an extra cost of installing technology to process and recycle wastes. • Less expensive when local fuel sources and no need for costs with transportation. – Not getting a significant amount of net energy when taking into account energy required for farming and to convert plant matter into fuel. (this is true for crop plant fuel sources) Production – Nearby Residents • POSITIVE – reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide • wood contains no appreciable sulfur content so burns more cleanly Doesn’t this look like it smells revolting? • NEGATIVE – could smell revolting Disposal and Storage • The disposal of waste consists of burning, burying or storing the material that is potentially hazardous. But, landfills (among other methods) are becoming a non-viable option due to stricter government regulations, environmental impacts and lack of space. • Using biomass in an unregulated way, such as the burning of wood for heat, can result in emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. However, the controlled combustion of biomass waste products generally has limited waste to dispose of. Disposal and Storage Cont. • Essentially, biomass as energy converts waste products instead of creates them. One of the only side-effects is the possibility of chemical pollution due to burning. • New biotechnology options aim to take waste and convert it into useable fuel products that can be handled at regular refineries instead of specialized ones. • These “bioconversion” units could be set-up at sites of continuous biomass waste. Generally, compression of the waste at high temperatures converts it into an energy source.
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