Biomass Energy

Biomass Energy

We have used biomass energy or bioenergy – the energy from organic matter – for thousands of years, ever since people started burning wood to cook food or to keep warm. And today, wood is still our largest biomass energy resource. But many other sources of biomass can now be used, including plants, residues from

We have used biomass energy or bioenergy – the energy from organic matter – for thousands of years, ever since people started burning wood to cook food or to keep warm. And today, wood is still our largest biomass energy resource. But many other sources of biomass can now be used, including plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, and the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes. Even the fumes from landfills can be used as a biomass energy source.

The use of biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Biomass generates about the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, but every time a new plant grows, carbon dioxide is actually removed from the atmosphere. The net emission of carbon dioxide will be zero as long as plants continue to be replenished for biomass energy purposes. These energy crops, such as fast-growing trees and grasses, are called biomass feedstocks. The use of biomass feedstock’s can also help increase profits for the agricultural industry.

Bosnia & Herzegovina has a remarkable potential utilizing biomass energy; being in favor of the fact that approximately 50% of BiH territory is covered with forests where one should not ignore and biomass in agriculture. Unused potentials of residual wood and wood waste, approximately 1 million m3/a, which could provide heat for 130,000 households or 300,000 inhabitants. In Bosnia and Herzegovina currently has a very low proportion of biomass in its total energy supply.

There are three major biomass energy technology applications:


Unlike other renewable energy sources, biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels – biofuels – for our transportation needs (cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, and trains). The two most common types of biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol is an alcohol, the same found in beer and wine. It is made by fermenting any biomass high in carbohydrates (starches,
sugars, or celluloses) through a process similar to brewing beer. Ethanol is mostly used as a fuel additive to cut down a vehicle’s carbon monoxide and other smog-causing emissions. But flexible-fuel vehicles, which run on mixtures of gasoline and up to 85% ethanol, are now available.

Biodiesel is made by combining alcohol (usually methanol) with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking greases. It can be used as an additive to reduce vehicle emissions (typically 20%) or in its pure form as a renewable alternative fuel for diesel engines.


Biopower, or biomass power, is the use of biomass to generate electricity. There are six major types of biopower systems:
direct-fired, co-firing, gasification, anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis, and small, modular.

Most of the biopower plants in the world use direct-fired systems. They burn bioenergy feedstocks directly to produce steam.
This steam is usually captured by a turbine, and a generator then converts it into electricity. In some industries, the steam from the power plant is also used for manufacturing processes or to heat buildings. These are known as combined heat and power facilities. For instance, wood waste is often used to produce both electricity and steam at paper mills.

Many coal-fired power plants can use co-firing systems to significantly reduce emissions, especially sulfur dioxide emissions.
Co-firing involves using bioenergy feedstocks as a supplementary energy source in high efficiency boilers.

Gasification systems use high temperatures and an oxygen-starved environment to convert biomass into a gas (a mixture of
hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane). The gas fuels what’s called a gas turbine, which is very much like a jet engine, only it turns an electric generator instead of propelling a jet.

The decay of biomass produces a gas – methane – that can be used as an energy source. In landfills, wells can be drilled to release the methane from the decaying organic matter. Then pipes from each well carry the gas to a central point where it is filtered and cleaned before burning. Methane also can be produced from biomass through a process called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion involves using bacteria to decompose organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

Methane can be used as an energy source in many ways. Most facilities burn it in a boiler to produce steam for electricity generation or for industrial processes. Two new ways include the use of microturbines and fuel cells. Microturbines have outputs of 25 to 500 kilowatts. About the size of a refrigerator, they can be used where there are space limitations for power production. Methane can also be used as the “fuel” in a fuel cell. Fuel cells work much like batteries but never need recharging, producing electricity as long as there’s fuel.

In addition to gas, liquid fuels can be produced from biomass through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis occurs when biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen. The biomass then turns into a liquid called pyrolysis oil, which can be burned like petroleum to generate electricity. A biopower system that uses pyrolysis oil is being commercialized.

Several biopower technologies can be used in small, modular systems. A small, modular system generates electricity at a capacity of 5 megawatts or less. This system is designed for use at the small town level or even at the consumer level. For example, some farmers use the waste from their livestock to provide their farms with electricity. Not only do these systems provide renewable energy, they also help farmers and ranchers meet environmental regulations.


Whatever products we can make from fossil fuels, we can make using biomass. These bioproducts, or biobased products, are
not only made from renewable sources, they also often require less energy to produce than petroleum-based products.

Researchers have discovered that the process for making biofuels – releasing the sugars that make up starch and cellulose in
plants – also can be used to make antifreeze, plastics, glues, artificial sweeteners, and gel for toothpaste.

Other important building blocks for bioproducts include carbon monoxide and hydrogen. When biomass is heated with a
small amount of oxygen present, these two gases are produced in abundance. Scientists call this mixture biosynthesis
gas. Biosynthesis gas can be used to make plastics and acids, which can be used in making photographic films, textiles, and synthetic fabrics.

When biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen, it forms pyrolysis oil. A chemical called phenol can be extracted from pyrolysis oil. Phenol is used to make wood adhesives, molded plastic, and foam insulation.


Renewable Energy Projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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