Biomass Elements and Uses +

(a collective term for all organic substances of relatively recent, non-geological, origin which can be used for energy production)

A medium-energy-content gaseous fuel, generally containing 40 to 80 volume percent methane, produced from biomass by methane fermentation (anaerobic digestion).
biomass (integrated) gasification
A composite system used to convert biomass feedstock into gas fuel for an electricity-generating unit which consists of one or more gas turbines, with a portion of the required energy input provided by exhaust heat of the turbine to increase efficiency.
biomass combustion
A technology that extracts heat energy from biomass so that it can then be used for a variety of heat and power applications.
biomass energy
A general term for renewable energy produced from biomass; such as, wood and wood wastes, agricultural crops and wastes, or municipal and industrial wastes.
biomass fuel
Any solid, gaseous, or liquid fuel obtained from biomass; this may be in its natural form (wood, peat) or a commercially produced form (ethanol from sugarcane residue, diesel fuel from waste vegetable oils).
biomass oil
A biomass energy feedstock in the form of lipids from animal fats, fish, and poultry oils, plant oils, or recycled cooking greases.
biomass resource
Any form of organic material that can be used as an energy source; such as, forest, mill, and agricultural residues, urban wood wastes, and dedicated energy crops.
biomass resource assessments
Estimates of the quantities of such resources that are available by location and price levels.
A processing plant for converting waste and virgin biomass feed stocks to energy, fuels, and other products.
A blend of ten volume percent ethanol and 90 volume percent gasoline.
landfill gas
A medium-energy-content fuel gas high in methane and carbon dioxide produced by landfills that contain municipal solid wastes and other waste biomass.

Biomass, its structures and usefulness on a global scale

Elements of biomass include industrial, commercial, and agricultural wood and plant residues; municipal organic waste; animal manure; and crops directly produced for energy purposes.

Biomass can be solid (wood, straw), liquid (biofuels), or gaseous (biogases). In fact, it is a quantitative estimate of the entire assemblage of living organisms, both animal and vegetable, of a given habitat, measured in terms of mass, volume, or energy in calories.

Biomass may be specified for a particular species (earthworm biomass), or for a general category (herbivore biomass).

Estimates also exist for the entire global plant biomass. Measurement of biomass can be used to study interactions between organisms, the stability of those interactions, and variations in population numbers.

Where dry biomass is measured, the material is dried to remove all water before weighing.

The world’s energy markets currently rely heavily on such fossil fuels as coal, petroleum crude oil, and natural gas as sources for the production of thermal energy, gaseous products, liquids, solid fuels, and chemicals.

Finite Fossil Fuels and Renewable Substitutes for Fossil Fuels

Since millions of years are required to form fossil fuels in the earth, their reserves are finite and subject to depletion as they are consumed. The only natural, renewable carbon resource known that is large enough to be used as a substitute for fossil fuels is biomass.

Included are all water-based and land-based organisms, vegetation, and trees, or virgin biomass (living vegetation that has the potential for use as energy as opposed to processed or waste materials), and all dead and waste biomass; such as, municipal solid waste (MSW), biosolids (sewage) and animal wastes (manures) and residues, forestry and agricultural residues, and certain types of industrial wastes.

There are those who advocate the use of biomass for energy because it is readily available, whereas fossil fuels; such as, petroleum, coal, or natural gas, take millions of years to form in the earth and are finite and subject to depletion as they are consumed.

Unlike fossil fuel deposits, biomass is renewable in the sense that only a short period of time is needed to replace what is used as an energy resource.

Without large-scale waste and virgin biomass conversion to multiple products in biorefineries, biomass energy utilization will be limited to niche markets, and coal and petroleum will continue to be the primary sources of carbon-based energy, fuels, and commodity chemicals.

—Compiled from information located at
Scientific American Science Desk Reference; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.;
New York; page 341.
The American Heritage Science Dictionary; Houghton Mifflin Company;
New York; 2005; pages 72 & 73.
Dictionary of Energy; Elsevier; New York; 2006.

Index of additional Scientific and Technological Topics.