Friday, August 22, 2014


by Antonio C. Antonio
August 12, 2014

“Biomass” is a term that we surely will come across whenever there are discussions on the subjects of environment, natural resources and energy.  The dictionary definition of “biomass” is: “Biomass is a renewable energy source from living or recently living plant and animal materials which can be used as fuel.”  The following are additional information regarding biomass:

  1. Plants and animals are the basic source of biomass.
  2. Biomass is biological materials but is often referred to as plants or plant-based materials called lignocellulosic biomass.  Converting biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods broadly classified into: (a) biochemical; (b) chemical; and, (c) thermal.  Then biomass can be used through combustion to produce heat, energy and power.
  3. The largest biomass energy source is wood, timber and plant products.
  4. Animal matter and human waste which produces methane is also an important source of biomass energy.  Some communities collect, through a system of conveyance (normally pipes), from individual households to a central collection area often called a biogas digester.  This is used to produce heat which is converted biofuel to support household necessities such as cooking, heating, light, etc.
  5. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants and a variety of tree species; normally characterized as fibrous.
  6. Palm and jatropha are the most potent producers of biofuel.
  7. Agricultural by-products, specifically straw from wheat, corn, sugarcane and palay, can also be burned to heat and electricity.  Rice hull can also be used which is a primary by-product of agriculture in the Philippines.
  8. Plant biomass can likewise be broken down from cellulose to glucose in a series of chemical processes and the resultant sugar can be used as biofuel.
  9. Biomass can be converted to ethanol, butanol, methane and biodiesel for energy and transportation fuel application.
  10. Solid waste landfills could also produce “landfill gas” (methane gas produced by rotting garbage) which can be trapped and collected for power generation purposes.

The traditional mindset that fossil fuel and minerals (specifically coal) are our only source of energy might not be at all accurate.  There is such a thing as biomass which could also be a source of energy.  The only (and a big) difference is in terms of renewability.  Traditional fuel sources (therefore, oil, coal, etc.) are non-renewable while biomass is renewable.  It is therefore imperative that further studies on the sustainable utilization of biomass be made since it represents a future option for mankind… together with the solar, hydro and wind energy source options.  When the oil wells ran dry and the last bucket of coal is extracted, we could always depend on biomass.

Just my little thoughts…

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