Biomass - A Crucial Renewable Energy Source if Generated Correctly
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Biomass - A Crucial Renewable Energy Source if Generated Correctly

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Biomass is a renewable energy source derived from biological material, such as plants, wood and farming by-products. As an energy source, it can be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or ...

Biomass is a renewable energy source derived from biological material, such as plants, wood and farming by-products. As an energy source, it can be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel.

Biomass energy has a dual effect, depending on where and how it is produced. If generated correctly it can be produced in ways that reduce global warming, as opposed to increasing it. It can help clean up the air, water, soil, and protect wildlife, or it can degrade lands, forests, water, and harm public health.

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Biomass - A Crucial Renewable Energy Source if Generated Correctly Document Transcript

  • 1. WHITEPAPER BIOMASS – A CRUCIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE IF GENERATED CORRECTLY By Rodrigue Kamba [Eng; Nat. Dip. (Eng)], Project Engineer, EES Africa (Pty) Ltd The challenge ahead of us is to ensure that biomass energy is produced in ways that not only reduce global warming, but also protect the environment thus making it sustainable. It is also important to ensure costs are kept down during its production. Biomass energy should in fact do a better job than fossil fuels.
  • 2. ABOUT EES: Established in 2001, EES Africa (Pty) Ltd specialises in the integration of multiple system infrastructure including ICT, Data Centres, Audio Visual, Life Safety, Security and Building Automation Systems. As an ISO 9001:2008 certified company, our vision is to be Africa’s management, engineering and auditing professional service provider of choice. The EES Value Proposition focuses on translating technology into tangible delivera- bles for clients through the experience of a talented team of Engineering and ICT Consultants and Project Managers. With offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Stellenbosch, EES operates predominantly in the Renewable Energy, Oil & Gas, Fi- nancial Services, Infrastructure, Utilities, Telecoms and Mining sectors. CONTENTS Page 2 Introduction Page 2 Biomass Renewable Energy Page 2 Use of Biomass Energy Page 2 Advantages of Biomass Over Fossil Fuel Page 2 Electricity Generation Process from Biomass Energy Page 3 Side Effects Page 3 Developments in South Africa Page 3 EES and Biomass Page 3 Summary and Conclusion Page 3 Electricity Generation Drawing I MANAGEMENT I ENGINEERING I AUDITING I www.eeslive.com 1 EES Cape Town office: G11 Silverberg Terrace 3 Silverwood Close Steenberg Office Park Cape Town 7945 PO Box 31322, Tokai 7966 Western Cape, South Africa Email: info@eeslive.com Tel: +27 (0)21 702 8340 Fax: +27 (0) 86 532 3532 EES Johannesburg office: Unit 8, West Block Loft Offices, First Floor, The Zone Phase II, 26 Cradock Avenue, Rosebank, 2186 PO Box 31322, Tokai 7966 Western Cape, South Africa Email: info@eeslive.com Tel: +27 (0)10 590 6270 Fax: +27 (0) 86 532 3532 EES Stellenbosch office: 18 Tegno Road Techno Park Stellenbosch 7599 PO Box 31322, Tokai 7966 Western Cape, South Africa Email: info@eeslive.com Tel: +27 (0)21 200 5939 Fax: +27 (0) 86 532 3532
  • 3. Introduction Biomass is a renewable energy source derived from bio- logical material, such as plants, wood and farming by- products. As an energy source, it can be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after convert- ing it to various forms of biofuel. Biomass energy has a dual effect, depending on where and how it is produced. If generated correctly it can be produced in ways that reduce global warming, as op- posed to increasing it. It can help clean up the air, water, soil, and protect wildlife, or it can degrade lands, forests, water, and harm public health. The challenge ahead of us is to ensure that biomass energy is produced in ways that not only reduce global warming, but also protect the environment thus making it sustainable. It is also important to ensure costs are kept down during its production. Biomass energy should in fact do a better job than fossil fuels. Biomass Renewable Energy The use of renewable energy sources is becoming ex- tremely necessary, if the world is to achieve the changes required to address the impacts of global warming. Bi- omass is a form of renewable energy that comes from plants, forest residues (such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps), municipal solid waste, corn kernels, soy- beans, agricultural leftovers (such as rice husks), pressed sugar cane, wood chips, straw, and plant material. It is derived from the reaction between carbon dioxide in the air, water and sunlight, via photosynthesis, to produce carbohydrates that form the building blocks of biomass. Photosynthesis converts less than 1% of the available sunlight to stored chemical energy. Plants capture and store the sun’s energy as they grow. Virtually all the en- ergy available for life in the earth’s biosphere, the zone in which life can exist, is made available through photosyn- thesis. The energy from the sun driving photosynthesis is stored in the chemical bonds of the structural compo- nents of biomass. When biomass is processed correctly, the procedure is as follows: It is done either chemically or biologically by extracting the energy stored in the chemical bonds. The subsequent “energy” product combines with oxygen, and carbon is oxidized to produce carbon dioxide and water. The process is cyclical, as the carbon dioxide is then available to produce new biomass. Use of Biomass Energy Biomass energy can be used to produce heat and elec- tricity to power the world, as discussed in detail under ‘Electricity generation process from biomass energy’. Another important use is production of liquid biofuels that serve as alternatives to oil or transport fuel. Corn and sugar cane can be fermented to produce the trans- portation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils, and animal fats. It can also be used to make chemical feedstock, and can be converted to other usable forms of energy like meth- ane gas. BIOMASS – A CRUCIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE IF GENERATED CORRECTLY May 2014 I MANAGEMENT I ENGINEERING I AUDITING I I MANAGEMENT I ENGINEERING I AUDITING I www.eeslive.com 2 Only biomass that is carefully chosen, responsibly grown, and efficiently converted into energy can reduce carbon pollution and minimize harmful impacts to land, water, and soil. Advantages of Biomass Over Fossil Fuel Biomass does release carbon dioxide but captures carbon dioxide for its own growth. However carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel, which is formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organ- isms, is released into the atmosphere and is harmful to the environment. Biomass products are abundant and renewable. Since they come from liv- ing sources, and life is cyclical, these products never run out, as long as there is something living on earth and there is someone there to “turn” that living thing. Efficient growth thereof is critical not to negatively affect water usage or contribute to food shortages. Another benefit of this energy is that it can take waste that is harmful to the environment and turn it into something useful. For example, garbage as landfill can at least be partially burned to create usable biomass energy. Burning new biomass contributes no new carbon dioxide to the atmos- phere. This is because replanting harvested biomass ensures that carbon dioxide is absorbed and returned for a cycle of new growth. Burning fossil fuels on the other hand uses “old” biomass and converts it into “new” carbon dioxide, which contributes to the “greenhouse” effect and depletes a non-renewable resource. Electricity Generation Process from Biomass Energy There are many ways to generate electricity from biomass, which include di- rect combustion, co-firing and gasification. Biomass can be burned directly, or converted into a gas or oil, to generate electricity (biopower) and heat. The simplest, and oldest, way of generating electricity from biomass is known as direct combustion. Direct combustion (“direct-fired”) burns bio- mass in boilers to produce high pressure steam. This steam turns a turbine connected to a generator, causing the turbine to rotate, and electricity is produced. Most of the world’s biomass power plants use direct combustion. In some cases the steam from the plants is also captured to heat water and buildings, these are known as cogeneration facilities. Although this tech- nology is dependable and proven its efficiency is limited. Direct combustion systems typically have thermal efficiencies around 20%, and these efficien- cies can be increased through cogeneration. Co-firing involves burning biomass along with coal in traditional power plant boilers. This is considered to be one of the most economic ways to produce electricity from biomass, because existing power plant equipments can be used without major modifications. New gasification technologies have been developed to covert biomass into a useful energy source. This operates by heating solid biomass at high tem- peratures in an oxygen-deprived environment to produce a fuel gas which contains between one fifth and one half the heat content of natural gas. This gas can be used to drive highly efficient combined cycle systems to generate electricity. Gasification offers some advantages over direct combustion. Gasifying biomass to produce electricity is twice as efficient as burning it directly, and results in lower emissions of particulate matter and greenhouse gases. Gasification systems can also be combined with fuel cell systems which convert hydrogen gas to electricity and heat.
  • 4. BIOMASS – A CRUCIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE IF GENERATED CORRECTLY May 2014 I MANAGEMENT I ENGINEERING I AUDITING I I MANAGEMENT I ENGINEERING I AUDITING I www.eeslive.com 3 Side Effects Besides the above advantages of biomass, there are also some downsides to it. Firstly it is expensive to generate energy from biomass. Living things are expensive to care for, feed, and house, all of which have to be considered when trying to use waste products. Biomasses can be harmful if they are not used properly and efficiently. Us- ing trees and tree products to power machines comes with its own set of challenges. Not only it takes a lot more fuel to do the same job as using conventional fuels, but it can also create environmental problems. Developments in South Africa South Africa’s sugar industry has proposed that R20.4 billion ($2.1 billion) be invested in 15 cane-fueled power projects to help address electricity shortages in one of the continent’s largest economies. The projects could create as many as 712 MW of capacity and 37 786 jobs. South Africa’s 26 600 sugar farmers produce about 2.2 million metric tons of the sweetener a year, earning revenue of about R12 billion, the industry association’s data show. The country has 14 sugar mills that produce sufficient power to meet their own needs. An Italian company which develops energy has been named preferred bidder for a 17.5 MW biomass plant in South Africa. The facility was the only biomass scheme selected under the third round of the South African gov- ernment’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Pro- ducers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) and construc- tion is expected to commence in July 2014. Written by Rodrigue Kamba Project Engineer, EES Africa (Pty) Ltd Tel +27 (0)21 200 5939, Email info@eeslive.com Rodrigue obtained his National Diploma in Electrical Engineering from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town. He has experience in designing and manufacturing high voltage transformers up to 10 MVA and switchboards as well as drawing and wiring of electrical panels. He joined EES in May 2014 as a Project Engineer. EES and Biomass EES has a proven track record for project managing several large scale projects, including renewable energy power stations. The company can fulfill the role of Project Managers for the entire project, ensuring best practices in construction management and quality management systems are applied. EES also fulfills the role of Consulting Engineer for the balance of plant. Summary and Conclusion The use of renewable energy is vital to help overcome global warming and ensure a sustainable future. Biomass is a form of renewable energy that comes from plants and wood. It is derived from the reaction between car- bon dioxide in the air, water and sunlight, via photosynthesis. A key use is the production of heat and electricity, and there are many ways to generate electricity form biomass. These include direct combus- tion, co-firing and gasification. Biomass has a significant role to play in renewable energy generation and overcoming global warming. The primary challenge ahead is to ensure that biomass energy is generated and produced correctly in ways that en- hance and protect the environment making it sustainable for generations to come. Electricity Generation Drawing Drawing Design by: Rodrigue Kamba South Africa. The facility was the only biomass scheme selected under the third round of the South African gov- ernment’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Pro- ducers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) and construc- tion is expected to commence in July 2014. Drawing Design by: Rodrigue KambaDrawing Design by: Rodrigue KambaDrawing Design by: Rodrigue Kamba