Biomass for powergeneration

Does anyone have some knowledge and/or opinions on biomass as fuel for powergeneration? 

I have recently been re-searching powergeneration from Biomass. It started favour to a friend (although with a semi-commercial view), but have since turned into real interest. My conclusion this far is that biomass is best suited for small - medium scale powergeneration and ideal for de-central powergen in rural areas particurlarly Africa. Would you agree? 

The technology seems somewhat mature and relatively in-expensive, so I am wondering why it is not more used in rural parts of the world without power? I understand financing and other structural challenges in Africa, but still it seems to me that these cannot be the only obstacles. Am I missing something on the technology? 

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On ‎10‎/‎18‎/‎2018 at 4:58 PM, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

Does anyone have some knowledge and/or opinions on biomass as fuel for powergeneration? 

I have recently been re-searching powergeneration from Biomass. It started favour to a friend (although with a semi-commercial view), but have since turned into real interest. My conclusion this far is that biomass is best suited for small - medium scale powergeneration and ideal for de-central powergen in rural areas particurlarly Africa. Would you agree? 

The technology seems somewhat mature and relatively in-expensive, so I am wondering why it is not more used in rural parts of the world without power? I understand financing and other structural challenges in Africa, but still it seems to me that these cannot be the only obstacles. Am I missing something on the technology? 

100's of plants across the UK. Many are on the same sites as intensive poultry or pig facilities. Also waste to energy plants / Sewage gas / Landfill gas

https://www.mygridgb.co.uk/map/

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1 hour ago, NickW said:

100's of plants across the UK. Many are on the same sites as intensive poultry or pig facilities. Also waste to energy plants / Sewage gas / Landfill gas

https://www.mygridgb.co.uk/map/

Many thanks. Very helpful. Seems to confirm my hunch that it works best somewhat decentral close to the "fuel-source". 

More research for me to do... 

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The problem of biomass is that is like coal, but worse, wood has a energy density of 14-16 Mj/Kg that' means that for a 50% efficiency 475Grams of wood are necessary to generate around 1KWh, or for 1000MW you need 475 tons of wood an hour, or 4.16 million tons of wood a year

At small scale is not a bad idea for a temporary solution, but at large scale is an very bad environmentally unfriendly idea, once  you consider things like soil erosion, nutrient depletion and so on

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30 minutes ago, Sebastian Meana said:

The problem of biomass is that is like coal, but worse, wood has a energy density of 14-16 Mj/Kg that' means that for a 50% efficiency 475Grams of wood are necessary to generate around 1KWh, or for 1000MW you need 475 tons of wood an hour, or 4.16 million tons of wood a year

At small scale is not a bad idea for a temporary solution, but at large scale is an very bad environmentally unfriendly idea, once  you consider things like soil erosion, nutrient depletion and so on

So focus on small scale solutions that use waste products as feedstock?  

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1 hour ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

So focus on small scale solutions that use waste products as feedstock?  

My recollection of the biomass debate in the UK, which involves burning wood, is that there have been quite a few complaints about how they are cutting down forests in the US and elsewhere to feed the furnaces. There are other times when there is genuine waste, such as whatever is left over from sugar cane processing, which might as well be burnt. Apart from that small scale applications may be the way to go, although they may be more trouble than they are worth.

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2 hours ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

So focus on small scale solutions that use waste products as feedstock?  

Exactly, if is waste product or a side product without any other use and the energy you can generate is cheap enough.

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18 hours ago, Sebastian Meana said:

The problem of biomass is that is like coal, but worse, wood has a energy density of 14-16 Mj/Kg that' means that for a 50% efficiency 475Grams of wood are necessary to generate around 1KWh, or for 1000MW you need 475 tons of wood an hour, or 4.16 million tons of wood a year

At small scale is not a bad idea for a temporary solution, but at large scale is an very bad environmentally unfriendly idea, once  you consider things like soil erosion, nutrient depletion and so on

Biogas is preferable over biomass because you don't lose any nutrients and the fuel element is relatively clean.

If you have a mass or organic matter you need to treat why not convert it into Biogas. The residual left overs are pasteurised so safer to handle but still contain the relevant mineral nutrients that can be used as a soil conditioner / fertiliser. 

By 2030 its estimated the UK will get approx 150 Twh from Biogas. 

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17 hours ago, markslawson said:

My recollection of the biomass debate in the UK, which involves burning wood, is that there have been quite a few complaints about how they are cutting down forests in the US and elsewhere to feed the furnaces. There are other times when there is genuine waste, such as whatever is left over from sugar cane processing, which might as well be burnt. Apart from that small scale applications may be the way to go, although they may be more trouble than they are worth.

Drax

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17 hours ago, markslawson said:

My recollection of the biomass debate in the UK, which involves burning wood, is that there have been quite a few complaints about how they are cutting down forests in the US and elsewhere to feed the furnaces. There are other times when there is genuine waste, such as whatever is left over from sugar cane processing, which might as well be burnt. Apart from that small scale applications may be the way to go, although they may be more trouble than they are worth.

For once we agree. Converting huge coal fired power stations (Drax) into biomass is just a quick way of burning down forests for a dubious environmental return. 

WTE is far better as a small / medium scale installations close to the source of the waste. Biogas is even better because the fuel product is clean and no nutrients are lost in the process. Its also quite easy to small scale it. 

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On 10/18/2018 at 10:58 AM, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

Does anyone have some knowledge and/or opinions on biomass as fuel for powergeneration? 

I have recently been re-searching powergeneration from Biomass. It started favour to a friend (although with a semi-commercial view), but have since turned into real interest. My conclusion this far is that biomass is best suited for small - medium scale powergeneration and ideal for de-central powergen in rural areas particurlarly Africa. Would you agree? 

The technology seems somewhat mature and relatively in-expensive, so I am wondering why it is not more used in rural parts of the world without power? I understand financing and other structural challenges in Africa, but still it seems to me that these cannot be the only obstacles. Am I missing something on the technology? 

We've discussed biomass as a fuel in developed nations.  To address the rural African market: poor Africans can't afford these systems.  More than that, they don't have the equipment & infrastructure to keep them fed with biomass.  In the developed world, we use biomass where we already have industry that happens to leave piles of waste lying around.  E.g. manure, wood waste, etc.  If you had to go collect the biomass from the environment - as would be the case in rural Africa - biomass would be difficult.  

If you only needed to run a small generator a few hours a day, it might work.  During WWII rationing, people used wood alcohol to fuel vehicles.  If you could afford something more expensive, I believe the US army is developing a containerized waste incinerator that runs on 15% diesel/85% waste.  

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(edited)

 

 

The United States, Canada, Russia, and many other nations have vast areas that can be planted with fast growing trees. Other plants such a jojoba and palm oil, cacti etc. can also be grown. The main criticism is whether this is harmful to the environment. I think not unless the farms are poorly managed and the crops deplete the soil. Of course, I do believe in National Parks that remain natural and in National Forests which are judiciously managed for multiple purposes which include forestry, mining, and recreation. The same for BLM lands. Unfortunately many Third World nations do not seem to have enough law enforcement resources to preserve their flora and fauna as they should.

I am a big fan of biomass and biogas. Here are my curated story links:

 

http://www.theusipa.org/   

http://woodpellets.net/industry_happenings

Biogas

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N-TLMeHsKYBCirxS0vbqMGHpU2SmyLuCc7bqp8eYXVM/edit

 Ethanol and other Biofuels https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lTJrLvzWxnLJNJBz5v8YI_3lSraz4wXw5P-go_ltB-k/edit

Methanol Fuel https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ci4V12Z0fpBP0XQWW-DpltSITcfu4s_PvZzdIYaYpg4/edit

 

 

 

Edited by ronwagn
added reference

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8 hours ago, mthebold said:

We've discussed biomass as a fuel in developed nations.  To address the rural African market: poor Africans can't afford these systems.  More than that, they don't have the equipment & infrastructure to keep them fed with biomass.  In the developed world, we use biomass where we already have industry that happens to leave piles of waste lying around.  E.g. manure, wood waste, etc.  If you had to go collect the biomass from the environment - as would be the case in rural Africa - biomass would be difficult.  

What I am trying to look into (when I have time) is how much you can scale down a bio-mass plant and still be economical. Large parts of rural Africa are dominated by de-centralized farming. The question is if this generate enough feedstock... I have seen a few smaller systems that seems promising also because they seem relatively simply built. 

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9 hours ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

What I am trying to look into (when I have time) is how much you can scale down a bio-mass plant and still be economical. Large parts of rural Africa are dominated by de-centralized farming. The question is if this generate enough feedstock... I have seen a few smaller systems that seems promising also because they seem relatively simply built. 

I understand that capex scales well, but I never understood why.  Does anyone have an explanation for that? 

If we're looking at small-scale specifically, there are options that help with the capex problem: 

1)  Modular, factory-built components.  E.g. bridges have components fabricated in a factory and assembled on site.  This reduces manufacturing costs & improves quality.  Modern industrial facilities are being built this way for the same reason. 

2)  Containerized equipment.  The entire product is fabricated, assembled, and tested at the factory before being shipped to site.  HVAC units for commercial buildings are made this way.  Even better: multiple containers can be stacked together to meet demand.  

If you have a village in need of a generator, you could probably fit it into a single container.  This is what the Army is doing for forward bases.  

The Army's version will be expensive because: 

1) It's the military; everything is expensive.

2) It's an R&D prototype.  They're still working out the bugs.

3) It's low-volume production

4) It must be ruggedized and idiot-proofed.  

If there were sufficient world-wide demand, you could have a factory cranking these out at more reasonable cost.  I don't know what that cost would be though.  

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16 hours ago, ronwagn said:

The United States, Canada, Russia, and many other nations have vast areas that can be planted with fast growing trees. Other plants such a jojoba and palm oil, cacti etc. can also be grown.

The main criticism is environmental impact; the main problem is economics.  When you're already paying to dispose of waste, waste-to-whatever makes economic sense.  If you have to plant/manage/harvest crops, things are significantly more expensive.  What's the LCOE for this idea? 

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On 10/18/2018 at 11:58 PM, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

Does anyone have some knowledge and/or opinions on biomass as fuel for powergeneration? 

I have recently been re-searching powergeneration from Biomass. It started favour to a friend (although with a semi-commercial view), but have since turned into real interest. My conclusion this far is that biomass is best suited for small - medium scale powergeneration and ideal for de-central powergen in rural areas particurlarly Africa. Would you agree? 

The technology seems somewhat mature and relatively in-expensive, so I am wondering why it is not more used in rural parts of the world without power? I understand financing and other structural challenges in Africa, but still it seems to me that these cannot be the only obstacles. Am I missing something on the technology? 

 

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On 10/26/2018 at 6:25 PM, mthebold said:

The main criticism is environmental impact; the main problem is economics.  When you're already paying to dispose of waste, waste-to-whatever makes economic sense.  If you have to plant/manage/harvest crops, things are significantly more expensive.  What's the LCOE for this idea? 

Waste from biomass is efefctively woodash - this can be used as a fertiliser as it is Potassium rich. 

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2 hours ago, NickW said:

Waste from biomass is efefctively woodash - this can be used as a fertiliser as it is Potassium rich. 

In this context, I'm referring to carbon-based byproducts of industrial/agricultural processes as "waste".  E.g. the leftovers from a sawmill would be considered the "waste" input to a waste-to-liquids plant.  

But yes, the leftover ash can be used as fertilizer.  

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