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Biomass and Biofuel

Introduction to Biomass & Biofuels

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Suppliers of Wood Burning Stoves & Boilers
Wood Chip, Log & Pellet Suppliers
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Other Biomass Producers & Suppliers
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Biodiesel & Bioethanol Fuel Suppliers
Biogas Producers & Energy from Waste
Biomass & Biofuels Organisations

Biomass

The term Biomass most often refers to organic matter such as timber and crops grown specifically to be burnt to generate heat and power.

Biomass is sustainable and generally carbon neutral because the carbon released in the combustion process is offset by the carbon trapped in the organic matter by photosynthesis during its growth. To be truly carbon-neutral we need to make sustainable use of plants or trees as fuel, and replant them as we harvest them - so that the carbon is reabsorbed in a continuous and virtuous cycle.

Biomass

The most popular UK biomass crops are short rotaion coppice, willow and poplar, Miscanthus (Elephant Grass), Reed Canary Grass and Oil Seed Rape.

As well as specifically grown crops, other agricultural by-products are also referred to as biomass, such as straw, grain husks, forest products, waste wood and animal wastes such as slurry and chicken litter.

Biomass Task Force

In October 2004 the Government asked the Biomass Task Force to suggest measures to optimise the contribution of biomass energy to renewables, sustainable farming, forestry and the rural economy. Their report can be downloaded from the DEFRA website at www.defra.gov.uk/farm/crops/industrial/energy/biomass-taskforce/index.htm .

The UK has the world’s largest and most efficient straw fired power station in Cambridgeshire. The 36MW plant generates over 270 GWh of electricity a year; enough power to heat and light 80,000 homes. The power station consumes around 200,000 tonnes/year of straw collected from farms within a 50 mile radius.

Domestic & Community Biomass

As not many of us have the room to grow biomass crops, the most popular use of biomass domestically is in wood burning stoves for water heating and space heating.
Domestic & Community Biomass

Emissions from wood used as fuel contain virtually no sulphur dioxide and very low levels of nitrous oxides, so won't cause acid rain. If wood is seasoned for two years and burnt efficiently it gives off very low amounts of smoke particulates and the ash is an excellent fertiliser. Larger stoves are often fitted with a ‘Lamda’ sensor, which regulates the amount of oxygen added, and so optimises combustion efficiency.

The use of wood pellets, which are usually made of highly compressed waste sawdust, for heating is well established in countries such as North America, Sweden, Austria and Denmark. There is now an emerging pellet industry in the UK and there are currently two UK manufactures of wood pellet boilers based in Suffolk and Staffordshire.

Useful sources of Biomass information:

The Biomass Energy Centre is the UK national enquiry point for questions relating to biomass fuels and technologies. It is managed by Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, as part of the Government's response to recommendations made by the Biomass Task Force. www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk

The Log Pile Website is the National Energy Foundation’s initiative to promote the use of wood as a source of renewable energy and sustainable heating. Useful site but rather poorly maintained and has some out-of-date information. www.nef.org.uk/logpile

Click here for links to:
Suppliers of Wood Burning Stoves & Boilers
Wood Chip, Log & Pellet Suppliers
Biofuel Fireplaces
Other Biomass Producers & Suppliers
Biodiesel & Bioethanol Fuel Producers
Biodiesel & Bioethanol Fuel Suppliers
Biogas Producers & Energy from Waste
Biomass & Biofuels_Organisations

Biofuels and Biogas

The terms Biofuels and Biogas refer to fuels derived from Biomass, from agricultural and domestic waste and by anaerobic digestion of sewage such as

  • Biomethane,
  • Bioethanol,
  • Biodiesel and
  • Biobutanol

These fuels can be burnt to produce heat and power, used to run vehicles (Brazil has the highest proportion of road vehicles designed to run on biofuels which peaked at 90% in the 1980s) or powering fuel cells.

All existing petrol vehicles are able to run on a blend that contains 5% bioethanol. Flexible fuel vehicles are able to use blends of up to 85% bioethanol.

Biofuels and Biogas

In Europe the most common Biomass crops grown for conversion into biofuels are Oil Seed Rape, Flax Seed, Sugar Beet, Wheat, Soybeans and Corn.

In December 2005 British Sugar announced that it had begun construction of a £20million plant in Norfolk to convert locally grown sugar beet into biofuel. Bioethanol can easily be blended with conventional grades of petrol and can already be used at concentrations up to 10% without any modification to existing vehicle technology. British Sugar has contracted to sell this biofuel through Greenergy owned 25% by Tesco so you will soon be seeing fuel containing biofuel from sugar beet at your local supermarket.

Construction of the UK's first world-scale bioethanol plant began on Teesside in May 2007.

The £250m Ensus production facility at Wilton will cover a 12 hectare plot, on the site of former chemical industry facilities. Output is planned to start in early 2009, with capacity to produce up to 400m litres of fuel a year. The entire bioethanol output has already been contracted to Shell, and it will be mixed with petrol to help fulfill the company’s renewable fuels obligations.

Additionally, Morrisons are selling E85 - an 85% bioethanol blend on the forecourts of 13 of their supermarkets and are planning to add an E85 pump in each new store.

The King Review of Low Carbon Cars

Part 1 of the King Review (The Potential for CO2 reductions) was released 9 Oct 2007 alongside the pre budget report. The report recognises the significant lifecycle carbon emission reductions that biomethane can provide, however the main conclusions of the report focus on liquid fuels. Part 2 will follow in 2008 with policy recommendations. King Review - Details can be found here

Small Scale Biofuel Producers

New Government regulations (2007) will allow small scale producers of biofuel (below 2,500 litres) not to pay duty of 28.35p per litre on the fuel they produce.

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The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation Programme

The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation Programme (RTFO) will, from April 2008, place an obligation on fuel suppliers to ensure that part of their aggregate sales is made up of biofuels by 2010.

The effect of this order will be to require that 5% of all UK fuel sold on UK forecourts will come from a renewable source by the target date.

The RTFO will help bring the UK into line with European Union biofuels directive.

The RTFO Administrator will formally come into existence once the RTFO Regulations are approved by Parliament in late 2007 and will issue
RTF Certificates according to the quantity of renewable fuel on which duty has been paid. It will be possible for companies to trade certificates.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly announced on 6 Nov 2007 the creation of the Renewable Fuels Agency, which will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation after it comes into force in April. The chief executive of the agency is expected to be appointed early next year.

Detailed information on the scheme can be found on the Department for Transport's website:www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/environment/rtfo/

Infrastructure Grants for Alternative Fuels

To encourage the development of a nationwide network of public fuelling stations, grants are available for the installation of refuelling or recharging equipment for alternative fuels. Qualifying fuels include hydrogen, E85 bioethanol, natural gas and biogas.

The grants generously provide for at least 30% of the cost of the equipment, construction, civil engineering and additional land if required. Extra grant is available for electric vehicle recharging points and any refuelling station owned by an SME or in certain remoter parts of the UK. More detail on this scheme is at the Energy Saving Trust

Biogas

Biogas typically refers to a (biofuel) gas produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of organic matter including manure, sewage sludge, municipal solid waste, biodegradable waste, agricultural slurry or any other biodegradable feedstock, under anaerobic conditions. Biogas is comprised primarily of methane and carbon dioxide.

The harvesting of methane and carbon dioxide has a double benefit – they are greenhouse gases so allowing them to escape will add to Global Warming whilst the gas itself can be used for heat and power. Landfill gas is typically 50-60% methane, 25-35% carbon dioxide and the rest a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and hydrogen sulphide. Biogas can also be cleaned to be identical in characteristics to natural gas and fed into the gas distribution network.

Click here for links to:
Suppliers of Wood Burning Stoves & Boilers
Wood Chip, Log & Pellet Suppliers
Biofuel Fireplaces
Other Biomass Producers & Suppliers
Biodiesel & Bioethanol Fuel Producers
Biodiesel & Bioethanol Fuel Suppliers
Biogas Producers & Energy from Waste
Biomass & Biofuels Organisations

Financial Support

The new Energy Crops Scheme, part of the Rural Development Programme for England administered by Natural England, opened for applications on 1 Oct 2007. It provides grants for establishing short rotation coppice and miscanthus.

Farmers can also receive the Single Payment for energy crops grown on set-aside. An annual aid payment of 45 euros per hectare is available for growing energy crops on non set-aside land. More detailed information can be found on the Rural Payments Agency website under Energy Aid.

The Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme helps develop the supply chains required to harvest, store, process and supply energy crops and wood fuel to energy end-users.

Biomass-fuelled stoves for space heating, central heating and hot water systems are included in the DTI's UK-wide Low Carbon Buildings Programme started on 1 April 2006 which supersedes the previous Clear Skies Initiative and Solar PV programmes. See the Grants page on this website for details.

A new support scheme for biomass heat in the industrial, commercial and community sectors will be introduced in 2007. The scheme will be worth at least £10-15m in England over the first two years and will run for a total of five years.

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