Biomass energy is energy generated from organic materials that are materials derived from living organisms for example plants and animals where the most common material used for biomass energy are wood, plants, and waste. There are different types of energy that is created via pyrolysis, gasification, direct firing, co-firing and anaerobic decomposition. Such types of biomass energy include biofuel, bio-char, black liquor, hydrogen fuel cells, etc. Biomass is known to be the only source of renewables that can be converted into liquid biofuels that are biodiesel and ethanol.
Biofuel is the source energy that is produced through gasification and is used to ignite automobiles. It is mostly used in Australia, Sweden, and the United States. Biofuels comprise ethanol and biodiesel where ethanol in produced by fermenting biomass rich in high carbohydrates for example wheat, sugar cane, or corn. Biodiesel is formed by combining animal fat with ethanol or ethanol with vegetable oil. For biofuels to operate efficiently as gasoline, it is blended with gasoline so that it can power automobiles efficiently.
It is also evident that biofuels do not emit greenhouse gasses that are associated with fossil fuels hence are environmental friendly. The huge amount of land necessary for growing bio crops used to produce ethanol prevents food crops and crops for other uses from being grown. Large plantations of corn for production of ethanol result in environmental strain since it leads to lack of planting variations and intensive use of pesticides. Ethanol is also useful and reliable in that when burned; it emits flames and water vapor as heat rather than smoke hence currently utilized for residential fireplace purposes.
It is a unique organism with a tremendous potential as a biomass energy source. Algae is mostly in the form of a seaweed and produces energy via the process of photosynthesis at a faster rate than other feedstock that produce biomass energy at a rate faster than food crops of up to 30 times faster. Algae fuel production is efficient in that it grows in ocean water thus there are not soil necessities hence no usage of arable land that could be used to grow food crops and for other purposes. Even though, algae produces carbon emissions when burned; it is possible to farm it and replenish as a living organism thus releases oxygen and absorb carbon emissions and other pollutants. It is evident that algae take up quite less space compared to other biofuel crops. For example, the U.S Department of Energy reported that, it only about 38,850 square kilometers of space is need to grow algae that is enough to take over all the petroleum-fueled energy requirements in the U.S. The growth process of algae is an excellent phase that helps in absorption of carbon emissions and can be converted into biofuel because in contains oils or lipids that can easily be converted into fish food or biofuel. Despite the fact that algae are an enormous potential alternative energy source, it is expensive to process it into its usable form. For instance, it is estimated to cost 5,000 USD per ton and can yield more fuel than other biofuel crops of 10 to 100 times.
Black liquor is produced as a high energy toxic substance during the processing of wood into paper. Black liquor retains the wood's biomass energy of more than 50 percent and can be recycled and used to power mills with the help of the recovery boiler. For instance, in US, all the produced black liquor is used in paper mills and, as a result, it makes it among the most energy efficient in the US. Also, in Sweden, there is gasification of black liquor to produce syngas that then is used to generate electricity.