Biomass CHP Applications

In recent years, market and policy forces have driven strong interest and implementation of new biomass-fueled CHP projects.  There are many potential advantages to using biomass instead of fossil fuels for meeting energy needs. Specific benefits depend upon the intended use and fuel source, but often include: greenhouse gas and other air pollutant reductions, energy cost savings, local economic development, waste reduction, and the security of a domestic fuel supply. In addition, biomass is more flexible (e.g., can generate both power and heat) and reliable (as a non-intermittent resource) as an energy option than many other sources of renewable energy.

Biomass fuels are typically used most efficiently and beneficially when generating both power and heat through cogeneration / CHP systems.  The industrial sector currently produces both steam or hot water and electricity from biomass in CHP facilities in the paper, chemical, wood products, and food-processing industries. These industries are major users of biomass fuels; utilizing the heat and steam in their processes can improve energy efficiency by more than 35%. The biggest industrial user of bioenergy is the forest products industry, which consumes 85% of all wood waste used for energy in the United States.

Manufacturing plants that utilize forest products can typically generate more than half of their own energy from woody waste products and other renewable sources of fuel (e.g., wood chips, black liquor).

Most of the electricity, heat, and steam produced by industrial facilities are consumed on site; however, some manufacturers that produce more electricity than they need on site sell excess power to the grid. Wider use of biomass resources will directly benefit many companies that generate more residues (e.g., wood or processing wastes) than they can use internally. Markets for these excess materials may support business expansion as the residues are purchased for energy generation purposes or new profit centers of renewable energy production may diversify and support the core business of these companies.

The success of any biomass-fueled CHP project is heavily dependent on the availability of a suitable biomass feedstock. Biomass feedstocks are widely available in both rural and urban settings and can include:

  • Rural Resources – forest residues and wood wastes, crop residues, energy crops, manure biogas
  • Urban Resources – urban wood waste, wastewater treatment biogas, municipal solid waste (MSW) and landfill gas (LFG), and food processing residue

Feedstocks can vary widely in their sources and fuel characteristics and therefore vary in typical considerations for their utilization. Various biomass resources can require different approaches to collection, storage, and transportation, as well as different considerations regarding the conversion  process and power generation technology that they would most effectively fuel.

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