Safety Essential to Global Biomass Use
It’s very exciting to be involved in an industry where increased trade, globalization and regional development can go hand-in-hand with achieving environmental performance, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing energy security. Add that to the fact that most of the technology and feedstock is commercially available, and both industrialized and developing countries can explore the potential of bioenergy, and the result is a beautiful description of a sustainable industry.
Living in Sweden, I have seen a lot of potential being utilized. Bioenergy is, to date, according to Svebio, the largest energy source in the country. In 2013, bioenergy accounted for more than one-third of Sweden’s total energy supply. Bioenergy has largely contributed to Sweden’s decrease in greenhouse gas emissions—9 percent between 1990 and 2010—while gross national product increased by 50 percent. This is a practical example illustrating how biomass can contribute to sustainable growth, and it is exciting to follow the global development in the biomass industry.
Sustainable growth is about balancing economic, ecological and social issues, and safety ties into all of these aspects. Safety is essential to achieving a sustainable growth in the biomass industry. Fires, dust explosions and accidents are costly from an economic, ecological and a social standpoint (and in some cases even from an insurance standpoint). Costs that can, to a large extent, be avoided by integrating safety as a core value in all biomass operations. Each individual operator has a responsibility to contribute to a sustainable growth of the biomass industry.
With rapidly increasing volumes of biomass being handled across the globe, especially in North America, the complexity of handling the fuel in a safe manner has come apparent, due to the various properties of biomass as a fuel. Issues such as combustible dust, dust explosions, self-heating, and off-gassing are frequently discussed in the industry. Of course, a lot of safety knowledge has been gained in countries with a long history of biomass usage, but in many cases the complexity goes beyond that. Biomass is a broad description of several different types of fuel with different physical and chemical characteristics that have to be taken into consideration in each unique case. To contribute to a sustainable growth of the industry where safety plays an essential part, key players in the industry must ensure they have gained the right knowledge and be educated on the various properties of biomass as a fuel, to prevent any hazards that can arise. There is really no other way than making sure the proper homework is done up front.
Safety should be considered a core value, not a priority or a separate bullet point, that top management strives to combine with productivity, quality or even profitability, as an industry respecting the people involved and the resources we have to manage.
Author: Nicole Forsberg
Business Development Manager, Firefly AB