Biomass '09: Biomass composition can differ greatly

By Anna Austin
Posted July 15, 2009, at 4:42 p.m. CST

If the bioenergy industry is to be successful, diverse technologies are needed to make use of various biomass sources, according to Reyhaneh Shenassa, research and development manager at Metso Power Corp.

Before a technology is selected, identification and characterization of biomass resources by specific region are also needed to understand chemical and physical properties, production rates, yields and availability of the feedstock, she said.

Shenassa, who was a presenter at the Biomass '09: Power, Fuels and Chemicals Workshop at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., recommended gaining a complete understanding of a biomass fuel source before selecting a technology. "What are the problematic elements?" she asked "What is the moisture content in this fuel?" Heating value, ash content, ash elements, melting behavior and bulk density should also be elements of concern when selecting a technology, according to Shenassa.

Biomass properties can be affected by many factors, including soil, location, climate, plant species, the part of plant being used, harvest time and harvest technology, she said.

"Biomass resources are not uniformly available across the U.S., or even within individual states," she said. "The best source for a particular energy production scenario depends on multiple factors to be assessed on a case-by-case basis." These factors include local resource availability, resource costs, plant size, feed ratio with coal, local geography and climate, as well as the availability of process utilities for conditioning as-received resources.

"We need to understand the limitations, and the analyses of many hundreds of samples, which have shown that biomass properties vary widely, even within the same species and same county," Shenassa said.

The Biomass '09 conference was held July 14-15.