Biomass could get tight from 2030

Researchers In Denmark have been looking hard at the amount of biomass that will be available for biofuels after 2030 is going to become tight. This is what they say in a peer-reviewed paper in Environment Science Technology, produced by the American Chemical Society.

We show that toward 2030, regardless of whether a globalor European perspective is applied, the amount of biomass, which canbecome available for bioethanol or other energy uses, will bephysically and economically constrained. This implies that use ofbiomass or land for bioethanol production will most likely happen atthe expense of alternative uses. In this perspective, we show that forthe case of a new advanced bioethanol technology, in terms of reducinggreenhouse emissions and fossil fuel dependency, more is lost thangained when prioritizing biomass or land for bioethanol. Technologypathways involving heat and power production and/or biogas, natural gasor electricity for transport are advantageous.

There’s more, but you have to subscribe. The bit that interests me is the parts about heat and power production, that is static power generation. I guess there could be real benefits in this area because potentailly at least you could build power plants in the middle of agricultural areas. There would be transmission losses, but this would probably be less than the energy needed to transport liquid fuels around.

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4 Responses to Biomass could get tight from 2030

  1. Pradeep 13 October, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    I went to a presentation sometime ago where I heard that transporting fuels (gas/liquid) was cheaper than transporting electricity. This obviously depends on the distance to be covered, but I agree that converting complex biopolymers such as cellulose and sugars to bioethanol may not be the most efficient use of stored energy. The combined heat and power (CHP)is typically an on-site (or a captive) energy generation operation.

    Additional info below:
    The McKinsey report (released December 2007) points out that cellulosic biofuels (have to read more closely to see what exact “fuel”), could have negative CO2 abatement costs (saving money) by 2030.
    I compared the abatement potentials and costs (taken from this report) for various alternative energy technologies (solar PV, wind, cellulosic biofuels) with the similar values for abatement of power plant CO2 emissions.

  2. Simon Robinson 14 October, 2008 at 9:43 am #

    Paradeep, Your comments about transporting electricity are very interesting. My guess that it is only more expensive over short distances and I’d be interested in how the capital costs for the different ways of transporting were accounted for. I’ll see what I can dig up.

  3. Chris Scott 6 November, 2008 at 4:47 pm #


    My name is Christopher Scott; I’m a Director at PelHeat Ltd. We are developing the PelHeat Mobile Pelletizer. This machine is a small-scale mobile application to upgrade various biomass resources into pellets. These pellets can be used in pellet stoves and boilers or in gasifiers or CHP units to generate electricity.

    There are huge resources of biomass available, however large scale applications cannot utilize the small pockets of resources that are out there. The most efficient way is for there to be large scale and small scale operations, enabling a better use of resources.

  4. Simon Robinson 7 November, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    I guess you have to concentrate the biomass, turning it into pellets is probably a good way to do it.

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