[e], Soil organic carbon has been observed to be greater below switchgrass crops than under cultivated cropland, especially at depths below 30 cm (12 in). miscanthus (10–40 t/ha), and napier (15–80 t/ha), but unlikely for forest and many other types of biomass crops. When burned, the energy in biomass is released as heat. The estimated biomass production in the world is approximately 100 billion metric tons of carbon per year, about half in the ocean and half on land. This includes many everyday items – agricultural crops, trees, … further argue that the most successful carbon sequestration in the UK takes place below improved grassland. Tilling induces soil aeration, which accelerates the soil carbon decomposition rate, by stimulating soil microbe populations, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Milner et al. Biomass was the largest source of total annual U.S. energy consumption until the mid-1800s. The composition of the biosphere is a fundamental question in biology, yet a global quantitative account of the biomass of each taxon is still lacking. Examples of fossil fuels include coal, petroleum and natural gas. Because it comes from a variety of sources, biomass fuel isn't always consistent in quality or energy efficiency, and there isn't yet a well-developed network of biomass refineries and distributors like there is for gasoline and natural gas. Smil estimates the following densities for biofuels: Combusting solid biomass is more energy efficient than combusting liquids, as the whole plant is utilized. Most primary productivity is carried out by pelagic phytoplankton, not benthic plants.…. This essentially refers to absolutely all living things, regardless of size or species, that take up a certain space at a certain time. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Updates? The others do not exist by themselves — they were extracted in some way from nature by humans. Biomass is carbon based and is composed of a mixture of organic molecules containing hydrogen, usually including atoms of oxygen, often nitrogen and also small quantities of other atoms, including alkali, alkaline earth and heavy metals. The higher the yield, the more likely CO2 negativity becomes. IEA Bioenergy) counter with the argument that this higher amount of CO2 is irrelevant since it will be absorbed back by new plant growth (here assuming sustainable forestry practices). ", "[...] it seems likely that arable land converted to Miscanthus will sequester soil carbon; of the 14 comparisons, 11 showed overall increases in SOC over their total sample depths with suggested accumulation rates ranging from 0.42 to 3.8 Mg C ha, "The correlation between plantation age and SOC can be seen in Fig. They are usually manufactured in a die with total moisture content usually less than 15 % of their mass.". Biomass (B) is a measurement of how much living tissue mass for a population is present at one instant in time (or averaged over several periods of time), and its units are mass (or energy) per unit area (e.g., g/m2) (Benke 1993). This analysis provides a holistic view of the composition of the biosphere and allows us to observe broad patterns over taxonomic categories, geographic locations, and trophic … [n] The bottom graphic displays the estimated yield necessary to achieve CO2 negativity for different levels of existing soil carbon saturation. Reducing uncertainties in ∆C [carbon increase or decrease] following LUC [land use change] is therefore more important than refining N2O [nitrous oxide] emission estimates (Berhongaray et al., 2017). To match the world average for biofuels (0.3 W/m2), plantations need to produce 5 tonnes of dry mass per hectare per year. Biomass also refers to the organic material on Earth that has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. , Thermal conversion processes use heat as the dominant mechanism to upgrade biomass into a better and more practical fuel. Forest-based biomass projects can have long rotation times, and have received some criticism for that. compared a number of individual European reports on Miscanthus x giganteus carbon sequestration, and found accumulation rates ranging from 0.42 to 3.8 tonnes per hectare per year,[f] with a mean accumulation rate of 1.84 tonne (0.74 tonnes per acre per year),[g] or 25% of total harvested carbon per year. Historically, humans have harnessed biomass-derived energy since the time when people began burning wood fuel. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. In order to match these power densities, plantation yields must reach 17 t/ha, 50 t/ha and 83 t/ha for wind, hydro and solar respectively. When it comes to energy, biomass is any organic matter that can be used to generate energy, for example wood, forest residues or plant materials. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. In most cases, microorganisms are used to perform the conversion process: anaerobic digestion, fermentation, and composting. You will notice that water, wind, sun, and biomass (vegetation) are all available naturally. Hemp Biomass is the remaining dry plant matter (stalks, leaves). , In addition to absorbing CO2 and storing it as carbon in its above-ground tissue, biomass crops also sequester carbon below ground, in roots and soil. Energy & Fuels, 32(7), 7294–7318. Thermostable variants are gaining increasing roles as catalysts in biorefining applications, since recalcitrant biomass often needs thermal treatment for more efficient degradation. Transmission loss data from the World Bank, sourced from IEA.  If non-sustainable forestry techniques are employed, previously combusted CO2 is only partially re-absorbed. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. miscanthus, switchgrass), wood or forest residues, waste from food crops (wheat straw, bagasse), horticulture (yard waste), food processing (corn cobs), animal farming (manure, rich in nitrogen and phosphorus), or human waste from sewage plants.  While regular forestry typically have rotation times spanning many decades, short rotation forestry (SRF) have a rotation time of 8–20 years, and short rotation coppicing (SRC) 2–4 years. [o] Consequently, Smil estimates the following: In Brazil, the average yield for eucalyptus is 21 t/ha (1.26 W/m2), but in Africa, India and Southeast Asia, typical eucalyptus yields are below 10 t/ha (0.6 W/m2). The North American mule deer (, …the nutrient reservoirs, and soil biomass provides the chemical pathways for cycling. Smil estimates that the average area-specific power densities for biofuels, wind, hydro and solar power production are 0.30 W/m2, 1 W/m2, 3 W/m2 and 5 W/m2, respectively (power in the form of heat for biofuels, and electricity for wind, hydro and solar). The biomass is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time.  [s] If biomass is to be utilized for electricity production rather than heat production, note that yields has to be roughly tripled in order to compete with wind, hydro and solar, as the current heat to electricity conversion efficiency is only 30–40%. What you get for that, though, is “non-biomass, no stems, no trim, no chemical extraction — all we use is pure kief,” Macri says.  Agricultural production releases CO2 and on combustion, a plant's absorbed CO2 is released into the atmosphere. However, some other studies (particularly on transport fuels) have indicated the opposite, that is that bioenergy systems can increase GHG emissions (Smith & Searchinger, 2012) or fail to achieve increasingly stringent GHG savings thresholds. Akhtar, A., Krepl, V., & Ivanova, T. (2018). All organic material obtained from plants and animals is considered biomass, and consists of wood, crops, animal waste, organic garbage, human waste, etc. The argument that biomass combustion is carbon neutral is contested. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. Dedicated perennial energy crops, produced on existing, lower grade, agricultural land, offer a sustainable alternative with significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon sequestration when produced with appropriate management (Crutzen et al., 2008; Hastings et al., 2008, 2012; Cherubini et al., 2009; Dondini et al., 2009a; Don et al., 2012; Zatta et al., 2014; Richter et al., 2015). Biomass power is an expanding $1 billion industry with 80 facilities in 20 states that supplies over half of America’s renewable electricity. Biomass is the organic matter, both animal and plant-based, which can … Following analysis from 138 original studies, transitions from arable to short rotation coppice (SRC, poplar or willow) or perennial grasses (mostly Miscanthus or switchgrass) resulted in increased SOC (+5.0 ± 7.8% and +25.7 ± 6.7% respectively). As part of the Food vs. fuel debate, several economists from Iowa State University found in 2008 "there is no evidence to disprove that the primary objective of biofuel policy is to support farm income.". Many first generation biomass projects have a positive GHG life cycle cost, especially if emissions caused by direct or indirect land use change are included in the GHG cost calculation. Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. [d], During plant growth, ranging from a few months to a decades, CO2 is re-absorbed by new plants.  Typically, perennial crops sequester more carbon than annual crops because the root buildup is allowed to continue undisturbed over many years. , The argument that biomass combustion is carbon neutral is contested. , As biomass is a natural material, many highly efficient biochemical processes have developed in nature to break down the molecules of which biomass is composed, and many of these biochemical conversion processes can be harnessed.  The “carbon payback period” – the time it takes for regrowth of the forest to reabsorb the emissions from biomass – is a key measure, since increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, even for a few decades, might be counterproductive. It is also the total amount of organic material produced by living things in a given area within a set period of time. Soils already rich in carbon includes peatland and mature forest. These are called biomass feedstock s. Biomass energy can also be …  Upgrading to higher grade fuels can be achieved by different methods, broadly classified as thermal, chemical, or biochemical.  Perennial grasses like miscanthus or napier grass have a rotation time of 4–12 months. Biomass fuels come from things that once lived: wood products, dried vegetation, crop residues, aquatic plants, and even garbage. sfn error: no target: CITEREFvan_den_Broek1996 (, "The global outlook for future wood supply from forest plantations", ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 2014a, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 2014b, "Biomass – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy", "Carbon emissions from burning biomass for energy", "Congress Says Biomass Is Carbon Neutral but Scientists Disagree - Using wood as fuel source could actually increase CO2 emissions", "Primary Production of the Biosphere: Integrating Terrestrial and Oceanic Components", "Genetic Engineering of Algae for Enhanced Biofuel Production", "Biomass-to-Fuel Conversion (Princeton University USA)", "Measuring the regional availability of biomass for biofuels and the potential for microalgae", "The potential for production of high quality bio-coal from early harvested Miscanthus by hydrothermal carbonisation", "Thermostable glycoside hydrolases in biorefinery technologies", "Emerging electrochemical energy conversion and storage technologies (open access)", "Above-ground biomass in forest per hectare", Federal Statistical System of the United States, "Biomass subsidies 'not fit for purpose', says Chatham House", "Proposed biomass plant: Better than coal? How is biomass used? The total amount of organic material produced by living organisms in a particular area within a set period of time, called the primary or secondary productivity (the former for plants, the latter for animals), is usually measured in units of energy, such as gram calories or kilojoules per square metre per year. Biomass is made up of living things (or things that were once living). Yields need to be adjusted to compensate for the amount of moisture in the biomass (evaporating moisture in order to reach the ignition point is usually wasted energy). grain and oil seed). The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, wood, and waste. The three major categories of methods for generating electricity include fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable sources. Biomass fuels produce less carbon dioxide than some fossil fuels, such as … For instance, Whitaker et al. ", "While the initial premise regarding bioenergy was that carbon recently captured from the atmosphere into plants would deliver an immediate reduction in GHG emission from fossil fuel use, the reality proved less straightforward. Studies have reported life‐cycle GHG savings ranging from an 86% reduction to a 93% increase in GHG emissions compared with fossil fuels (Searchinger et al., 2008; Davis et al., 2009; Liska et al., 2009; Whitaker et al., 2010). The basic alternatives are torrefaction, pyrolysis, and gasification, these are separated principally by the extent to which the chemical reactions involved are allowed to proceed (mainly controlled by the availability of oxygen and conversion temperature).. Biomass is composed of organic materials, therefore, large amounts of land are required to produce the fuel. , Glycoside hydrolases are the enzymes involved in the degradation of the major fraction of biomass, such as polysaccharides present in starch and lignocellulose. Chatham House, EASAC) therefore argue that "[...] woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas". In a different though related sense, the term biomass refers to plant materials and animal waste used especially as a source of fuel. Thermochemical By heating plant matter, it is possible to break down biomass into gases, liquids and solids, which can be further processed into … Biomass continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries. What is Biomass Energy?  It can be purposely grown energy crops (e.g. Nationwide, the biomass industry accounts for over 15,500 jobs, many of which are in small rural communities. Its sources vary widely: trees, agricultural crops like corn and sugarcane, algae, and even landfill waste. This has identified LUC from arable, in general to lead to increased SOC, with LUC from forests to be associated with reduced SOC and enhanced GHG emissions. Biomass might be one of the most environmentally friendly methods for creating heat and electricity in the U.S., but it is not the most common. ", "The raw material for wood pellets is woody biomass in accordance with Table 1 of ISO 17225‑1. 3), whilst the shorter term radiative forcing impact of black carbon particles from the combustion of biomass and biofuels also represents significant data uncertainty (Bond et al., 2013). Studies suggested that GHG emission from energy crop production and land-use change might outweigh any CO2 mitigation (Searchinger et al., 2008; Lange, 2011). Biomass power is carbon-neutral electricity generated from renewable organic waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, be burned openly, or be used as fodder for forest fires. 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