In late April 2016, the US Senate passed a bill that categorizes biomass fuel sources as carbon neutral.
Although current biomass uses and practices aren’t ideal for some, biomass has proven to be effective for
others across the globe.
For example, some third-world countries use wood pellets as fuel sources. And since biomass is a renewable
resource, using it reduces the use of fossil fuels. The fewer fossil fuels we use now, the lower our impact
on the environment.
But where is biomass headed? And how can this fuel source benefit the planet? In this article, we’ll
answer these questions. We’ll also talk about the current uses for biomass so you can see where the industry
is and better understand its future.
Current Uses for Biomass
Today, many industries and companies use biomass as a fuel source to power their buildings. Some farms
even use biomass to enhance their soil, improve crop yields, and produce crops earlier. Other entities have
turned biomass into energy to power electrical grids and other powerhouses.
Additionally, as we recycle, we participate in biomass use-especially when we recycle and reuse items made
from trees and other plant life.
For example, all notebooks are made from trees. When a notebook gets recycled, the processing plant takes
the old paper and cardboard, reprocesses it, and turns it back into a new notebook. This reuse of biomass (in
the form of paper) reduces the amount of trees we need to cut down to produce more notebooks.
But should biomass use stop at recycling, agricultural advancements, or minimal energy production?
Future Uses for Biomass
While current uses for biomass are still relatively new, the future holds great things for the industry,
the economy, and the world.
With the passing of the new amendment that deems biomass as a carbon-neutral process, many people are in
an uproar about how this change will affect the environment. Some believe that cutting down and using trees
as a fuel source can’t benefit the environment because burning trees produces carbon dioxide that could
further pollute the atmosphere.
However, trees and other plant life absorb any carbon dioxide in the air. Since plants remove these
emissions from the air, there isn’t anything extra added to the environment. And if companies and other
entities plant new trees to replace ones that have been cut down, they’re only creating a larger net to catch
any carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
But trees aren’t the only fuel sources we can use for energy. In fact, any animal or plant byproduct can
be transformed into energy. According to some reports, about 55 percent of trash ends up in a landfill. If we
took that biomass-the leftover food, paper products, and similar items-and use it as a fuel source, we
wouldn’t be so reliant on trees for biomass energy.
If we used enough of this wasted biomass, we could potentially produce enough energy to power electrical
grids for small towns. Maybe one day, we could produce enough biomass energy to power large cities.
As with any product, energy can be traded internationally. In fact, there is some speculation that
international trade for biomass fuel sources could occur sometime in the near future. Although the fuel
source was cultivated far from where it will be used for energy, the trade for resources could benefit the
global economy while providing additional energy sources.
If you’ve recently purchased a disposable water bottle, you may have noticed that the label says the
bottle was made from recycled plastics. In the future, though, we may be able to avoid traditional plastics
production. Instead, we could use biomass to create a more ecofriendly plastic.
In 2012, chemical engineers discovered how to turn biomass into plastic bottles. Instead of relying solely
on petroleum to make the plastic, engineers and manufacturers use biomass to create plastic water bottles.
The plastics industry may even go so far as to use biomass to create other plastic materials such as
straws, cutlery, bowls, pots, trays, and food containers.
When you stop at the gas station to fill up your car with gas, you may use an ethanol blend of fuel. This
form of biofuel contains a corn byproduct, partially making this gasoline a biomass fuel source. However,
some companies are looking for new ways to power vehicles.
In fact, one company in the UK created the Bio-Bus, a 40-seat bus that runs entirely on biomethane gas. It
uses food waste and sewage as a fuel source. It can travel up to 186 miles per tank, and researchers estimate
that this process can consume the annual waste of five people.
The transportation industry is looking for new ways to power vehicles, so why not use biomass as a
limitless fuel source?
What You Can Do
As we advance into the future, keep an eye on the biomass industry. Look to the new technologies engineers
invent to further harness the energy and power from biomass. Though the process for using biomass as fuel and
energy isn’t perfect now, engineers may be able to develop new processes and equipment to better use this
fuel source. If they succeed, Earth’s dwindling natural resources may have a chance to rebuild over time.
Do you want to start using biomass more effectively in your company? Talk to a manufacturing company that
specializes in creating biomass processing equipment. You can even ask these industry leaders which pieces of
equipment you can use to better use biomass.