The expansion and the impact that biomass has had on the industrial sectors worldwide is huge. Developing countries have begun shifting their focus on innovative technologies and key policies pertaining to the option of feedstocks and energy conversion platforms for industrial biotechnology and bioenergy. Some of the important biomass resources include industrial residues, forest plantations, agricultural residues, natural forest, municipal waste, and agricultural crops. With numerous environmental and economic applications, biomass has amply supported in the form renewal energy in economic competitiveness and sustainable development. With the world continuing to grow at rapid speed, continuous supply of raw materials has become essential for sustaining socio-economic development.
Uses of Biomass Resources
The usage of biomass has touched every aspect of industrial bio-economy in the form of feedstocks, conversion products, market development, and conversion options.
Biomass use has a great value for various industrial sectors including healthcare, energy, organic chemicals, and fabrics to name a few. A biomass-based economy offers numerous advantages including:
(1) economic growth and development in regions that are high in biomass resources;
(2) creates new business sectors;
(3) aids in rural development and in creating new job opportunities;
(4) effectively reduces greenhouse gas emissions;
(5) reduces the dependency on non-renewable resources;
(6) reduces the exposure to harmful substances thereby improving health; and
(7) creates a strong bond between the agricultural and industrial sector via environmental and economic linkages.
The Requirements of Biomass for Production
The biomass requirement for the production of industrial products and energy conversion depends on many factors including:
(1) environmental factors, biodiversity, and the effect on the local ecology;
(2) water availability for sustaining growth;
(3) the suitability of climate and soil type for crop production; and
(4) socio-economic preferences. Agricultural residues are primarily targeted because of their suitability for crops grown on tropical and sub-tropical regions. Further, agricultural residues can be processed for the many exiting agro-industries.
Majority of the developing countries are located either in lower altitudes or warmer climates providing them with a definitive and comparative advantage. For example,
Brazil achieved high commercial success in biomass resource utilization through the development of sugarcane resources for ethanol; while the sub-Saharan Africa uses biomass for the production of food. Biomass residues are divided into three major categories including: primary biomass residues, available at farms; secondary biomass fuels, a by-product in the agro-food industry; and tertiary biomass residues, the remnants of used products. Forestry residues are predominantly used by ply mills and logging industries.
Some of the popular biomass residues for various crops include:
(1) leaves and stem for vegetables;
(2) foliage and peels for roots and tubers;
(3) leaves, tops, and bagasse for sugarcane;
(4) foliage, husks, and stems for oil seeds such as sunflower;
(5) fruit pulp and fruits;
(6) leaves and stems for vegetables; and
(7) straw, husks, cobs, and hulls for grains such as rice and corn.
The high usage of agricultural biomass in the industrial sector is to reduce industrial waste and to create new alternatives. Biomass resources such as palm oil residues, banana fibers, jute composites, coconut husk utilization, sugarcane bagasse, rice husk, and other feedstocks such as cotton stalks for producing particle board , tomato peels for extracting carotene,production and protein extraction. Apart from the above mentioned biomass residues from plantation crops are used for numerous purposes. For example, the bark of eucalyptus is used as horticultural substrate or as mulch.
Seeds and potato peels for producing thermoplastic starch, and cassava for ethanol. There are different methods to convert biomass resources to industrial products and to bio-energy. The process include chemical, biological, and thermal. In the biological process, the biomass resource is fermented to produce bio-ethanol; while on the other hand, the resource is subjected to anaerobic digestion to produce biogas. In the chemical process, the biomass resource (oil seeds) undergoes conversion to produce bio-diesel. The last process, the thermal process is a tedious one. The biomass resource is subjected to three sub- processes namely: gasification to produce Fisher-Tropsch liquid fuels; pyrolysis to yield pyrolysis oils; and combustion to cogenerate co-firing.
The impact of biomass utilizations, though has scaled new heights, primarily depends on the appropriate socio-economic frameworks, environmental policies, and other legal mechanisms of a country. Biomass utilization aims to promote a cleaner and a sustainable environment.
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