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Biomass, or the future of biological fuel

Fuel obtained directly or indirectly from biological resources (wood, agricultural residues, urban waste or manure, among others sources).

In energy terms, biomass refers to renewable fuel that is obtained from living and recently living biological material. It refers to firewood, biodiesel, biobutanol, biogas and solid fuel block.

Biomass can be produced or it can be obtained from residues:

  • The first method of obtaining it is controversial since to produce biomass on a large scale would require designating massive agricultural space to the cultivation of biomass crops at the expense of food crops. Or worse: large scale production of biomass could accelerate the already rapid deforestation of the planet. For example, the mass cultivation of sugarcane in Brazil is putting pressure on tropical forests, whose biodiversity is threatened by the world leadership of Brazil in bioethanol production. Cultivated or agricultural biomass can be produced from raw materials such as, sugarcane, switchgrass, hemp, willow and corn.
  • Biomass obtained from the processing of waste continues to receive more attention. Its benefits are two-fold: it helps to treat the waste generated by some agricultural and industrial processes while simultaneously creating an energy source. Residues that can be used include, carpentry waste; residues from prunings, harvests and forest dead wood; sawdust; olive oil production wastewater; nutshells; and other residues of the food industry. Similarly, animal manure can be used.

Biomass can be used as a primary material in fuel production. It’s use can be extended to the creation of building materials or, through the processing of cellulose fibers, to create biodegradable paper and plastic.