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Biomass - energy from plants

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Biomass, a vast reservoir of energy, comprises various organic raw materials of plant origin: forestry products, specific crops, and recycled agricultural, industrial or household waste. Worldwide, it represents the fourth biggest energy resource (14% of global consumption). However, apart from Austria, Finland and Sweden, where it plays a significant role, biomass accounts for only 2% of Europe's energy balance. Biomass energy can be stored and does not fluctuate, and it has numerous advantages. Biomass is neutral in terms of the greenhouse effect: when used for energy purposes, plants give off the carbon dioxide that they took in while they were growing. A genuine biomass industry with considerable potential for job creation would seem to be a good way of developing the common agricultural policy.
Nevertheless, there are logistical problems involved in processing the large volumes of raw materials required to obtain sufficient and economic energy sources. At present, the cost of the energy produced is too high for many applications.
Various European research projects involving conversion technologies (thermochemical, chemical and biological processes) offer prospects of diversified end-uses, either as a source of heat and power or in the form of "biofuels".

Biomass - energy from plants

Clean motor fuel
View of the Artenay distillery (France): bioethanol produced from plants such as rape and sunflower represents an alternative source of motor fuel.

Green fuel from agriculture
An Italian firm, together with German partners, has developed a process for converting biomass of agricultural origin by means of pyrolysis. This innovation makes it possible to obtain a gaseous fuel that can be used by gas turbines or diesel engines to supply electricity.

 
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