Biomass pellets

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Bioenergy > Biofuels > Solid biofuels > Biomass pellets

Wood and other forms of biomass can be pressed into pellets. Due to their low moisture content, regular shape and high density, pellets can be burned very efficiently and are relatively easy to transport. They are often used for heating or electricity generation.



Organic waste from coffee production may be turned into "blackballs" or biomass pellets and used for fuel in developing countries.
  • Wood - Wood pellets are generally produced out of wood waste such as sawdust and shavings. The raw material is dried, mechanically fractioned to size and thereafter extruded under intense pressure into pellets. In the process the raw material is densified approximately 3.7 times (FAO (.doc)). The product produced in Western Canada has a bulk density of approximately 705 kg/m3 and a bulk stowage factor of approximately 52-56 ft3/metric tonne.
    • Wood pellets are primarily used as a fuel and have a calorific (heat) value of around 5 MWh/metric tonne (18 GJ/metric tonne) which is approximately half that of fuel oil. In North America the wood pellets are used in wood pellet stoves and fireplaces. In Europe, particularly Scandinavia, the bulk of the pellets produced are used as fuel in central heating stations supplying heat for entire communities or even entire cities.
    • A distinctive kind of cultivating energy wood is short rotating harvesting -- the cultivation of types of broad-leaved trees that grow quickly on extensive agricultural areas (poplar, willow, birch, alder, locust, etc). Another key feature of short rotating harvesting is the reextraction from the rootstock after the yield (2-3 years).
  • Organic wastes - Wastes still contains huge amounts of energy which can be harnested, for example by burning them in a furnace to provide power. They are a sustainable alternative to using tropical timber for fuel.
    • Saulo Seabra da Rocha and Stephan Hungeling from the RWTH in Aachen (Germany) invented "blackballs" made out of organic waste, for example from sugarcane, maize and coffee production which can can be turned into excellent sources of fuel for stoves.
    • The Amount Sewage Treatment plant outside Paris (France) makes their solid waste made into pellets which have a calorific value similar to coal and burn well. This can be re-used as an energy source. Currently they sell it to a nearby cement factory who use it to power their furnaces.


See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.






  • Single spark sends 10% of UK's renewable energy capacity up in smoke , 28 February 2012 by ClickGreen: "Fire investigators believe a spark from machinery triggered the huge fire that swept through Europe's biggest biomass power plant yesterday."
    • "Firefighters spent more than 15 hours tackling the fire at the Tilbury power plant on the banks of the River Thames in Essex...."
    • "The fire involved between 4,000 and 6,000 tonnes of wood pellet fuel in storage cells - at least two of the bunkers were destroyed in the fire...."
    • "In early 2011, RWE npower was granted the necessary consents from the Environment Agency and Local Planning Authority to convert all three of the power station’s units to generate power from 100% sustainable biomass...."
    • "The UK has signed up to achieve a legally binding target of 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates as much as half of that may be generated from biomass, which includes municipal waste, wood pellets and straw...."[1]
  • World’s largest wood pellet plant opens in Georgia, 16 May 2011 by "Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced the grand opening of Georgia Biomass last week – a $175 million wood pellet production plant in Waycross, in Georgia’s Ware County. The project was announced in January 2010 and is the result of a collaboration between RWE Innogy of Germany and BMC of Sweden that created 85 jobs."
    • "The facility is expected to produce 750,000 metric tons of wood coal annually that will be exported to power plants in Europe."
    • "RWE is a leading energy production utility in Europe, and will use the wood pellets produced at the Georgia Biomass plant to meet the growing European demand for renewable energy."
    • "'The surplus of sustainably cultivated biomass makes Georgia an excellent location for us to produce wood pellets,' emphasized Sam Kang, executive board member of Georgia Biomass."[2]
  • Plant closure bursts Ga.’s biomass bubble, 15 February 2011 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The premise, and the promise, were brilliant in their simplicity: Turn tree waste into fuel, help break the Middle Eastern choke hold on America’s economy and bring hundreds of jobs to rural Georgia."
    • "What wasn’t there to like?"
    • "Plenty, starting with the closing last month of the Range Fuels cellulosic ethanol factory that promised to help make Georgia a national leader in alternative energy production. Then there’s the money — more than $162 million in local, state and federal grants, loans and other subsidies committed to the venture."
    • "Over the last six years, Georgia has successfully wooed a variety of companies specializing in biomass — cellulosic ethanol, corn ethanol, biodiesel, wood pellet, wood-to-electricity — with the goal of becoming a renewable energy leader. Many of the companies, though, are no longer in business."[4]

Solid biofuels edit

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Technologies: Co-firing power plants

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