Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Biomass is Being Used to Offset Greenhouse Emissions from Ethanol Plants and from Coal Electrical Generation

Note that in this post, I've included two graphics from the Shell report, "Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050." [Source: pdf] Most future energy growth will come from non-OECD nations, and the OECD nations are expected to experience a decrease in energy demand. Not unexpectedly, cheap coal will continue to be used and its use will increase. The trend to use biomass for offsetting carbon emissions from coal burning may increase. Importantly, the report also takes into account the impact of the financial crisis.
Electricity from biomass has moved slightly faster in reality than the scenarios projected and is gaining greater prominence. This is largely due to coal power stations alleviating their CO2 emissions by co-firing biomass with coal and also to the recognition that “negative emissions” may ultimately be required. In this case biomass electricity with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) may be critically positioned.

source: Shell

source: Shell

Also, from the report:
We anticipate focus in the next few years moving to the second law: what must be done to ensure that low carbon technologies can achieve a substantial share of the energy mix?

So called electric renewables, like solar and wind, along with sustainable biomass, CCS and nuclear at large scale will be needed to meet growing needs while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Yet the latter three are facing significant resistance from environmental lobbies. Their development will also occur at a time when burgeoning demand from the developing world will pull strongly on expanding established energy sources like coal. Priorities are therefore likely to be divided. These conventional energy sources will struggle to keep up with demand pressures once the hangover from the economic crisis has passed.

As an aside, unrelated to the Shell report, note that ethanol produced by using coal power, for example at ADM plant in Columbus, Nebraska, is also using biomass such as trees to offset emissions. I know, because when I lived in Lincoln, I saw large old neighborhood trees being cut down which had been labeled "unsafe" and when asked what they would be used for was told they would go to Columbus to be burned at the ethanol plant. Also, coal is transported by rail through Nebraska to that ADM plant.
ADM Announces New Power Plant For Columbus, Nebraska 2/9/2006 - Coal-fired co-generation plant will help power operations

Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) today announced that it would build a coal-fired co-generation (Co-Gen) plant in Columbus, Nebraska to help power its corn milling and ethanol operations in Columbus. The Co-Gen plant will be permitted to burn a blend of fuels, including high and low sulfur coals, tire derived fuel and biomass to produce process steam and electric energy.

The addition of this Co-Gen plant will help lower ADM’s overall energy costs and lessen its vulnerability to energy market price fluctuations. Cogeneration reduces the amount of fuel burned per unit of energy output, and reduces the corresponding emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. ADM currently operates similar Co-Gen facilities in Decatur, Illinois; Cedar Rapids, Iowa and has another under construction in Clinton, Iowa. [source]

As you see in the above photo, ethanol plants require large amounts of water, rail infrastructure, and energy inputs for production of the product, in addition to corn grain and all of its inputs.