Sunday, October 14, 2012

Biomass in United Kingdom – Current outlook

Biomass is lately receiving plenty of talk, and UK is no exception. Biomass energy sector is rapidly growing all over the globe as the world looks for cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. There are two main reasons behind the rapid growth of UK biomass industry – the rising energy demand and the government's desire to reduce country's dependence on fossil fuels.

Small-scale biomass production has grown over the years and is now becoming large-scale biomass industry because of the rapidly growing demand for biomass fuel. The higher demand for biomass has already resulted in increased import of wood. The dependence on imported goods is not good not just because of the high costs of imported material but also because of large transport costs. This is the main reason why UK biomass industry has already started developing plans that include focusing on smaller biomass facilities that would be primarily oriented on raw materials provided from the local area.

One of the latest feasibility studies has showed that in order for biomass facility to be economically viable the raw material needed for biomass production mustn't be transported by more than 50 miles.

As already said above, the import of raw biomass material continues to grow rapidly. Estimates say that timber imports are expected to rise to about 50 million tonnes by 2015, which is around 150% increase compared to current UK numbers. Having this in mind, it's no wonder that UK biomass industry plans to rely more on domestic timber to decrease total production costs.

Wood is the main source of biomass in United Kingdom.

The growing import isn't having positive environmental impact either. According to a 2010 Environment Agency study the rapidly growing import of biomass has negative environmental impact because the carbon emissions associated with shipping of timber could more than halve the potential carbon dioxide savings from biomass power plants.

Focusing on domestic wood material for biomass production must be done carefully, with the sustainable management of UK's forests, or otherwise this could lead to major environmental damage. The sustainable management of UK forests means focusing to smaller biomass plants that would operate with local supply of woods, and would therefore be forced to apply sustainable management of forests.

There have already been interesting proposals about creating a network of smaller biomass plants that would each operate in their local area, relying on their own wood material. Building enough of these small scale biomass facilities could ensure sustainable development of biomass energy sector in UK.