Biomass: An energy source you don’t often hear about

Long before people started using gas cookers, stoves, and electric cookers, biomass energy had been in use. Even now, it is still being used in many parts of Africa as especially for cooking and heating. While in developed countries, biofuels are relied on to power transportation and electricity generation in place of fossil fuels.

As sciency as the word ‘biomass’ sounds, it is actually the weight or total quantity of living organisms of one animal or plant species or of all the species in a community. The energy is derived when plants, crops, wood and waste products, animal dungs, and algae are converted into bio-oil, syngas, charcoal. It is the conversion of biomass that gives all these options.

Where can we get biomass? The vital source of biomass is the chemical energy absorbed by the sun. Remember how the plant absorbs energy from the sun during photosynthesis and converts carbon dioxide and water into nutrients which are called carbohydrates, this energy can therefore be used either directly or indirectly when transformed.

Either it is burned directly to create heat or converted into electricity. Your dried woods, dried plants, and wastes are great examples of biomass.  Think about it, why use a poisonous means to generate heat and electricity (generators) when you have a less dangerous option right?

Let’s talk about some ways this energy source can benefit mankind. Did you know that biochar which is also a part of biomass is beneficial to agriculture? It can be used as fertilizer for plants and can also restore dying plants; this can help with plant nutrition and thereby increasing food supply and reducing climate change. In addition, it is a cheap source of energy for households as it can be gotten from the environment at almost no cost.

Also, the consumption of foods in plastics in the municipal areas can be recycled for biomass as it is stored in these organisms but when its feeds are not replenished, then it becomes a problem. Methane is obtained from decayed vegetable matter and this not only reduces waste but is also a good energy source that can be used in place of fossil fuels. Despite its obvious advantage, it has its downsides.

While it is used both in underdeveloped, developing, and developed countries for different purposes. On the one hand, in developing countries, biomass is used as a form of traditional fuel and for heat. On the other, industrialized nations like Canada use the energy source for transportation, to generate electricity, and also for heat. However, the process of getting and converting biomass can be an expensive undertaking.

In addition, one study shows that deriving energy from biomass causes deforestation if the harvested areas are not allowed to replenish. Deforestation on its own part worsens climate change as the trees which store carbon are felled, thereby releasing more carbon into the air.

Italy’s Eni to develop a sustainable biofuel industry in Kenya

Italy’s leading energy company Eni, through its subsidiary Eni Kenya, and Kenya’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help Kenya adopt new industrial models of fully integrated circular economy across the whole biofuel production value chain.

This collaboration comes at a time when Kenya has embarked on a decarbonization process to address its waste problems and global climate change.

In line with its goal, the country is fast-tracking its circular economy initiatives including the recovery, regeneration, and reuse of agricultural and food waste in the biofuel industry.

Both parties will jointly conduct feasibility studies to develop waste and residue collection as well as agricultural projects.

A major reason for this is to establish a wide range of feedstock sources- that do not compete with food cycles- to be converted into biofuels and bio-products that might contribute to feeding Eni’s bio-refineries in Gela and Venice, Italy.

The parties will also assess the possibilities of transitioning Mombasa refinery into a bio-refinery, as well as the construction of a new plant for second-generation bio-ethanol from waste biomass, leveraging on Eni technologies Ecofining, e Proesa.

Innovative use of waste bring long-reaching benefits

The agri-focused development project is to develop sustainable oil crop cultivations, that is, low ILUC (indirect land-use change) feedstock such as cover crops, castor in degraded lands, croton trees in agroforestry systems, and other agro-industrial co-products.

The waste and residue collection would be used to promote and implement a collection system for used cooked oil (UCO) and other agro-processing residues.

This initiative will not only result in diversifying Kenya’s energy mix and supporting the overall decarbonization process but also decreasing the country’s reliance on imports of petroleum products.

Other expected benefits include developing sustainable agricultural activities and a circular economy, producing power from renewable sources, fostering the economic competitiveness of the local industry, and creating new jobs.

At an international level, the agreement conforms to the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and to the UN Sustainable Development Goals; at the national level, it contributes to the implementation of the Kenya Bioenergy Strategy, Updated Nationally Determined Contribution, Kenya’s National Development Plans, including Kenya Vision 2030.

For Eni, Italy’s leading energy company, the initiatives are in keeping with its commitment to actively drive the decarbonization process, and with the Company’s target to become palm-oil-free by 2023 and to double bio-refineries capacity to around 2 million tons by 2024.

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