Biomass, What You Need to Know

Data Driven Decisions


Oxford defines biomass as “organic matter used as a fuel, especially in a power station for the generation of electricity”. While somewhat informative, the definition lacks the specificity needed by the increasing number of individuals, developers and organisations investigating the merits of biomass conversion. Biomass is a comparatively new biofuel product, and as such there is a notable lack of online resources. Accordingly, with an aim to increase confidence in the viability of the industry, SML has compiled the latest national and international data from a range of research-based sources (both intra-sector and independent) to bring you our biomass blog series. As producer/suppliers of biomass in Canterbury, we recognize our vested interest in the biomass industry, but we hope that in supplying this information we achieve a greater purpose in combating the current dependence on fossil views to slow the effects of climate change.


Biomass comes from organisms that are or have been alive, for example, animal and plant waste, crop waste, and crop byproducts. SML’s biomass is made from a byproduct of the pine forestry industry. It is renewable (the trees on forestry blocks can be harvested and replanted) and carbon-neutral meaning it does not release any additional carbon into the atmosphere than the amount that would normally be released by the tree of origin during its natural dying process. This is in contrast to coal – in its natural state, coal underneath the earth will not expire and release carbon into the atmosphere however, once the coal is mined and burned, new carbon is released that would not otherwise have entered the atmosphere. Carbon neutrality is one of the core reasons why biomass is commonly considered an environmentally friendly alternative to coal.


A NZ Case Study


Wood Energy South Report on Southland Tannery: Slinkskins Tannery is situated in the South Island town of Thornbury between Invercargill and Riverton. Family owned and operated for over 40 years, The Tannery process animal skins, turning them into high-grade leather. Their washdown, drying and dying processes require heat and thermal energy which, in the past, was produced using two steam boilers powered by LPG. Their decision to convert was driven by the rising price of LPG and a short supply of skins forcing them to become more efficient. After researching how to best meet their future energy needs, Slinkskins determined that wood energy powered boilers in congruence with their LPG installation (for peak load support) would yield the greatest ROI. A 540kw boiler was installed along with a buffer tank to minimise he use of peak load boilers and smart controls to regulate the interaction between the existing LPG boiler and the new wood-fired heat source. This along with a fuel hopper, wood chip delivery system, and new management system were installed in 2014. The company have reported both efficiency and operational benefits along with several thousand dollars of savings per annum.


Combating Industry Risk


As discussed in the Wood Energy Handbook published by EECA Business and The BioEnergy Association – There are risks associated with the industry in the form of technology, fuel used and operational or maintenance failures. These risks are quoted as “identifiable and manageable provided plant owners follow recognized quality assurance processes and best practice”. The handbook itself serves to assuage these risks. It is available nationwide and provides information on conversion, product classification, product quality and boiler compatibility. Additionally, association membership is widely accepted as an indication of product quality and best practice. Consumers are encouraged to only buy from the accredited wood suppliers of the BA of which SML is a member. You can find out more information on NZ biomass professional standards and The Bio Energy Association here.


Every day more organisations are discovering the benefits of biomass. Here at SML, we are committed to bringing you the latest in scientific research, case studies and industry developments. Keep an eye on our blog page over the next few weeks to keep your finger on the pulse.