What is biomass?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The following are some consensus definitions of biomass at European and International level:

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    Definition of renewable biomass: "The biomass is the non-fossil fraction of an industrial or municipal waste."
  2. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
    Definition of solid biomass: "Biomass is defined as any plant matter used directly as fuel or converted into other forms before combustion."
  3. EU's Waste Framework Directive:
    "bio-waste" means biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises and comparable waste from food processing plants"
  4. International Energy Agency (IEA)
    Definition of Biomass: "Solid Biomass products, gas and liquids derived from biomass and the renewable part of municipal waste."
  5. European Biomass Association (AEBIOM)
    Definition of Biodegradable Waste: "Biodegradable waste is the biomass that can cover several forms of waste such as organic fraction of municipal solid waste, wood waste, refuse-derived fuels, sewage sludge, etc."
On the other hand, among definitions of biomass which can be found in government agencies, research institutions and universities in Malaysia are:
    • Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Physics
      Definition of Biomass: "The term, biomass should be used not only to refer to lignocellulosic materials but to encompass all plant and animal matter i.e. any organic matter. However as the contribution from animal matter is only a small percentage of the total, the term biomass is generally used to refer to organic matter from plants."
    • Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB)
      Definition of Biomass: "Biomass is a cellulose material which can be broadly classified as woody and non-woody. Non-woody biomass that can be used as a fuel include agricultural residue such as bagasse, straws, husks, and pits. Also, manure can be used as a fuel. Wood fuel includes round wood (cord wood), limb wood, wood chip, bark, sawdust, forest residues, charcoal, pulp waste, and spent pulping liquor."
    • Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Energy Research Alliance (ERA)
      "Biomass is a form of biological matter that can be utilized as a kind of fuel or in other industrial processes. The most common types of biomass are wood, grass or agricultural crops."
Is there biomass industry?
The biomass industry represents several different industries brought together by the utilization of renewable organic matters including timber waste, oil palm waste, rice husk; coconut trunk fibers, municipal waste, sugar cane waste, etc. These organic materials have the potential to be used in the manufacturing of value-added eco-products composites, bio-fertilizers, bio-pellets, etc.) and the generation of renewable energy.

Biomass in Malaysia remains untapped despite its abundant resources in our country. Every year, a minimum of 168 million tonnes of biomass are produced. There are also hundred types of biomass-related research an activities currently undertaken by public research institutions.
  1. A lot of policies developed to facilitate the uptake on biomass and renewable energy among SMEs are still underway, limiting the efficiencies of coordination among local agencies and biomass industry in Malaysia.
  2. There is no reliable and clear data on the potential of biomass in the market
  3. Limited incentives and funding support are provided to bear the high cost of initial investment
In response to the global fight against climate change, biomass definitely has a firm position in the national agenda. As such, the commercialisation of biomass resources is no longer about simply profit-making. The issue is growing to be more complex and more diverse, therefore it opens an opportunity for engagement between different stakeholders which are inclusive of government, industry and research institutions.


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