by Audrey Houle on November 9, 2017 - 5:15pm
Isabela Gorea, Audrey Gauthier and Audrey Houle
It usually seems easier to point out the negative effects of the climate change crisis and how nothing has yet been done to decelerate its ravages. The media seems to take pleasure in bombarding us with terrible facts about how the planet’s health is crashing and how solutions will be drastic. But as the brighter side is often neglected, we tend to forget that there is still hope in saving our environment. The only way for us to go further and create new techniques is by thinking positively, thus attempting and inventing new tactics to save what we call home. By focusing on solutions, we develop alternatives to the most polluting sources of energy: fossil fuels and nuclear energy plants. In fact, one of these alternatives is burning biomass, scraps of wood and other organic matter, which is a great renewable energy source option. This text will explain what biomass is and how it is used in Quebec.
Biomass is a source of renewable energy which consists of developing fuel from organic materials such as scraps lumber, forest debris, certain crops, manure and also some types of waste residues. It is considered as a green and renewable energy because it reuses waste residues, which will always be present and ready to be used. It is an ingenious way to manage wood scraps, mill residuals and forest resources and other types of organic waste which would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators.
The only way to produce energy from biomass is to burn it. When biomass is burned, the energy is released in the form of heat. It will then contribute to produce steam, which will make a turbine turn in order to generate electricity. The biomass energy can also be used to simply provide heat to industries and homes. If not burned directly, biomass can also be turned into liquid biofuels or biogas which will in turn be burned as fuels. Certain types of biomass, namely crops like corn or sugar cane, can also be converted, by fermenting, into ethanol or biodiesel for transportation.
One would think that burning biomass releases CO2 in the atmosphere, which wouldn't help with the issue of climate change. Although, even if it is true that carbon dioxide is inevitably produced by the burning, technology has evolved to the point where pollution controls and combustion engineering can efficiently lower the amount of emissions caused by this technique, to the point where ''any emissions from burning biomass in industrial facilities are generally less than emissions produced when using fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil).'' However, it really needs to be managed and monitored carefully in order to prevent this type of energy to damage the environment and produce air pollution.
Biomass is an important part of the energy production in Quebec. Indeed, after hydroelectricity, biomass is the most important source of renewable energy in this region. There exist many types of biomass: forest biomass, agrifood biomass and urban biomass. Since the province of Quebec has vast forests, the type of biomass that is the most used is forest biomass, which is composed of matter coming from trees like leaves, branches or trunk pieces. Manufactures produce a lot of forestry residues. For example, the pulp and paper industry produces a lot of organic wastes. Therefore, it burns theses wastes to generate energy. In Quebec, there were some projects concerning forest biomass. For instance, in 2009, the government of Quebec implemented a project called “Developing the Value of Forest Biomass” which main objective was to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas through the replacement of polluting energy sources by cleaner ones. In total, 255 millions of dollars were invested in this project.
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“What Is Biomass?” ReEnergy Holding.https://www.reenergyholdings.com/renewable-energy/what-is-biomass/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
“Biomass Explained.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=biomass_home. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
“Forest Bioenergy.” Natural Resources Canada. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/industry/bioproducts/13325. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
“Biomass Energy.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/biomass-energy/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
“Forest Biomass.” https://mffp.gouv.qc.ca/english/publications/forest/understanding/fiche-biomasse-en.pdf. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.