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Bioenergy: naturally renewable

Photograph of a biomass plant

A green energy par excellence, bioenergy is the most utilized source of renewable energy in the world. It is based on the recovery of an unused, abundant natural resource: biomass. Burning biomass is a carbon-neutral way of producing energy. This is because, through photosynthesis, plants have the ability to absorb the CO2 emitted during combustion.

Producing energy from by-products

Naturally produced by nature, biomass is a major alternative to fossil energies. In fact, supplies of fossil energies such as coal, gas or petroleum took several hundreds of millions of years to build up, whereas supplies of biomass energy sources are renewed over much shorter periods of time, from a few years in the case of forest biomass to a few months for agricultural biomass.

With over 38 years of experience in bioenergy and 95 biomass power plants built worldwide representing 2.5 GWe of global installed capacity, AREVA is a market leader. Its operations cover the design, construction, installation and commissioning of carbon-neutral biomass power plants.

AREVA’s bioenergy plants can burn many types of by-products, including:

  • bagasse (sugar cane fiber)
  • rice husks
  • wood (chips, bark and sawdust)
  • straw
  • EFB (Empty Fruit Bunch resulting from the oil palm industry)

The most common of these by-products are bagasse, rice husks and wood chips.

If all available bagasse were to be utilized efficiently in electricity production, some 70,000 MW of electricity could be generated.
The 140 million metric tons of rice husk that are left unused globally each year could be converted into 16,000 MW of electricity.

Wood is traditionally the most important source of primary energy used by man. Today this fuel comes from the residues produced by the logging industry, including branches, bark and sawdust.

A viable alternative

AREVA is an industrial pioneer in the development of power engineering solutions with a strong focus on biomass combustion technology. With the global market for bioenergy plants set to increase by 7 GWe per year from 2013 to 2018 (Source: 2013 IEA Renewable Energies Report), the group plans to maintain its leading position in its target markets:

  • sugar cane bagasse in Latin America (notably Brazil)
  • solid biomass in Europe
  • agricultural by-products in Asia (rice husks, wheat and rice straw, palm stalks, coconut shells)

 In addition, AREVA is developing FlexBio, its own unique solution for the combustion of complex biomass, which is abundant in India and Southeast Asia. The group also added an industrial torrefaction technology to its portfolio, allowing AREVA to engage in this promising market.

Spotlight on the benefits of biomass

  • Provides ways to recover otherwise unused organic matter
  • Is CO2-neutral and avoids the production of methane during the natural decomposition process of plant residues
  • Creates jobs in rural areas within a 50-kilometer radius of the plant, both directly and indirectly, through biomass collection
  • Helps diversify revenue sources in the highly competitive agricultural sector
  • Can burn several different types of fuel, ensuring the sustainability of operations
  • Is connected to the local power grid or to an industrial facility to supply electricity and possibly heat via cogeneration

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