Biomass as Alternative Energy Source

by John D. Keenan, (A.M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104,

Serial Information: Journal of the Energy Division, 1982, Vol. 108, Issue 1, Pg. 11-22

Document Type: Journal Paper


The potential for biomass utilization as a source of fuel, petrochemicals and petroleum-sparing substances is reviewed. The choices for cultivating biomass, utilizing it directly as an energy source, and converting it to fuels are considered against the background of the principal metabolic pathways. Engineering options for the production of biomass derived fuels include the direct use of photosynthetic materials, the photosynthetic production of hydrogen, the fermentation of organic matter, and thermochemical conversions. It is concluded that biomass offers a feasible renewable energy source which can make a significant future contribution to the U.S. energy economy. Process economics, however, prevent the widespread use of such systems. Improvements in bioconversion efficiencies and reductions in harvesting and handling costs are needed to improve the economic situation.

Subject Headings: Biomass | Renewable energy | Fuels | Organic matter | Economic factors | Chemicals | Petroleum | Energy conversion

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