Biomass heating—technology
Produced in partnership with WSP Environmental
Biomass heating—technology

The following Energy practice note produced in partnership with WSP Environmental provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Biomass heating—technology
  • What is biomass heating?
  • Biomass heating components
  • Storage
  • Wood pellet boilers
  • Wood chip boilers
  • Thermal store/buffer vessel
  • How it works
  • Environmental aspects of biomass
  • Feasibility criteria
  • More...

What is biomass heating?

Biomass heating is the combustion of organic (non-fossil) material to generate heat. In theory there are many potential fuel sources, including:

  1. animal dung

  2. domestic and industrial waste

  3. biodiesel, and

  4. wood

Biomass heating is considered very low carbon and is considered a major part of the UK’s plans to reduce carbon emissions. The focus of this note is on commercial scale technologies used commonly in the UK using biomass in the form of wood chips or pellets, but most information will also be applicable to domestic situations.

Wood chips and pellets are two common types of biomass fuel.

  1. Wood pellets—are manufactured from sawdust in a cylindrical shape and have higher levels of consistency than wood chips. Wood pellets are more compact and easier to handle. Another major benefit of wood pellets is that their greater energy density means that a smaller and lighter amount of fuel is required for given amount of heat.

  2. Wood chips—are natural residue from manufacturing processes and are more variable. This makes them more complex to handle, using more robust systems, and they take up more space. However, the fact they are a lot cheaper per kWh delivered and have much greater availability mean woodchips are most commonly used for industrial and commercial schemes.

Biomass heating components

Biomass heating has three main components:

  1. a fuel store

  2. a thermal store/buffer vessel, and

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