There is undeniably a worldwide focus on shifting to renewable energies, with regular fears over ‘peak oil’ as well as green efforts pushing us away from coal-fired power and heat generation.
One of the lesser-known renewable options is biomass, which is made up of a multitude of different renewable biological products, from food waste to leaves and grass cuttings or sewage. Biomass is being used as a renewable alternative to coal, as it is produced by natural growth and even as a by-product of other human activities.
Biomass may have a major role in the near future. There are some major challenges for the bulk handling of biomass, but there are some technologies that can help to deal with these.
The Challenges of Biomass Handling
The first challenge of handling biomass is the number of different materials it can be made up of. Some can be transported as bulk cargo, such as wood chips or paper waste, while some is liquid or semi-liquid. This means that a terminal cannot simply handle ‘biomass’ with a single handling system.
Dry biomass also produces massive amounts of dust, which can lead to respiratory problems such as ‘farmer’s lung’, caused by mould carried by the dust. This large amount of dust, combined with the methane decaying biological matter naturally exudes, can also lead to serious fire or explosion risk.
Overcoming the Challenges
The challenges facing bulk terminals can be put in two categories: handling and safety.
The challenges in handling mostly boil down to investment in equipment. This means sack tip equipment like that provided by http://www.aptech.uk.com/ paired with industrial conveyors for bulk biomass as well as tanks and piping for liquid biomass.
More difficult could be safety. Additional personal safety equipment, such as dust masks or respirators, might be required for working with dry biomass. Other options include improved ventilation systems or systems which minimise dust in other ways.
The other safety concern is about fires and explosions, which means that silos and storage need to be vented to prevent build-up, systems need to be put in place to remove open flames and sparks from the environment and dry chemical powder isolation systems should be adopted.
Dealing with biomass may not be simple, but it is a growing area of freight that handlers will need to manage.