Bioenergy for High Temperature Heat in Industry

The role that bioenergy plays in the global energy mix has expanded over the last decades, from predominantly domestic space heating and industrial heat until the 1990’s to increased use in the electricity sector and more recently also large scale production of transportation fuels. According to the IEA 2DS scenario, the use of biomass to produce high temperature heat in industry will not decrease, but quadruple from 8 EJ today to about 24 EJ in 2060.

Traditionally, the application of bioenergy in industry was performed in industries that can use their own biomass process residues to cover (some of) their own heat demand, e.g. sugar, palm oil, wood processing, pulp and paper, etc. With the increasing motivation in industry to reduce CO2 emissions, several other industry sectors are also shifting towards biomass based heat generation in cases where there are suitable biomass resources are available nearby and technologies are commercially available.

While there is a large potential to displace fossil fuels with biomass fuels in the large and energy intensive industries (steel, cement, etc), there are also many small and medium sized process industries such as food industries, paper industries, etc. In contrast to the larger energy intensive industries where these cases typically require that large volumes of biomass are shipped to an individual site, the heat demand in these smaller industries can often be better matched with the biomass resources that may be locally available, resulting in smaller transporation distances. At the same time, the often continuous operation of these industries and the scale of operation are the right boundary conditions for several bioenergy technologies already available today.

This case study is part of a series of reports on the use of bioenergy in industry to supply process heat. In the framework of an intertask project, five of the tasks involved in the IEA Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme collaborated to produce four case studies and a policy synthesis report on biomass based industrial heat. The cases were selected carefully to illustrate that a wide diversity of bioenergy conversion technologies is readily available for market application, the optimum configuration depending on local availability of biomass resources, characteristics of the heat demand, availability of space, capital, etc. The cases are:

  1. Combustion of wood chips and composting residues for process steam generation in a potato processing industry
  2. Gasification of paper reject to displace natural gas usage in a pulp and paper process
  3. Process steam in a dairy factory via fast pyrolysis bio-oil
  4. Waste-to-Energy for production of steam for paper production

Early in 2021, a policy synthesis report will also be published that provides strategic information on market opportunities/potential and effective ways to address technical and non-technical barriers to implement bioenergy based process heat. The report builds upon the lessons learned in the cases, but also provides a more generic analysis of the market potential, and how its implementation can be supported, in order to unlock the enormous potential already mentioned above. All reports are available on the project website.

Project website

Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy

The IEA Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Bioenergy TCP) is organised under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but is functionally and legally autonomous. Views, findings and publications of the IEA Bioenergy TCP do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of its individual Member countries.