Bioenergy for High Temperature Heat in Industry

Decarbonizing industrial process heat: the role of biomass


>Bioenergy is currently the largest source of non-fossil industrial process heat, largely because of how forest industries utilize internally generated residues and by-products to e.g., dry timber in sawmills and produce process steam in pulp & paper mills. However, when it comes to broader opportunities of biomass for industrial process heat, it is key to understand that the substantial amount of heterogeneity that lies under the heading. Not only can biomass feedstock come in many different forms, there are also great many pathways by which the feedstock can be converted into process heat, including direct combustion but also by way of pre-processing approaches like torrefaction, gasification or liquefaction. These can be used to produce biomass-based fuels that are quite similar to the fossil fuels currently in use and hence, in principle, biomass can meet most industrial process heat needs. However, many of these pre-processing technologies are not commercially mature and costs of biomass vary greatly between locations which makes it difficult to make general statements about cost competitiveness of biomass as a source of industrial process heat.

Understanding of the opportunities in biomass-based approaches to provide industrial process requires thorough analysis not only of the technological demands of the process itself, but also of local feedstock availability and how appropriate fuel logistics systems can be set up. Close collaboration between different supply chain actors and long fuel supply contracts can often be key to provide the certainty needed to reduce investor risk. However, there are also key roles for policy makers to play, by helping to fund R&D as well as close-to-commercial demonstration facilities but also create demand e.g., through public procurement guidelines that incentivize low emission supply chains.

This policy report highlights the opportunities  for bioenergy technologies to deliver heat in industry, and compares it wih alternatives for decarbonisation such as CCS, electrification and hydrogen, Specific policy recommendations are provided to accelerate its adoption.

Decarbonizing industrial process heat: the role of biomass. Olle Olsson, Fabian Schipfer, IEA Bioenergy Task 40, Dec 2021