The agricultural sector is an important provider of biomass. The agricultural biomass resource can be used as a source of energy to produce heat, electricity and transport fuels. The agricultural sector also has a role to play to develop renewable energy consumption, including bioenergy.
Large quantities of agricultural wastes resulting from crop cultivation activity are a promising source of energy supply production. Substantial quantities of secondary residues are produced in agro-industries processing farm produce such as paddy, sugarcane, coconut, fruits and vegetables. The “waste-to-energy” conversion processes for energy generation can have good economic and market potential.
The energy density and physical properties of agricultural biomass wastes are critical factors for feedstock considerations. The selection of processing technologies needs to be aligned to the nature and structure of the biomass feedstock and the desired project outputs.
Biomass from agriculture
Agriculture occupies half of the EU land area. In the EU, the annual total agricultural biomass production is estimated at 956 million tonnes (Mt) of dry matter, as averaged from 2006 to 2015 (García-Condado et al., 2017). The 54% of this biomass are produced in the form of the primary products and is referred to as economic production. The remaining 46% is referred to as residue production.
Total residue biomass from agriculture in the EU has increased slightly over the period of 1998-2015. The distribution of economic and residue production is across the top 7 Member States: France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, the UK and Romania. They make up about 75% of the economic (384 Mt/yr) and residue production (323 Mt/yr).
In 2013, the European agricultural biomass total supply amounts to approximately 818 Mt of dry matter of vegetal biomass equivalents. It is composed of crop economic production (estimated at 478 Mt), collected crop residues (100 Mt), grazed biomass (119 Mt) and imports of bio-based products (121 Mt), 60% in the form of food products, 30% in the form of crop products (non-manufactured) and the rest in the form of bio-based material products (ca. 10%) (Camia et al., 2018).