Biomass and bioenergy

Western Australian farmers produce over 10 million tonnes of waste biomass every year and much of this will present commercial opportunities for new industries. Resources, such as cereal straw, grape marc and tomato vines, are by-products of the main crop and most of the waste biomass has little or no commercial use.

Emerging technologies provide opportunities for farmers to sell these by-products. The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) has released a scoping study that provides information about these opportunities.

Biomass is biological material derived from living or recently living organisms and includes tree and food crop residues, animal effluent and offal. Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy derived from biomass to generate electricity and heat or to produce liquid fuels for transport.

As an example of the value of the resources available, one tonne of cereal straw can be converted into about 300 litres of ethanol biofuel or up to 3300 kilowatt hours of heat energy.

The opportunity

Producers can add to their income and/or reduce running costs by using low value agricultural wastes to produce biofuels. Biofuels can be used to produce heat and electricity within the business, thereby reducing costs, or selling these products or their wastes to other bioenergy producers.

Some of the processes used to create biofuel also produce secondary products, such as fertilisers and biochar, that can be used directly or sold.

Technologies for using biomass

DAFWA has released a scoping study (Biomass scoping study: opportunities for agriculture in Western Australia - Bulletin 4862) outlining the three main technologies used around the world to produce high value products from low value waste resulting from existing production systems.

These technologies are:

  • combustion, gasification and pyrolysis
  • second generation ethanol production
  • anaerobic digestion.

The bulletin outlines a selected range of projects around Australia and the world that are developing new industries based on biomass waste we produce. It also provides information on feedstock availability, potential customers for the energy produced and barriers to uptake.

Contact information

Kim Brooksbank
+61 (0)8 9892 8486
Page last updated: Monday, 7 November 2016 - 2:59pm