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Biomass boilers can contribute to a lower-carbon future

Last week, we entered a new era in electricity generation in this country. For the first time in over 130 years, the UK had been powered without the use of coal for a full 18 days. While this run ended on 5 June, it’s illustrative of the fact that lower-carbon solutions have become ever more important across the economy. Biomass most often refers to plants or plant-based materials that are not used for food or feed. As an energy source for boilers, biomass can replace coal, oil or gas to heat hot water and radiators. Instead of using fossil fuels to produce the heat, biomass boilers combust sustainably sourced plant products. These include material such as wood pellets, woodchip, rape straw and maize cores.

In the field of commercial and industrial boilers, much of the focus is on biomass. This week, we thought we’d review the technology, to help you understand what’s involved. And we may be able to help you decide if biomass boilers might be right for your organisation.

Lower life-cycle emissions from renewable resources

In fact, carbon emissions from burning biomass are around a quarter higher than burning coal. However, biomass has been classed as a “renewable” energy source in international legal frameworks, because plants can be regrown. Unlike fossil fuels, they don’t require a great deal of resources and energy to extract them from the ground. Further, since the carbon dioxide released during the combustion was actually absorbed while the tree was growing, they are essentially carbon neutral. And this technology is a great way of using waste wood and easing pressure on landfill capacity. That’s important, given that each year approximately 8.5 million tonnes of wood goes into landfill in the UK.

Should you consider a biomass boiler for your business?

Hodgkinson Bennis can talk you through all the points you’ll need to consider before installing a biomass boiler. One key consideration is that they are normally substantially bigger than their fossil-fuel-burning counterparts – albeit biomass boilers do come in a variety of sizes. They are particularly suited to new-build projects that can design in a biomass plant at the outset. Similarly, they work in larger developments with central plant room such as schools, hospitals, housing associations and other institutional properties. If your plant is big enough, it might make sense for you to have a biomass steam boiler, given steam is an amazing method of transferring heat energy.

Just as with coal, oil or LPG, biomass must be ordered, transported and delivered, and then stored close to boiler plant. If you currently have LPG tanks or an oil tank, you’ll know the issues involved in continuity of fuel supply. The same applies to biomass, although it doesn’t constitute the same fire risk. With increased demand for wood pellets, the number of manufacturers and distributors has increased in the UK. There are also EN standards for wood pellets, so it’s worth checking with the boiler manufacturer what grade is needed.

Biomass boiler by-products

It’s also important to consider the by-products of burning biomass. The biomass boiler will periodically need to be emptied of the ash produced by burning, so you’ll need to arrange for removal of this ash. You’ll need to cut down on pollution too; ceramic filter technology can help control the level of fine particulates emitted from the flue.

The capital cost of installing biomass is several times that of a fossil fuel plant. However, there are a number of financial arrangements that can offset this. We’ve blogged before about the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, a government-funded financial scheme to encourage use of sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. And further offsetting the initial capital outlay, long-term running costs for biomass are currently lower than conventional fossil fuels.

Here at Hodgkinson Bennis, we can talk you through all the aspects of installing a biomass boiler. We can work with you on initial design and understanding the RHI scheme. Our expert engineering team can install and commission the boiler. And we’ll be on hand for ongoing maintenance, to get the most of your investment over your biomass boiler’s full life-cycle.

Give us a call today to find out more about biomass boilers

  • Call: 0161 790 4411

About Hodgkinson Bennis

Hodgkinson Bennis design, install and maintain the most fuel-efficient commercial and industrial boilers. Headquartered in Manchester, we work across the UK, particularly in the North West, North East and throughout the Midlands. Contact us today to discuss how we can deliver advanced commercial and industrial boilers.

At Hodgkinson Bennis, we have worked with commercial and industrial boilers since 1872. This history gives us an enviable amount of experience as pioneers in the industry. We place an enormous emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of all team members, suppliers, contractors, and the public. We provide the most fuel-efficient boiler solutions for industrial and commercial applications. The efficiency of our steam and hot water systems can significantly reduce carbon footprint. Fuel efficiency is of particular importance for both private and public sector organisations. Our newest boiler ranges are already making an impact on fuel usage for leisure centres and sports facilities across the UK.


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