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Biomass boilers can contribute to the lower-carbon future

Hodgkinson Bennis are experts in biomass and can work with any organisation to explore whether a biomass boiler is right for them.

Green shoot with lightbulb idea for Biomass Boilers from Hodgkinson Bennis
To achieve broader climate goals, there is a need for greater sustainability in energy usage.

There’s been a lot of focus on the future of energy usage and broader climate goals over the past couple of weeks. PM Boris Johnson’s virtual party conference speech looked to a future with much more offshore wind power supporting more electric vehicle usage. Meanwhile, a new Earthshot prize was unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough, aiming to support evidence-based solutions to improve the environment. While not explicitly focused on energy use, two of the prize’s strands are cleaning the air and fixing the climate.

To achieve broader climate goals, there is indeed a consensus on the need for greater sustainability in energy usage. For some time now, there has been action on renewable energy in the field of commercial and industrial boilers too, with moves away from fossil fuels and towards biomass. At Hodgkinson Bennis, we work with organisations at every stage, from exploring the switch to biomass through to maintaining a biomass boiler. In this blog, we’re going to review the technology and consider some of the issues surrounding biomass boilers.

Renewable resources lead to lower lifecycle emissions

As an energy source for boilers, biomass can replace coal, oil or gas to heat hot water and radiators. Biomass most often refers to plants or plant-based materials that are not used for food or feed. 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.

Carbon emissions from burning biomass are actually 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. Since the carbon dioxide released during the combustion was actually absorbed while the tree was growing, they are carbon neutral in terms of lifecycle emissions. What’s more, unlike fossil fuels, they don’t require a great deal of resources and energy to extract them from the ground. And using waste wood means that we don’t put more material into the ground as it eases pressure on landfill capacity. That’s vital, given that each year approximately 8.5 million tonnes of wood goes into landfill in the UK.

Considerations include capital cost and dealing with by-products

There are certain downsides for an organisation looking to switch to a biomass boiler. 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. The UK government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a financial scheme to encourage use of sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Further offsetting the initial capital outlay, long-term running costs for biomass are currently lower than conventional fossil fuels.

Organisations will also need to consider the by-products of burning biomass. The biomass boiler will periodically need to be emptied of the ash produced by burning, so arrangements need to be in place for removal of this ash. And there are fine particulates emitted from the flue, which need to be carefully managed to cut down on pollution. A solution such as ceramic filter technology can help to control levels of such pollutants.

Is a biomass boiler right 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.

We’re with you all the way if you choose biomass

Here at Hodgkinson Bennis, we can talk you through all the aspects of installing a biomass boiler. We can advise you on initial design and understanding the RHI scheme. We work with the best boiler designers and manufactures across the world, and for most biomass deployments, we specify Gilles Biomass Heating systems. Gilles provides a range of Biomass boilers suitable for every situation. 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 lifecycle.

Contact one of the team today, to find out more about biomass boilers and how Hodgkinson Bennis can help you decide whether biomass is the right choice for your organisation.

About Hodgkinson Bennis biomass boilers

Hodgkinson Bennis designs, installs and maintains 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, and our range of other services. 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.


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