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Biomass was the first source of energy used by our ancestors, after the discovery of fire.

Throughout our history, it has been put to many uses, such as in the traditional “carboneras” where it was used to make charcoal, which was employed for centuries as a fuel in homes and in forges.

A new emphasis on renewable energy sources has put biomass back in the spotlight.

What is Biomass?

Biomass comes from all types of animal and vegetable organic matter.


  • Agricultural and forestry waste. Energy crops
  • Animal waste
  • Waste from agriculture and forestry
  • Municipal solid waste and waste water


  1. Natural: Vegetal (bosques, matorrales, cultivos energéticos,...)Animal
  2. Residual: Vegetation (straw, sawdust, etc.) Animal (manure, abattoir waste, etc.)
  3. Fossil: Coal, oil, natural gas, etc.

Thermo-chemical processes

This system might be said to involve "burning biomass". The idea is to make the biomass react with oxygen and thus obtain energy.




Biochemical processes

These are biological processes and are different to the others in that the energy is not transformed through combustion: instead, the matter is decomposed by the action of micro-organisms and bacteria.

Anaerobic Digestion

The result is a BIOGAS which can be harnessed for energy purposes.

The biomass is decomposed by the action of anaerobic bacteria, which need no oxygen. The result is BIOGAS, which can be harnessed for energy purposes thanks to its high methane content.

At dumpsites, biogas is produced spontaneously from the municipal solid waste (MSW) which is decomposed by the bacteria.

This process of anaerobic digestion can also be carried out under controlled conditions, in vessels known as “digesters”. These systems use waste with a high percentage of organic matter, such as manure from livestock farms.

Alcoholic fermentation

This process is used to obtain BIOETHANOL, which can be used as liquid fuel.

It is produced by the action of micro-organisms such as yeast and fungi on products that contain fermentable sugars, such as sugar beet, barley and sugar cane. This produces BIOETHANOL, which can be used as a liquid fuel (bio-fuel) and can replace petroleum derivatives for transport.


Chemical processes

There are various different chemical processes, but the most important is the obtention of bio-diesel, which can be used to replace the conventional fuel in diesel engines.

It is obtained through the chemical reaction of vegetable oils with methanol. Glycerine is also generated, which is used in the cosmetics industry.

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This is the attention service of the Basque Energy Agency.