Fossil fuels, which are located all over the world, have been in existence for millions of years. They are rotted down organic matter, which became entombed between rock layers. As time went on the pressure of the earth's movements, heat and other factors caused these materials to become hydrocarbons, which we have today. Biomass and Fossil Fuels are related in that they both originated from organic matter.
At the current time the Middle East region has the largest concentration of fossil fuels. They are followed by Eurasia and North America. They are the three countries of the world that have the greatest amounts of this fuel.
The fossil fuels produce great energy and are used in all types of manufacturing as well as everyday life. Things such as gasoline, electricity, natural gas and many others are derived from this source. The fact that they are rapidly becoming depleted and are non-renewable, as well as putting dangerous emissions into the air, has become a concern of governments worldwide.
Biomass is also composed of organic matter. However, it has not laid around for millions of years to become part of the earth's structure. It is natural products such as trees, plants, wood waste and other such things. Manure of certain animals is also included in this mix.
The chemistry of biomass is not difficult to understand. It receives its energy from the sun that mixes with the plants natural chemistry to form solar energy. The conversion process involves carbon, hydrogen and oxygen within the plant structure. This is stored and can be converted into commercial energy use.
With the threat of global warming and studies showing that carbon emission into the air is harmful to the human body, a great deal of interest is being concentrated on biomass as a major energy source. It is clean, only releases natural elements into the air so is not harmful to the atmosphere or humans.
Biomass can be converted into ethanol or methanol by two methods. Thermal processes produce ethanol and methanol is produced by fermentation and digestion. The thermal processes include combustion, gasification or pyrolysis, while the fermentation and digestion processes include the use of yeast and various acids.
The process of using biomass on a large scale has been held back mainly by the expense of the conversion. There are a number of plants throughout the United States that are using these methods but so far, it has been too expensive to really become a viable option.
The agricultural industry is being encouraged to plant crops, such as corn, that has an elevated concentration of the chemical combinations that produce a high yield of energy. This, however, has backfired, in a way, as the use of this crop has lowered the amount available for human and animal consumption. As a result, in the market today, one will find that meat has increased considerably in price due to the cost of feeding these animals. This is why more encouragement is being given to planting things such as switchgrass, which will not affect the food production chain.