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What is biomass ?

Biomass is defined as all organic matter that can be transformed into energy. They can be of plant origin such as wood and leaves, or even animal origin such as animal corpses. According to various studies, this natural energy source would also be favorable in the fight against excessive greenhouse gas emissions. What is it really and what are its benefits?

What are the different forms of biomass?

There are several forms of biomass which are distinguished by their physical characteristics:

  • The solid form: shavings, wood, logs, straws or even leaves;
  • The gaseous form: biogas;
  • Liquid form: vegetable oils or even bioalcohols.

All of these materials can be transformed into energy to produce electricity or heat. They are also the oldest sources of energy in the history of humanity.

How to obtain energy from wood biomass?

There are different processes that make it possible to produce energy using biomass wood:

  • Combustion which consists of directly burning wood, generally in an environment with excess air, to produce electricity, heat or both. In the latter case, it is then a question of “cogeneration”.
  • Pyrolysis, which consists of using heat to decompose organic matter and produce energy sources such as charcoal or even pyrolytic oil and combustible gas.
  • Gasification which consists of causing the reaction between reactant gases and the carbon which makes up the biomass using a gasifier in order to obtain a combustible gas which will be purified, filtered then burned in order to produce electricity or mechanical energy.

What are the advantages of biomass?

Biomass has many interesting advantages, particularly in the context of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Biomass produces less CO2 than fossil fuels. In addition, the assimilation of CO2 by growing plants balances the level of CO2 present in the air following releases produced by combustion processes.
  • Biomass is a renewable energy source if consumption is lower than plant regeneration. This is precisely the case in France, where the rate of increase represents double the rate of timber harvesting.
  • This energy source involves local players, and thus limits the need for gas or oil.
  • For individuals, biomass is economical since logs are generally much cheaper than gas or fuel oil for heating devices.


Biomass wood is an interesting source of energy in France given its price and its renewable nature. Highlighting local stakeholders, its operation also creates jobs, reduces energy dependence and promotes territorial dynamics. However, it is important to be careful about overexploitation which could lead to serious ecological and environmental problems. In other words, the rate of wood removal must always remain lower than the rate of forest growth to maintain balance in the long term.