The first Biomass Square in Flanders was officially opened on May 31 at the Bionerga site in Houthalen-Helchteren in the Limburg province.
1. Biomass center in Flanders
The site is a collaboration between the province waste processor Bionerga and the Regional Landscape Lage Kempen (RLLK), Belga News Agency reported. Thanks to landscape management of its wooded edges, such as linear plantations of trees or shrubs along Limburg fields and roads, the RLLK is left with tons of wood chips or tons of unused biomass in the winter months.
“After years of planning, we started the trial run this month,” Bionerga General Manager Philip Peeters to the Belgian newspaper Nieuwsblad.
Each year, part of the wooded edges is managed in blocks, ranging from 50 to 100 meters spread over the Limburg municipalities. That work can often be performed by local farmers. Once gathered together, the wood chips are then delivered in containers at the Biomass Square.
Biomass is plant-based material used as fuel to produce heat or electricity. Some examples include wood and wood residues, energy crops, agricultural residues, and waste from industry, farms and households.
Biomass contains energy first derived from the sun — plants absorb the sun’s energy through photosynthesis, and convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients (carbohydrates). The energy from these organisms can be transformed into usable energy through direct and indirect means. Biomass can be burned to create heat (direct), converted into electricity (direct), or processed into biofuel (indirect).
3. Alternative to fossil fuels
However, the wood used for biomass is not of sufficient quality to be used as primary material. That’s when Bionerga comes into action to convert these wood chips into sustainable energy and market them as an alternative to the increasingly expensive fossil fuels.
A large heating installation on the Biomass Square is fed with unusable fractions of biomass. The installation generates hot water that is used to dry the fresh wood chips. Then, the moisture content decreases from 50 to 20 percent.
After the drying process, a sieve installation removes metal residues and the very fine coarse fractions. This way, only high-quality dried chips will get to the market.
The idea behind the new centre is that the biomass produced would become a sustainable source of energy for the Flemish region.
The intention is not to ship them abroad or to the other side of Flanders. The wood chips must end up in local heating boilers. We want to go for sustainability, a circular economy via a short chain.Philip Peeters, Bionerga General Manager
The project is currently in a pilot phase and it is not yet clear exactly how many wood chips Bionerga will deliver each year.