Biomass beneficiation – What does it take to build a viable industry

TOMA-Now | Wrap-up workshop overview

We hosted a workshop on Monday, 30 January 2017 to focus on potential biomass beneficiation applications for alien vegetation. The workshop represented the culmination of a year’s work, funded by WWF Nedbank Green Trust, exploring and identifying the most high impact biomass benefication applications that would support the development of local industries, increase positive community impact and meet the needs of local businesses – a somewhat tall order. This article is a highlight of the key outcomes and way forward discussed in establishing viable biomass beneficiation industries.

Participants included key industry players, innovative startups, key technology owners, Norwegian and Swedish Trade Councils and Governmental representatives, making this a biomass beneficiation value chain representative gathering.

Numerous issues were issues were raised including,

  • Current state of invasive alien vegetation and benefits of biomass clearing.
  • Key role players and stakeholders in the industry spanning across the economic, social, and environmental spheres.
  • Data analysis needs and gaps.
  • Market potential for thermal energy using biomass – based on needs of local stakeholders.
  • Applications biomass can be used for in industry, agriculture and furniture manufacturing.

TOMA-Now | Wrap-up workshop crowd 1We provided an overview of our biomass value chain mapping work and were joined by several industry players and technology owners active in this space such as John Thompson Boilers, Viking Energy, Senfore and CSIR. We also had a presentation on an innovative, low cost solar kiln.

Overall there is a growing interest in this industry, as new opportunities and applications are unlocked. What made the TOMA-Now study different was to not only consider the location of the biomass but to identify key local stakeholders – including industry, local businesses and communities. It was identifying their needs first that allowed an effective application match to be identified.

There are still significant areas for development, including the establishment of financial frameworks that support the industry as a whole, not just the upstream alien vegetation clearing activities. The following key considerations were identified for further development in order to ensure a viable biomass beneficiation industry development,

  • TOMA-Now | Wrap-up workshop crowd 2Comprehensive data mapping (all biomass)
  • Strategic harvesting and transport
  • A effective community of practice
  • Financing frameworks
  • Localised testing laboratory and research
  • Water estimation tools
  • Landowner / product certification schemes
  • Cogeneration solutions

This work demonstrates the feasibility of a value chain-based, viable biomass beneficiation approach that gets everyone on board –  from biomass clearers to technology developers to startups and corporates. The outcome clearly shows the opportunity to viably, sustainably and exponentially develop the biomass industry through the development of a strong biomass value chain.