Carnegie Mellon University
Biomass Resources

The following biomass resouces provide background information and suggested links for data in global energy, economics, market trends, and frequently asked questions (FAQ).  Compiled and assessed by: Rushil Desai, Pradeep Somi Ganeshbabu, Pranav Goray, Griffin Harbach, and Hengyu Xue (2017 updates provided by Ashwin Kumar Balaji)

IEA Bioenergy Task 40

This report analyzes the biomass and bioenergy situation in the United States of America, including quantitative information regarding domestic biomass resources (Page 12), and the current and projected consumption scenarios with respect to biomass resources (Page 18). For better comprehension, the report provides a background on policy and economics from page 23, indicating that governmental organizations and financial support may affect the usage of biomass-based fuels. Several economic, technical, logistical, and ecological factors have been proposed to influence successful international trade (Page 42). This report is provided by IEA Bioenergy which functions within a framework established by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to "promote the widespread and increased adoption and the sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy". Data for this report is obtained from business journals, industrial associations, consultants, governments etc., and the data is made directly comparable among the various sources. Specific parameters used for cost analysis in this report are the equipment cost, the total financial cost, and the levelized cost of electricity (under the topic “Key Findings”). Subsidies, incentives, CO2 pricing etc. have not been considered. Important data on global biomass trends (Page 22), future estimates of biomass plants installed (Page 24), cost of feedstock per ton (Page 28), helps to gain a broader perspective of global outlook for biomass as an energy resource.

A working paper for REmap 2030

IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to "promote the widespread and increased adoption and the sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy". According to Remap 2030, it is believed that biomass will prove to be the major contributor to the renewable sector (60% of the total renewable use). Most of the report focuses on future estimates of growth, demand and supply of energy from biomass. ‘Sustainability’ of biomass (topic 7), strategies (topic 8) and policies (topic 9) needed to realize the biomass potential up to 2030 are discussed in detail.

US Billion Ton Update (August 2016)

This report describes biomass sources and gives statistics for current and projected future resources. Chapter 2 introduces various source types and briefly describes each. The resources described in depth are forests resources (Chapter 3), waste resources (Chapter 5) and microalgae (Chapter 7). Projections for these resources up to 2030 are provided considering multiple scenarios - for agricultural crops, projections are based on current yield and high yield (1%-3% higher); for energy crops and agricultural crops, projections based on multiple processing costs per dry ton. Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery is an online mapping and data sharing toolkit, developed by the Biomass Program of the U.S. Department of Energy, to realize the potential of upcoming biomass technologies.


This report attempts to quantify the impacts of bioenergy with the development of an analytical framework that provides an integrated yet simplistic methodology for comprehensive study of the environmental impacts related to the production and utilization of biomass for bioenergy.  Relevant issues for this study include soil quality, biodiversity, land use, quality and availability of water, and greenhouse gas emissions. The first chapter of the report focuses on the formulation of the Bioenergy Environmental Impact Assessment (BIAS) framework, describing various environmental analysis and assessment tools, as well as the various criteria and indicators used to measure the impacts. Chapter 2 (pages 11-26) focuses on the impacts on biodiversity, chapter 3 (pages 27-37) focuses on agricultural water use, chapter 4 (pages 38-50) focuses on impacts on soil, and chapter 5 (pages 51-61) focuses on greenhouse gas emissions. The report has been published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an agency of the UN that coordinates and leads global efforts to defeat hunger.  


The Bioenergy Assessment Toolkit is a step-by-step aid provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for evaluating the viability of a bioenergy opportunity by assessing biomass resources, potential markets and competition, technology evaluation, assessment of environmental and socio-economic impacts, cost estimates, import and export opportunities along with a review of policies. Pages 3-5 provide a list of biomass resource assessment tools and studies, pages 6-7 provide a reasonably comprehensive list of technologies and conversion techniques along with links to documents that can provide more detailed information, pages 8-9 provide a list of techno-economic assessment tools and studies, pages 10-11 provide a list of socio-economic impact assessment tools and studies, pages 12-13 provide environmental impact assessment tools and studies, pages 14-15 talk about the policies in favor of the bioenergy industry, pages 16-17 talk about trade opportunities. The report is somewhat like a one-stop shop for understanding the fundamentals of bioenergy and how to evaluate the feasibility of biomass usage for different applications. NREL is a laboratory of the United States Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, run by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.!80135~!0&menu=search

This report is useful in locating different kinds of statistics related to biomass and biofuels, as well as details about the supply of biomass and its utilization for several purposes on five continents. Biomass has grown to be the strongest among all renewable energy sources - in the year 2012, the increase in biomass supply was the same as the combined total of the other renewable sources. Biomass supply (Chapter 2, Page 29), biomass conversions (from Chapter 3 to Chapter 5, Page 43) and country statistics (Chapter 9, Page 67) have been introduced for a better understanding of bioenergy application and use across the globe. This report has been provided by World Biomass Association (WBA), which is a global organization to support and carry out work on biomass-related issues.

For different biomass crops and industrial technologies-

The purpose of this report is to present an economic prediction of continued ethanol production from different crops in Brazil, from present day through to the year 2030, that encompasses both the changing costs of their cultivation and the utilization of various processing technologies. The report depicts cultivation and production cost data graphically, breaking information down by the individual inputs that make up each overarching process, as well as making divisions by crop type, technology type (first and second generation processing technologies), and year (data from 2010, followed by predictions for 2020 and 2030). The focus is solely on Brazilian states in the south-central region of the country where over 90% of their sugarcane output originates. The report was written within the BE-Basic R&D Program, an internationally-based, public-private industrial consortium that develops biotechnology solutions in the interest of sustainability.  

Sustainability issues related to all the different types of biomass can be categorized as follows: economic, environmental and social. Financial needs related to bioenergy deployment or energy security are among the different economic aspects.  Environmental issues include land use, life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use, biodiversity or soil quality, while food security and jobs are social aspects. Newly formulated policies need to address uncertainties in demand, supply and cost related issues and considering the land and water resource needs, as well as the bioenergy life cycle’s environmental impacts as listed earlier. Section 7 and 9 of the report from the link below explains these issues in greater detail.  [Pages 45-48, 59]

  • Direct Combustion: Low 20% range, but technologies do exist that can push efficiency to 40%
  • Co-fired: 33-37%, almost in the range of a coal-fired plant
  • Combined Heat and Power: 60-80%
  • Gasification: 60%
  • Anaerobic digestion: 50-70% [Page 8]

The following link gives the location of all biomass power plants in US, along with their capacities.


The following link gives a brief description of relevant lawas such as the ‘Energy Policy Act of 2005’, the ‘Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007’ and other policies which were formulated for the advancement of biofuels. It states the mandates and targets set by the Acts for production and incorporation of biofuels in existing fuels. It also describes policies which deal with the tariffs and tax rebates on production and use of biofuels.

An overview of the supply and consumption of biomass as primary energy, final energy and its break-up into final end-use applications is available on pages 12 though 29 of the WBA Global Bioenergy Statistics 2017 report.