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 by Ashwin Kumar Balaji and 2018 updates by Pragya Chauhan)

IEA Bioenergy Task 40

Building a biorefinery business: strategies for successful Commercialization (2018). This report investigates the obstacles to commercialization that can be overcome by biorefineries and whose growth would require hep from the policy makers. The study found out that the most significant part is the ability to mobilize biomass resources and set up supply and demand structures. A collaborative approach, leveraging resources and building a web of favorable system components, has proven a viable strategic approach towards developing and commercializing biorefineries.

IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) is an intergovernmental organization that “supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a center of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.” This page defines the basics of different categories of bioenergy, it gives the consumption percentage of bioenergy throughout the world as well as points out the countries with the highest potential. It also consists of graphical representation for the trends in Bioenergy installed capacity, in bioenergy investment. It also provides links for related recent publications.

This report includes a section on "The Energy Transition" where IRENA remaps analysis and storage needs (Page25). The remap analysis presents the pathways to 2030 and 2050 for a truly sustainable energy sector and includes the contribution of biomass. It states that although biomass will provide the flexibility required to decarbonize the electricity sector, still new sources need to be developed. It also declares that although the transport sector has had the lowest share of renewable penetration, It is undergoing a fundamental change, Biofuels being the major solution.

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

The World Bioenergy Association (WBA) is an international non-profit NGO that supports and promotes the use of sustainable bioenergy which includes Biogas, Biomass and Biofuels. WBA aids all the actors in bioenergy industry i.e. companies, governments and scientists. The report emphasizes on the global development of biomass to energy in all the sectors- production, supply and consumption. Data is provided for all the sectors of bioenergy and is given for different geographical levels – global, continental and regional. According to the report Bioenergy is the largest renewable energy sources in terms of Global Energy consumption. Bioenergy is the 3rd largest electricity generation source among renewables globally. It constitutes almost total 100% of renewable heat, and a major part of renewable transport. (its penetration has been greater then electricity since the year 2005).

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.  

Sustainable biomass is a limited resource hence it should be utilized as efficiently as possible through cascading use and in each step of cascading it should be allotted to the sector where there is no other alternative for emission reduction. It could lead to an increase in the greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbate climate change, forest ecosystems could be destroyed or degraded. More details for the same could be obtained from here (sustainability issues for solid biomass in electricity heating and cooling)

The Biomass Energy Resource Center promotes community scale biomass energy use throughout North America and provides technical consulting services. Public Policy recommendations for efficient biomass energy include Renewable Thermal Standard, federal and state incentives, renewable portfolio standards that include thermal energy and more. Details about the policy needs can be obtained from-

  • 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%

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.