What is biomass ?

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

What are the different forms of biomass?

There are several forms of biomass that differ in their physical characteristics:

  • The solid form: chips, wood, logs, straws or even leaves;
  • The gaseous form: biogas;
  • The liquid form: vegetable oils or 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 mankind.

How to obtain energy using biomass wood?

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

  • Combustion which consists of burning wood directly, usually 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 pyrolytic oil and combustible gas.
  • Gasification which consists in 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 and 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 the emission of greenhouse gases.

  • 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 the releases produced by combustion processes.
  • Biomass is a renewable energy source if the consumption is less than the regeneration of plants. This is precisely the case in France, where the rate of increase is twice the rate of timber harvesting.
  • This source of energy involves local actors, and thus limits the need for gas or oil.
  • For individuals, biomass is economical since logs are generally much cheaper than gas or oil for heating devices.


Biomass wood is an interesting source of energy in France given its price and its renewable character. Highlighting local players, its operation also makes it possible to create jobs, reduce energy dependence and promote territorial dynamics. Nevertheless, it is important to be careful about overexploitation which could lead to serious ecological and environmental problems. In other words, the rate of wood harvesting must always remain lower than the rate of forest growth to maintain the balance over the long term.