Carbon Cycle

Underpinning biomass' status as an environmentally-friendly energy source is its role in the carbon cycle.

Source: Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by plant material (biomass) via the process of photosynthesis - the carbon is used to build tissues for the plant while the oxygen is released as a by-product.

When biomass is burnt to release bio-energy, the carbon in the biomass recombines with oxygen to form CO2. This is then released back into the atmosphere.

Although CO2 is released this emission is actually regarded as p;lsquo;carbon neutral' since it is ultimately equal to the carbon dioxide initially absorbed by the biomass.

Nonetheless, sometimes other energy inputs are used during the biomass production process which can affect the carbon-neutral balance of biomass. Using fertiliser to encourage biomass to grow or the energy consumed in vehicles when harvesting or transporting the biomass to its point of use are examples of this.

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