Solid biomass materials are an important industrial fuel in many developing countries and also show good potential for usage in Europe within a future mix of renewable energy resources. The sustainable use of wood fuels for combustion relies on operation of plant with acceptable thermal efficiency. There is a clear link between plant efficiency and environmental impacts due to air pollution and deforestation. To supplement a somewhat sparse literature on thermal efficiencies and nitrogen oxide emissions from biomass-fuelled plants in developing countries, this paper presents results for tests carried out on 14 combustion units obtained during field trials in Sri Lanka. The plants tested comprised steam boilers and process air heaters. Biomass fuels included: rubber-wood, fuelwood from natural forests; coconut shells; rice husks; and sugar cane bagasse. Average NOx (NO and NO2) emissions for the plants were found to be 47 gNO2 GJ−1 with 18% conversion of fuel nitrogen. The former value is the range of NOx emission values quoted for combustion of coal in grate-fired systems; some oil-fired systems and systems operating on natural gas, but is less than the emission levels for the combustion of pulverized fuel and heavy fuel oil. This value is significantly within current European standards for NOx emission from large combustion plants. Average thermal efficiency of the plants was found to be 50%. Observations made on operational practices demonstrated that there is considerable scope for the improvement of this thermal efficiency value by plant supervisor training, drying of fuelwood and the use of simple instruments for monitoring plant performance.
International Journal of Energy Research (1996) 20 (1) 41-55. [DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-114X(199601)20:141::AID-ER2223.0.CO;2-G]