At present renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower provide small fraction of energy need. The most prevalent source is biomass, which accounts around 12% of total energy requirement. This source of energy includes wood, logging waste, sawdust, animal dung and vegetables consisting of grass, leaves, grass residues and agricultural waste. The biomass is abundant in nature which can be trapped as source of energy for generation of electricity for the rural as well as urban population. The technology needs to be developed for use of biomass as a source of energy.
The use of renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly necessary, if we are to achieve the changes required to address the impacts of global warming. Biomass is the most common form of renewable energy, widely used in the third world but until recently, less so in the Western world. Latterly much attention has been focused on identifying suitable biomass species, which can provide high-energy outputs, to replace conventional fossil fuel energy sources. The type of biomass required is largely determined by the energy conversion process and the form in which the energy is required.


Bioenergy use falls into two main categories: ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. Traditional use refers to

the combustion of biomass in such forms as wood, animal waste and traditional charcoal. Modern bioenergy technologies include liquid biofuels produced from bagasse and other plants, bio-refineries, biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of residues, wood pellet heating systems, and other technologies. Biomass has significant potential to boost energy supplies in populous nations with rising demand, such as Brazil, India and China. It can be directly burned for heating or power generation, or it can be converted into oil or gas substitutes.

In Sri Lanka, biomass still plays a dominant role in the supply of primary energy. Large quantities of firewood and other biomass resources are used for cooking in rural households and to a lesser extent, in urban households. Even though a large portion of energy needs of the rural population is fulfilled by firewood, there are possibilities to further increase the use of biomass for energy in the country, especially for thermal energy supply in the industrial sector. The environment is contaminated by conventional power plants that use conventional energy sources. This is why obtaining renewable energy sources are crucial since they may lessen negative effects on the environment. This strategy of producing varied energy would necessitate the quick development of biomass combustion technologies in addition to ongoing monitoring of the utilization of various biomass kinds.

Biomass has two characteristics that make it unique among all renewable energy sources as it covers the entire energy portfolio (heating/cooling, electrical power and fuels) and there are no storage problems associated with it. Before biomass can be turned into energy, it needs to be grown, harvested, collected, distributed, treated, transported and stored. With a few exceptions, the same is also true for waste materials and microorganisms, which makes biomass relatively expensive as an energy source. Technologies are being developed that are aimed at reducing the volume of biomass (in order to achieve high energy output for less volume), finding better ways of storing, transporting Biomass can be turned into solid, liquid and gaseous energy sources through different processes such as thermo-chemical (pyrolysis, gasification), physical-chemical (pressing/extraction, chemical conversion) and biochemical (aerobic fermentation, alcoholic fermentation), which generate power, fuels and heating/cooling by way of combustion or complete oxidation.

Exploring the Use of Invasive Aquatic Plants for the Production of Briquettes as a Bio-Energy Source

It was conducted a study on investigating the feasibility of developing a bio-energy source using water weeds and saw dust.

Mixture of invasive water weeds has been used as a major ingredient with saw dust combining with binding agents as invasive water weed wild taro. The results indicated that with the equal percentage of water weeds and the saw dust the strength of the briquettes increases. Taking this fact into consideration it was chosen raw materials to be water weeds and sawdust. It was selected water hyacinth, Wild taro (Colocasia esculenta), Salvinia as main raw materials for this research. some of them are linked to direct environmental impacts and some are ecosystem related indirect impacts on fresh water bodies and their uses.

The most direct impacts are to invading water body surface, recreation, impede irrigation, access to fishing grounds and fish catch ability and act as prime habitat for mosquitoes.

Figure 1: Selected water weeds: Wild taro, Salvinia, Water hyacinth

The plants were collected from Diyawanna Lake, Battaramulla, Sri Laka, where the water weeds are an issue on water logging and creating flood situation around the area. Wood shavings (WS)—raw material obtained from a carpenter’s workshop, material from debarked wood, non-homogeneous fraction from 1.5 to 3.5 cm; the material was not additionally sieved for the tests; 100 kg of material was obtained for the needs of the experiments.

The collected plants were washed to avoid contamination (Remove soil and mud particles). Then they were chopped into small pieces and spread over a mat and allowed to sun dry for 3 to 5 days. The dried plant materials were grinded using a milling machine and sieved with a mesh size of 3mm to obtain particles in the size range from 1mm to 3mm. Sawmill residue was collected from saw mills in the area and three different types of wood residue were crushed and sieved using a sieve with the mesh size of 3mm to obtain particles in the size range from 1mm to 3mm. Pre-processed raw materials were separately packed in air tight polythene bags to prevent moisture absorption until briquetting.

Then the materials were mixed manually until a uniformly blended mixture obtained. Briquettes were produced using screw type extruder briquetting machine at 270 – 300 oC temperatures and at pressure level of 120 – 130 MPa. Then, the energy properties including moisture content, volatile matter content, fixed carbon content, ash content and calorific value were measured. Heating value and composition of producer gas of gasification has been measured. Mechanical properties including bulk density, compressed density, relaxed density, durability, water resistance capacity and water boiling time has been measured.

Market acceptability of using aquatic weeds in the foam of biomass briquettes in biomass gasifiers evaluated and it was surveyed thirty industries which use biomass gasifiers. Economic feasibility of using biomass briquettes of aquatic weeds in industries for gasification evaluated by conducting a Cost Benefit Analysis.

Basically, this study was aimed to evaluate the energy content of a combination of invasive water weeds and sawdust, intended for the production of briquettes for energy purposes. As it was discussed, energy production is expensive and also associated with numerous environmental consequences. But according to the results of the study it was realized that addressing the issue through the production of briquettes offers a potential solution.

Importance of Collaborative Efforts and Networking

Further elaboration on the mentioned components, it also shows the importance of involving and creating a network that connects industries, government organizations and community organizations. Such network can aim to facilitate the successful generation of bio-energy by serving as a platform for the exchange of information and interaction related to bio-energy development. It will be a viable option to encompass encouraging and promoting bio-energy development, establishing practices and activities in the country, making bio-energy a significant development component especially in poverty alleviation efforts, and serving as a conduit for equitable and effective extension of government, bilateral, multilateral, and private assistance to people. This would be a good opportunity to provide updated information on the effective and sustainable development of bio-energy systems to its partners and collaborate with relevant ministries, such as the Ministry of Power and Energy, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Environment, and similar bodies.

Additionally, it can encourage the provision of various services related to bio-energy development, dissemination, ownership, and management with entities like the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). The network may provide necessary services or directly function as a certification and/or regulatory body in areas such as biomass pricing, approval of standards for plant installation and operation, and liaison with banks and funding agencies. Ultimately, the objective is to explore multiple avenues for utilizing biomass from energy plantations.


The study results showcased the viability of using bio energy and potential of mainstreaming biomass as an energy source., The utilization of biomass a traditional energy source for the developing world—can significantly contribute to the developed world’s efforts to lessen the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels to produce energy. By replacing the usage of fossil fuels, biomass is a recognized renewable energy source that can help controlling the global issues especially including climate change impacts.

Dr. Anusha Ediriweera

University of Colombo


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