Biomass Energy Data Book U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Primary Biomass Feedstocks

Primary biomass is produced directly by photosynthesis and includes all terrestrial plants now used for food, feed, fiber and fuelwood. All plants in natural and conservation areas (as well as algae and other aquatic plants growing in ponds, lakes, oceans, or artificial ponds and bioreactors) are also considered primary biomass. However, only a small portion of the primary biomass produced will ever be harvested as feedstock material for the production of bioenergy and bioproducts.

Primary biomass feedstocks are thus primary biomass that is harvested or collected from the field or forest where it is grown. Examples of primary biomass feedstocks currently being used for bioenergy include grains and oilseed crops used for transportation fuel production, plus some crop residues (such as orchard trimmings and nut hulls) and some residues from logging and forest operations that are currently used for heat and power production. In the future it is anticipated that a larger proportion of the residues inherently generated from food crop harvesting, as well as a larger proportion of the residues generated from ongoing logging and forest operations, will be used for bioenergy. Additionally, as the bioenergy industry develops, both woody and herbaceous perennial crops will be planted and harvested specifically for bioenergy and bioproducts end-uses.

Because this version of the Data Book is focusing primarily on the bioenergy industry as it exists today, including the biomass feedstocks actually used, only information on the grain and oilseeds crops are included. It would be desirable to include information on the amount and types of crop residues and forest logging, or pulp fiber residues currently being used for energy on a state by state basis, but that information is not readily available. Clearly there is also no nationwide source of information on woody or herbaceous crops being used for energy since this is occurring only on a very small scale in a few isolated experimental situations.

This Data Book covers only current usage of biomass and does not attempt to address the potential for biomass feedstock. Nonetheless, other sources of information do exist concerning the future potential of biomass. Tables, maps and explanations for assumptions behind the potential biomass resource calculations that have been performed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory biomass economists can be found on the Bioenergy Feedstock Information Network (BFIN) website at

Source: Lynn Wright, Oak Ridge, TN.

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