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Sustainability in Heating Systems – Newsletter Volume 1


biomass vs natural gas


Hello there, 

Natural gas is a commonly used fuel for boiler installations. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is extracted from the earth and typically used in process heat and to heat homes and buildings. Burning fossil fuels is not good for the environment but Biomass fuel is a much less polluting alternative. Biomass refers to any organic matter, such as wood, crops, or animal waste, that can be burned to produce heat.


When it comes to boiler installations, both biomass and natural gas have their advantages and disadvantages.


Biomass is often considered a more sustainable option because it is a renewable resource that can be grown and harvested relatively quickly. Burning biomass also releases fewer greenhouse gases than burning fossil fuels, which can make it a more environmentally friendly choice. However, biomass boilers can be more expensive to install and maintain than natural gas boilers. Biomass systems require larger and more complex equipment, such as storage silos and conveyors, which can drive up installation and service costs. Biomass boilers require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent ash build-up and ensure efficient operation.


Black Pellets or Torrefied wood pellets are a new and exciting option currently being trialed at Huntly Power Station as a direct substitution for coal. These torrefied wood pellets are a type of biomass fuel that are made from wood chips or sawdust that have been heated to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen. This process, which is also known as torrefaction, removes moisture and other volatile compounds from the wood, leaving behind a dry, dense material that has a high energy content.


The resulting torrefied wood is then ground and pressed into small pellets that can be used as a renewable energy source in place of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Torrefied wood pellets are like traditional wood pellets, but they have been subjected to an extra step in the production process that makes them more durable and energy dense.


They are more resistant to moisture and decay, making them easier to transport and store. They also have a higher energy density, which means that they can produce more heat per unit of weight than traditional wood pellets, more efficient and cost-effective fuel source for a variety of applications, including heating homes and powering industrial processes.


This product is currently not produced or distributed in New Zealand however is an interesting new development in the biomass journey. We will keep you posted on any developments in this space.


Overall, the use of biofuels in the boiler industry represents a shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy source. While the industry is still adapting to this change, the long-term benefits of using biofuels are likely to outweigh any short-term challenges.


Ultimately, the choice between biomass and natural gas for a boiler installation will depend on a variety of factors, including government policy (and support), the availability and cost of fuel, the size and location of the installation, and the environmental and economic priorities of the building owner or process operator.

If you would like to know more about Biomass options for your business please contact Dave Teesdale on the link below

Michael Buckley
Chief Executive Officer



Our team installed two ÖkoFEN pellet boilers to provide up to 192 kW of heating, a 500 litre buffer storage tank and two pellet hoppers with approximately 12 tonnes capacity. Dividing the energy demand across two boilers allows the flexibility needed to maintain the temperatures throughout the change of seasons, while remaining efficient and reducing the amount of maintenance required. The compact design of the ÖkoFEN pellet boilers allowed our team to install both boilers in the original boiler plantroom.


The Bioenergy Association is actively working with the gas supply companies to start blending biomethane into the network of gas supply pipelines so as to ensure that the future supply of gas can be maintained.


Biogas is produced from a number of existing waste water treatment facilities, or can be produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic material from food processing residues, agriculture manure and crop residues, and municipal organic waste. The biogas can be used directly as fuel into many boilers, or can be cleaned so that it has identical composition as natural gas and is thus able to be injected into the natural gas distribution system. The upgraded biogas is called biomethane.


A review of the specification for blending biomethane with natural gas is underway, and a Gas Transition Plan is being developed jointly by Government and the gas sector.


Other work is underway to identify and expand the production of greater quantities of biogas. A number of food processors are investigation how they can recycle their organic residues through anaerobic digestion plant to produce biogas for use as a fuel in their existing boilers.


The recently released Waste Strategy by the Government sets out positive signals that encourages the production and use of biogas to replace fossil fuels. This is providing a significant incentive to the biogas/biomethane sector to expand and ensure a positive future for use of renewable gas for heating.


Tubman Heating is actively working with the Bioenergy Association to ensure that in the future that there is adequate renewable gas in the right place, at the right time and at the right price.

– Brian Cox
  Executive Officer, Bioenergy Association


Are you looking to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your carbon neutrality? Our experienced and knowledgeable design team can create a tailored plan to help you achieve your companies net -zero goals. With both electric and biomass boiler options from 41 kW to 5MW we will design the most efficient heating system for your needs.


A biomass boiler is sustainable because it uses renewable sources of energy to generate heat. Biomass boilers burn organic materials, such as wood pellets, chips, or logs, to produce heat that can be used for heating buildings, domestic water and many more applications.


Biomass is a renewable resource because it can be grown and harvested on a continuous basis. When biomass is used as fuel, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but this is offset by the carbon dioxide that is absorbed by the new growth of plants that are used as fuel.


Compared to fossil fuels, biomass is a more sustainable option because it emits lower levels of greenhouse gases and pollutants when burned. It also has a lower environmental impact in terms of extraction, transportation, and processing compared to fossil fuels.
In addition, using biomass for heating can provide economic benefits to local communities by creating jobs in the forestry and agriculture sectors, as well as reducing dependence on fossil fuels.


Overall, a biomass boiler is a sustainable option for heating because it uses renewable sources of energy, emits lower levels of greenhouse gases and pollutants, and can provide economic benefits to local communities.


The New Zealand Government’s ambitious plans to phase-out fossil gas by 2035 may have you feeling concerned about how your operations will function without gas. A recent independent report, the 2035/2050 Vision for Gas by Castalia and commissioned by Energy Resources Aotearoa, GasNZ and the Major Gas Users Group Inc has found that the most cost-effective way for New Zealand to reach the net-zero goal is to focus on technology that can secure carbon before it is emitted into the atmosphere. Utilising technology such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) could reduce emissions at a much lower cost than total replacement of gas.

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