Biomass, an under-exploited energy potential in Morocco

Biomass, an under-exploited energy potential in Morocco

A biomass processing plant

Biomass or the recovery of agricultural residues and forest waste represent an incredible energy source for the agri-food sector. To draw its full potential, the government has launched a strategy to democratize its use.

Like all areas of human activity, the agri-food sector remains largely dependent on energy. Indeed, the upstream and downstream value chains of the agriculture, fishing and livestock sectors are highly dependent on energy. Whether direct or indirect, this energy of a fossil nature (using fuel, fuel, electricity, or embodied energy) ensures the operation of machines, buildings or the manufacture of the means of production (inputs, fertilizers…) and infrastructure. However Faced with climate pressure and the context of energy transition that the world is embarking on, agri-food operators must both reduce fossil energy consumption and fill the gap with renewable energies. Such a context then presents itself as a favorable breeding ground for energies resulting from recycling.

Sounding the end of fossil fuels

One of the points of satisfaction of the COP 26 of 2 years ago, held in the United Kingdom, was to have recorded the “gradual reduction” of fossil fuels. A notable step that suggests that “the era of coal is ending,” notes Jennifer Morgan, president of Greenpeace International. A postulate confirmed by the technological changes which have begun to become operational since the end of the last century and which have experienced an acceleration phase in recent years. One could cite in this case the giant leap marked by electric mobility in certain European countries. The Nordic countries in the lead. The commercial measure taken by the Old Continent to tax products according to their carbon footprint, also stimulates the urgency to seek alternative sources.

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Agrifood: an incredible source of biomass

For the agri-food sector, energy from recycling represents a major challenge in the quest for food security. They can therefore prove problematic for the sector itself and, on a broader level, for the country’s economy. Fortunately, agricultural activity is self-generating energy. Indeed, residues from agricultural activity as well as forest waste are a valuable source. Straw from cereals and oilseeds, corn residues, animal waste are valuable resources that make it possible to obtain biogas from biomass. In addition, some crops have energy properties or substances, such as the ethanol contained in beets or the energy oils from oilseed crops, and many others.

On the other hand, various techniques for transforming and recovering energy from these plants, residues or waste have proved their worth. In this context, we can mention the production of liquid fuels (ethanol and methanol), the production of heat by combustion, etc.

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Research on these different sources began at the end of the last century, and has evolved since then. Most of them are widely used thanks to their many advantages. However, they still represent far too low a share of primary energy consumption, less than 10% according to the latest data from the International Energy Agency, dated 2019 and taking stock of the year 2017. Still according to the international body, biomass occupied a share of 6% in energy consumption in Morocco in 2018. A relatively low proportion and at the antipodes of Moroccan potential.

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The State and stakeholders in the agriculture and energy transition sectors will have to look closely at this aspect in order to significantly impact the quest for food sovereignty.

Gethemum YAO

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