Biomass & Bioenergy, Vol.36, 390-403, 2012
Leaching of biomass from semi-natural grasslands - Effects on chemical composition and ash high-temperature behaviour
Combustion of biodiversity-rich semi-natural grassland biomass no longer needed for forage allows nature conservation to be combined with bioenergy production. Natural leaching by rainfall during the period between biomass harvest and collection can reduce the content of elements detrimental for the combustion of grassland biomass. This study assesses the influence of biomass characteristics on leaching efficiency and the potential effects of leaching on ash melting behaviour and elemental release. Grassland biomass harvested from five sites at two harvest dates was leached at two intensities. Low-temperature ash was heated to 700, 800, 900 and 1000 degrees C respectively and classified into four ash fusion classes. Ash mass loss was determined as a measure of high-temperature elemental release. Weather data were used to calculate the frequency of weather conditions favourable to on-field leaching. K and Cl were leached most strongly and were reduced by 30 and 45% respectively by a leaching treatment corresponding to 30-40 mm of rain. The effects of site and harvest date on leaching efficiency were significant but small. Ash melting behaviour and elemental release between 700 and 900 degrees C were favourably influenced by leaching. The K/(Ca + Mg) and Si/ash ratios were related to increased ash melting. In this respect, semi-natural grassland biomass differs from other, less Ca-rich, herbaceous biofuels. Even if suitable weather conditions are not occurring frequently at the study sites, on-field leaching can offer an additional low-cost, on-farm strategy option for farmers and nature conservation agencies to improve biomass quality of nature conservation grasslands for combustion. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.