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Bioheat and biopower

Bioheat refers to all types of heating based on the combustion of biomass and by-products of biomass conversion.

Typical examples of biomass are wood, wood chips or pellets, and organic waste.

In addition, both biogas and bio-oil are used in the production of bioheat. Biopower is when the heat is used to produce power, for example, by operating a steam turbine.

SINTEF carries out basic and applied research within the conversion of biomass to heat and power. We offer project-based research and development for all industries within bioheat and biopower.


Burning biomass is a carbon-neutral process. In other words, plants absorb CO2 from the air via photosynthesis, and when they are burned, it releases the same amount of CO2; it is a carbon-neutral cycle. Therefore, if the CO2 is captured and stored when the biomass is burned, it will be removed from the atmosphere. This technology is called either BECCS or BioCCS, and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is crucial for meeting our global climate goals.

For example, bioheat from wood burning or local and district heating can save society from needing to invest billions in the power grid. But how? Private persons, the public sector and industry all need power for heating purposes. However, as society continues to electrify, large sums will need to be invested in the power grid in order to guarantee the security of supply. Using more bioheat enables us to both relieve the pressure on the power grid and release the power for other purposes, as well as save society from large costs related to grid development. This makes the Norwegian more robust and the power grid more flexible.

Different types of bioheat

Local and district heating

District heating is preferably used to heat accommodation and larger buildings. Biomass, often waste, is burned outside a city or densely populated area. The heat from the incineration process is used to heat up water, which is then sent out via pipes to the domestic buildings, commercial buildings and industry that need it. Local heating is based on the same principle but on a smaller scale, such as internally in a condominium or an industrial park.

Wood: the most common type of bioheat

Just under half of all bioheat in Norway comes from wood. The challenge is that the old wood-burning stoves do not burn wood well enough for the wood’s full energy potential to be released. In addition, burning wood in old stoves releases a high level of particle emissions, as well as carbon monoxide and NOx. Better combustion processes can also help in this regard, which is why we are conducting  a lot of research into wood burning and how the combustion process can be optimised.

Wood stoves with water jackets, i.e. wood stoves that heat the water that is sent around your house, are effective alternatives to electric heating, and a form of local heating.


Biopower refers to the production of electricity from biomass. One way to do this is to burn the biomass and use the subsequent heat to boil water, which creates steam that can be used to operate a steam turbine, which produces electricity.

Biopower can be combined with district heating. By not using the full potential of the boiler or steam to produce electricity, residual heat can be sent to the district heating grid in the form of hot water.

We work with the following areas:

  • Characterisation of biomass fuels
  • Testing biomass fuel properties in thermochemical processes for heat and power production
  • Fuel upgrading
  • Basic and applied laboratory studies
  • Technology development
  • Research contributions to product development
  • Measurement campaigns at bioenergy plants
  • Model development
  • Modelling bioenergy plants
  • Optimisation of bioenergy plants
  • Energy efficiency
  • Emission minimisation
  • Techno-economic studies

 Our typical projects include:

  • Characterising and testing fuels
  • Upgrading fuels
  • Developing technology
  • Minimising emissions
  • Optimising operations
  • Conducting measurement campaigns
  • Conducting techno-economic studies
  • Conducting value chain analyses

Who do we do this for?

  • Technology manufacturers
  • Waste incineration plant owners
  • Biomass incineration plant owners

Selected bioheat and biopower projects

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