Biomass in Serbia

biomass plantSerbia has a significant potential for production of biofuels; however, no detailed study which includes the sustainability criteria according to the Directive on renewable energy sources has been performed since the last amendments to the Directive. Bioethanol is ethanol produced from biomass or biodegradable parts of biodegradable waste/residues. It is mainly produced from sugar crops, starch (e.g. corn) or cellulose (wood materials), as well as from various biodegradable waste materials. Due to complexity of its production and use, it is much more convenient to use biodiesel. Biodiesel can be produced from oleiferous plants, such as sunflower, soybean and rapeseed. It can also be produced from waste cooking oil. About 10.000 tons of waste cooking oil can be collected annually in Serbia for production of biodiesel.

The Republic of Serbia is one of the countries with a significant biomass potential, both in terms of biological diversity and availability. Studies and analyses show that biomass is the most important potential of renewable energy sources in Serbia. It is estimated at 3.448 Mtoe per year, of which 48% is agricultural and 44% is wood biomass. Wood biomass is most commonly found in mountain regions of Central Serbia and its current exploitation percentage is very high (over 70%). The estimated potential of agricultural biomass from field crops residues, residues from fruit growing, wine growing and fruit processing is 1.67 Mtoe per year. Agricultural biomass is most commonly found in North Serbia. However, even though it is widely available, exploitation of its potential is negligible (less than 2%).

The potential of primary biodegradable waste is estimated at 205 thousand toe, while the total estimated amount of municipal waste and waste cooking oil and waste of animal origin is 0.043 million toe per year. The energy potential of biodegradable municipal waste has not been used so far.

Entire cities and towns in South, Southwest, Southeast and East Serbia use firewood as the main heating energy source. It is mostly used traditionally, in wood-burning stoves that are more than 20-30 years old. Wood with a high moisture content is also often used. However, new, highly efficient heating devices have become increasingly common in recent years, while dry wood or pellets and briquettes are increasingly used as fuel. Introduction of mandatory standards relating to the quality of solid biomass as an energy source will be paramount for improvement of this field.

Most of the firewood, wood briquette and pellet producers are located in Southwest and West Serbia, and there are some in South, East and Central Serbia.

Public Enterprise “Srbijašume” and Public Enterprise “Vojvodinašume” produce wood biomass and firewood, as well as five national parks and numerous small private farms/entrepreneurs that own forests.

A dozen of enterprises produce wood chips, while about 30 produce wood briquettes, of which majority use sawdust from wood processing industry.

It is estimated[4] that total installed capacities of active pellet and briquette producers in Serbia were about 550,000 tons at the end of 2017, while production reached 300,000 tons, which means capacity utilisation was about 55 percent. The largest quantities of wood pellets in Serbia are produced from multi-meter roundwood, firewood and trimmings from saw mills. The total consumption of biomass for production of wood pellets in Serbia was about 600,000 cubic metres.

Serbia is the leader in the Western Balkans in terms of size of installed capacities for pellet and briquette production. However, as regards production, Serbia ranks third after Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which shows that a large percentage of the existing capacities is not used, and also indicates the potential for fast growth of production with improved organization of biomass market.

Increased demand for wood pellets in the domestic market in several past years caused increase of the price of pellets in the domestic market and decrease of export. Five years ago, domestic pellet producers exported 85-90 percent of their production, while in 2016 export accounted for less than 30 % of production.

In early 2017, the Serbian Government reduced VAT rates for wood pellets and briquettes from 20 % to 10 %.

At the end of 2016, five enterprises produced agropellet and agrobriquettes, the majority of which use soybean, wheat and barley straw and corn stalks.  Total installed capacities of active agropellet producers in Serbia are estimated at approximately 40,000 tons and those of active agrobriquettes producers at about 8,000 tons.

Increasing demand for pellet in the domestic market also ensured modernisation and improvement of the production of solid biomass burners. With the arrival of renowned individual biomass heating manufacturers, installation of production lines in Serbia, and also increasing exports of stoves and boilers produced by domestic manufacturers to the demanding Western markets, the domestic biomass stove and boiler market has seen a revival and has been improved.

Logistics is one of the key preconditions for proper use of biomass. A relatively low price of wood chips, roundwood and firewood (compared with other energy sources) can be significantly burdened by transport costs. The majority of studies show that biomass in these forms should not be used outside a radius of 20-50 kilometres from location where it was cut, because it would not be competitive with other energy sources. Also, when planning a biomass powered plant, it is necessary to include appropriate storage space, taking into account that biomass should be well dried before use to increase its burning efficiency. In many cases, in particular in large systems, the logistics issue itself is crucial for feasibility and cost-effectiveness of investment. Examples of good practice show that this issue can be addressed by proper organization of activities. The unfavourable impact of transport on the price can be minimized in two ways: by forming regional logistic and trade centres and/or good organization of contingent which would increase a radius of cost-effective use of biomass. On the other hand, long-term and precise contracting of biomass delivery to users can help address the problem of excessively large biomass storage places. For that reason, an organized biomass exchange is crucial for mass use of this energy sources.

In 2011, Serbia had only one biogas plant, while by mid-2018 the number of biogas plants increased to 13, with total installed power of 14,219 МW and as many as 9 plants, with the status of temporary privileged energy producers of the total installed power of 9,376 МW[7]. By August 2018, the total capacity of biogas plants which acquired the status or the temporary status of privileged energy producers was already almost doubled compared with the end of 2017, which indicates that the capacity of 30 MW planned under the National Action Plan[8] will most likely be exceeded before 2020.