Biochar Revolution appeared in the northern rivers echo 31st of Jan 2013. Biocharproject.org could only 1/4 respond because of the word limit imposed. Here you can see point by point major corrections in Mr Toedter’s letter to the editor. Here is the original letter.
The biochar revolution
In the article on the biochar revolution in the Echo (January 17), the statement that flaring off the polluting gases renders them “climate neutral” is not right. The process of making biochar is equivalent to the destructive distillation of wood which is an industrial process called pyrolysis. Many toxic substances are formed including creosotes, turpentine, phenols, various hydrocarbons, methanol, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The production of biochar if carried out in backyard operations can lead to major pollution as the tars and liquids generally remain and the burning off of the gas and lighter liquids gives rise to carbon dioxide which is not “climate neutral”. Biochar is an invented word to give environmental credence to activated carbon which has been made for a long time, and is used in large tonnage quantities in the gold mining and processing industry. Henry Ford based a whole chemical industry on distilling the otherwise scrap wood from his car manufacturing.
Activated carbon does not break down readily which means it locks up carbon but by the same token it does not contribute to the soil biology or the soil food web which is crucial to healthy plant growth. It had its use in the Amazon jungle where the soil is leached by the high rainfall and warm climate. In most other climates composting the organic matter is probably more beneficial. Although it is an interesting and feel good exercise, the amount of carbon locked up in biochar would make little difference to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Biochar Revolution Correction
Biochar revolution appeared in the echo 31st Jan 2013.
Dear Mr. Toedter,
I believe you have missed a couple of critical dynamics concerning the modern thermal conversion of biomass.
Inserted into your letter are the major points and research that you have not reviewed. Your letter in red biocharproject.org response in Black.
The Biochar Revolution
In the article on the biochar revolution (jan 17) the statement flaring of the polluting gases renders them ” Climate Neutral” is not right.
In the simplest home brewed Biochar, either in a Top Lite Up Draft (TLUD) Stove or an “Inverted barrel in a barrel” kiln, the mixtures of synthetic gas along with the other hydrocarbon tar and oils are flared cleanly, producing very clean emissions. virtually no soot or aerosol particles, very little smoke, mostly during ignition, this is why they are a major success in replacing “Three Rocks & A Pot” across India and Africa. Producing profound respiratory health benefits, reducing biomass gathering by utilizing grass, manure and sticks versus trees. Google; Pro–Natura or the African Christian Organization Network (ACON) to read about the thousands of African farms elevated from subsistence farmers to profitable farmers over the last four years.
Yes, the CO2 emissions do warm the climate, however you must follow the path of that same biomass if it were left to rot producing mostly CH4, methane, which molecule for molecule is 23 times more powerful GHG than CO2. If that biomass was just combusted than all of the carbon becomes CO2 versus gasification or pyrolysis where about 1/3 of the carbon is locked into char for soil sequestration.
biochar is an invented word to give environmental credance to activated carbon which has been made for a long time, and is used in large tonnage quantities in the gold mining and processing industries
Henry ford created a whole chemical industry on distilling the otherwise scrap wood from his car manufacturing.
Activated carbon does not break down readily , which means it locks up carbon but at the same token it does not contribute to the soil biology or the soil food web which is crucial to healthy plant growth.
It had its uses in the amazon jungle where the soil is leached by high rainfall and warm climate. In most other climates composting the organic matter is probably more beneficial.
Activated carbon (AC) cost $4-5/#, Biochar has been found to do some of the jobs now being done by AC at a fraction of it’s cost. Some pyrolysis companies find a tertiary income stream by reactivating spent AC for just $0.42/#.
Yes, the wood vinegar or wood acid industry was supplanted by the cheap feedstocks provided by the fossil fuel industry. The new Bio-refining industries utilizing closed loop pyrolysis and gasification systems, Pyro/Catalytic systems for tank ready fuels and Hydrothermal carbonization have no significant emissions. Some of these companies are taking their CO2 emissions and recycling them into greenhouses to even keep that carbon in the living cycle, along with the char fostering the living soil cycle. The more carbon is recycled into life systems the over all entropy of the system is reduced. Like Death & taxes, Entropy cannot be avoided but Biochar certainly slows it down, provides new eddies of life that the carbon has to make Oxbows around, Biochar provides a major tool to bring this soil life to a new level of husbandry by farmers.
Yes, Biochar is an invented word by the late Dr. Read to signify it from charcoal fuel to char intended for soil sequestration. Another invented word; “The Soil Food Web” by Dr.Elain Ingham, now the head agronomist at the Rodale Organic Research Farm in Pennsylvania, believes Biochar is a powerful tool to increase soil microbial diversity in organic systems, as the most cited conventional soil scientist, Dr. Rattan Lal at OSU, believes Biochar is a powerful tool to increase fertilizer efficiency.
Keywords Biochar Revolution.
although its an interesting and feel good exercise, the amount of carbon locked up in the biochar would make little difference to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
I agree at the grassroots level it certainly is a feel-good exercise, however it is estimated that if all the Three Rocks & a pot were replaced with 41% more efficient gasifier and pyrolytic stoves this would account for 1 gigaton Carbon sequestration, almost 10 percent of world carbon emissions could be reduced. The health effects would equal the eradication of AIDS and Malaria combined.
The cutting edge Pyro/catalytic company, Cool Planet Energy Systems, guided by Google’s Ethos and funding, along with GE, BP and Conoco, are now building the farm scale reactors that convert 1 ton of biomass to 75 gallons of bio–gasoline and 1/3 ton Biochar for soil carbon sequestration. The price of production, from field to tank is $1.25/gallon.
If it’s good enough for Google… It’s good enough for me; [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkYVlZ9v_0o[/youtube]
If one was to extrapolate this technology brought to full-scale in the US, the rosiest scenario so to speak, it brings in the sharp appreciation what an impact it could have to rectify the carbon cycle;
Wee-Beastie Soil Real estate, The Rosiest Scenario;
Total Biomass Harvest in the US; 1.6 Billion Tons
If All was processed by CoolPlanet Biofuels the Yield would be;
120 Billion Gallons of tank ready fuel , (The US uses 150 Billion gallons per year)
0.3 Billion Tons of Biochar, with a Surface Area of 600 Square Meters per Gram
One Ton has a surface area of 148,000 Acres! 148,000 Acres is equal to 230 square miles!!
300 Million Tons of Biochar equals 69 Billion Square Miles, or 348 times the Entire Surface of the Earth !!!
Also the new applications being pioneered in Europe and Japan involving Biochar feed supplements for livestock seems truly revolutionary; 40% reduced methane emission in cattle, 25% weight gain, along with a host of positive livestock metrics like bio counts in the milk etc.
This Black Revolution for agriculture could be fermented by our livestock. In the EU, 90% of the Biochar produced is passed through livestock before composting and field application. On Swiss Farms they have eliminated manure odor and closed the nutrient loop by retaining N in the Char/Compost.
“Biochar – a key technology for the planet;”
“Biochar reduces enteric methane and improves growth and feed conversion in local “Yellow” cattle fed cassava root chips and fresh cassava foliage”
I hope you all learn something from this exercise
Biochar Revolution Reloaded is brought to you by the Letters E J K and the number 400
Hard hitting facts and rampant research by ERICH J KNIGHT
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Biochar Revolution | Correcting skewed biochar views for your pleasure.