I know there are a few people actually developing and trialling various types of carboniser here in South Australia. But they don’t get much coverage in the media these days. If you are either building, developing, trialling or buying either a batch or continuous carboniser feel free to send your details here with a bit of a story and tell us about it. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!
THE BIOCHAR REVOLUTION & COMMUNITY GARDENS
The author of The Biochar Revolution, Dr. Paul Taylor recently contacted me to discuss the Flow Force Technologies biochar kiln that we have been testing in the Adelaide Hills. He is interested in possibly using it in his community garden projects in northern NSW.
He is currently using an Adam retort but believes there may be scope for a number of different styles of kiln depending on the type of feedstock, the type of user and the ultimate purpose of the biochar.
I believe the Flow Force biochar kiln is well-suited to community garden use. It is mobile and simple to use. It is relatively fast in operation (typically 4 hours per batch compared to 24 hours for some other systems). It is easy to load and unload by virtue of the revolving loading/unloading hatch. It provides an electronic record of kiln temperature so the maximum temperature and duration of pyrolysis can be confirmed for each batch. It uses a built-in solar panel to operate the electronics so does not require an external supply of electricity.
Chapter 1 of Paul Taylor’s book is available for free download at or from the website . And the foreword by Dr. Tim Flannery is well worth reading and inspiring in itself.
DRAFT SPECIFICATIONS FOR BIOCHAR
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) recently released for public comment its draft guidelines for specifications of biochar. The guidelines cover terms and definitions; feedstock requirements; safety requirements; testing; product labelling etc.
My initial comments on the guidelines are as follows:
Definition of biochar: The definition is over simplified, viz: “A solid material obtained from the carbonisation of biomass”. I think that any word preceded by the term “bio” suggests that it is of biological origin. Well charcoal made from coal is of biological origin (from fossilised plant matter).
So why the term biochar? I presume that it has been coined to try to discriminate between char from non-fossil sources and char made from fossil sources. The claim that biochar has the potential to be carbon negative by acting to sequester fixed carbon in the soil is relevant to the definition.
If we are going to have a biochar methodology for approving carbon credits then it goes without saying that the process of making biochar must be carbon negative as the calculation of carbon credits would have to be based on the mass of fixed carbon actually sequestered in the biochar less any carbon actually generated and added to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide by the production process.
So I believe that we need to expand the definition of biochar to mean that it only refers to char produced in such a way that it avoids more carbon dioxide than it generates. For example:
“Biochar is a solid material obtained by the carbonisation of biomass in a carbon negative process.”
Then it would be good to qualify the term with further definitions that specify the efficiency of its carbon dioxide avoidance.
If we let % CO2 Avoidance = (CO2 avoided-CO2 generated)/CO2
avoided x 100% then the following definition of biochar could apply :
BiocharNNN would be biochar produced with a carbon avoidance efficiency of NNN%. Eg: Biochar100; Biochar80; etc.
I guess I am concerned at the possibility in the future of large industrial processes for making and selling so-called biochar where the biochar has little or no carbon sequestration value. To me that would be a gross misuse of the term biochar as I think it was originally envisaged.
The document may be viewed at bit.ly/biocharguidelines.
It is open for public comment until 15 Nov. 2011.
Send comments to: .
Refer attachment to view results of biochar analysis:
The demonstration batch carboniser was re-located
in July to a site near Echunga in the Adelaide Hills.
We can now demonstrate biochar production
in a rural setting. To arrange a demonstration
simply make an appointment by email.
We will now accept organic woody waste for conversion
to biochar at no cost. One 200 litre green bag of dry
material per person will be converted free of charge
with additional batches priced at $0.50 per kg of
To make an appointment or to arrange dropping
off your green bag send an email to:
The photo above shows the demonstration unit
at the new site.
BIOCHAR PRODUCTION CENTRES in the Adelaide Hills and Country Regions will provide the following benefits:
We have produced a number of batches of biochar with the Flow Force demonstration Batch Carboniser since June this year using feedstock from interested local people. Feedstocks used included:
Eucalyptus wood chips;
Sawmill Pine offcuts;
Some of the resulting biochar will be made available as FREE SAMPLES to visitors to Adelaide Hills Farmers Markets commencing with the Macclesfield Strawberry Fete on Sunday November 28.
The slide presentations of Papers presented at the recent biochar conference in China are freely available to peruse at www.biochar-international.org/china2010.
These provide much insight into the work currently being done on biochar around the world and also provide some useful tips for users of biochar.
Check out Albert Bates (Biochar is the Solution) and his short chat on You Tube available at www.treehugger.com. And then visit his blog at www.peaksurfer.blogspot.com.
WHAT MAKES CHAR BIOCHAR?
Biochar is environmentally friendly char that is added to the soil to improve soil health.
Biochar has NOT been made from:
a) fossil fuel such as coal (which would increase greenhouse gas emissions);
b) organic matter containing poisons (eg arsenic);
AND the process of making biochar has NOT:
a) caused smoke pollution;
b) emitted toxic fumes;
c) generated more greenhouse gases than it has captured;
AND the resulting biochar does NOT:
a) contain harmful tars or poisons that could pollute the soil and water table.
DON’T WASTE THAT FALLEN TREE!
Whenever a tree falls down or is cut down the usual practice is to either burn the remains or convert it to wood chips for use as landscaping mulch. Unfortunately when this happens all the ‘work’ that the tree has done over its lifetime in capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere is completely undone! Typically about half of the wood is carbon by weight. (Ref. 1).
When burning the tree all the carbon is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and even though this is a carbon neutral process overall the reality is that because of the time discrepancy between the capturing of the carbon (perhaps over 100 years) and the release of the carbon (say 1 hour) the atmosphere is a lot worse off very quickly.
After converting to wood chips the carbon is also released back into the atmosphere but over a longer period (a few years) during the de-composition and rotting of the wood chips. These slow emissions could be as carbon dioxide or even worse as methane.
Q: So what can be done to prevent this?
A: Carbonise the tree remains and sequester the resulting carbon.
Q: How can this be done?
A: Use a high efficiency carboniser to convert most of the carbon previously locked in the tree into biochar.
Q: How much carbon will be captured? And how much greenhouse gas will be averted?
A: For every tonne of tree about 0.5 tonne will be carbon. The efficiency of a good carboniser is 85-90% so that means you can get about 0.45 tonne of carbon per tonne of tree. For every tonne of carbon captured 3.66 tonnes of carbon dioxide (see note 1) is diverted from the atmosphere (less any carbon dioxide generated in the process). So for every tonne of tree about 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas will be averted.
1. Neil Sampson. Monitoring and measuring wood carbon. Colorado SWCS Conference on Carbon as a potential commodity, Denver, Dec. 4, 2002.
Note 1. Molecular weight (MW) of carbon dioxide (CO2) is MW of carbon plus 2 x MW of oxygen. MW of carbon = 12; MW of oxygen = 16; so MW of carbon dioxide is 12 + (2 x 16) = 44.
Then as MW of carbon dioxide divided by MW of carbon is 44/12 or 3.66 it follows that the weight of carbon dioxide averted is 3.66 times the weight of carbon that is captured.