Stein Presentation Biochar


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Biochar presentation by Dick Stein from UMass Amherst

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Stein Presentation Biochar

  1. 3. Why Biochar? The nature of and advantages for use of biochar are not understood by many. This is an attempt to clarify these. by Richard Stein UMass, Amherst and Alan Page Green Diamond Systems Belchertown, MA
  2. 5. What is biochar? Biochar is a form of carbon, somewhat like charcoal, which can be made by heating wood with limited air. It differs from coke in that it is very porous, having a very high surface area per unit weight. This surface can serve as a template for the growth of bacteria and fungi, and can actively adsorb fertilizer. For this reason, it is valuable as an aid to farming and lumbering.
  3. 6. What does biochar look like?
  4. 7. Does it take energy to make biochar? <ul><li>Initially, heat must be applied to start vaporization of volatile components. As temperature increases, chemical reactions begin which liberate heat and form several products: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Volatile Vapors : a portion of which can be </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>condensed to form </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bio-oil : A liquid which is a complex mixture of </li></ul></ul><ul><li>organic compounds which can be burned or </li></ul><ul><li>further refined, and, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Biochar : A charcoal-like solid, of agricultural value </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The relative amounts of these can be controlled by selecting heating rates and temperatures.The heat supplied by burning the vapors is more than sufficient to continue the process, so no net external energy is needed . </li></ul>
  5. 9. What good is biochar? For those interested in preparing bio-oil, the biochar, often about 35% of the yield, is an undesirable by-product. It is frequently burned to recover its energy content. We believe this is a waste of a valuable resource, having unique properties that are beneficial for agriculture. It makes more sense to obtain the energy otherwise.
  6. 10. What is special about biochar? <ul><li>As is well documented in the older practices of natives in the Amazon and by modern studies in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., there are great benefits arising from adding biochar to the soil. Some are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enhancement of growth rates of plants and trees. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Greater quality and nutrient density of food crops. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decrease in needs for fertilizer. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decrease in run-off of fertilizer to streams. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The biochar in the soil remains as a stable solid for </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>indefinite periods of time. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These benefits greatly outweigh those derived from the energy that might be obtained by burning it. </li></ul>
  7. 11. It is a “CARBON NEGATIVE approach <ul><li>Carbon dioxide, CO 2 , is removed from the </li></ul><ul><li>atmosphere by photosynthesis during the </li></ul><ul><li>growth of the wood or other biomaterials </li></ul><ul><li>used to make the biochar. </li></ul><ul><li>The carbon remains in the buried biochar </li></ul><ul><li>when it is added to the soil. </li></ul><ul><li>Hence, CO 2 from the atmosphere is converted </li></ul><ul><li>to an inert solid which remains in the ground. </li></ul><ul><li>This is CARBON NEGATIVE . </li></ul>
  8. 12. It is “Coal Mining In Reverse” <ul><li>With coal mining, coal, formed by processes taking millions of years, is removed from the ground. </li></ul><ul><li>It is then burned as fuel, producing CO 2 , and it is being used up at a much greater rate that that at which it was formed. This cannot continue because: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The CO 2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>probably leading to environmental problems. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easily mined coal supplies are being depleted. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The use of biochar reverses this process. CO 2 from the atmosphere is converted to carbon and returned to the ground. Thus, the environmental damage arising from coal mining is decreased. </li></ul>
  9. 13. Stewardship of the soil <ul><li>There is concern that producing energy from </li></ul><ul><li>agricultural sources may lead to soil depletion. </li></ul><ul><li>Farmers know that intensive cultivation of a crop </li></ul><ul><li>from the same land can lead to soil depletion, </li></ul><ul><li>and they resort to crop rotation. </li></ul><ul><li>Might this happen with biofuel production? </li></ul><ul><li>The biochar approach is an effort to restore soil </li></ul><ul><li>quality. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, it is environmentally desirable . </li></ul><ul><li>Such environmental consideration should play a </li></ul><ul><li>role in policy decisions. </li></ul>
  10. 14. SUMMARY: Advantages of Biochar <ul><li>Its use may reduce the CO 2 content of the atmosphere. </li></ul><ul><li>Its application to the soil helps agriculture. </li></ul><ul><li>Its use reduces fertilizer needs, decreasing the energy </li></ul><ul><li>needs to make it. </li></ul><ul><li>This reduces fertilizer run-off which leads to pollution of </li></ul><ul><li>streams and lakes, and eventually to “dead zones” in </li></ul><ul><li>the oceans. </li></ul><ul><li>Emission of toxic nitrogen compounds is reduced. </li></ul><ul><li>Equipment needed for its production and use is simple </li></ul><ul><li>and inexpensive. </li></ul>
  11. 15. How to bring it about <ul><li>It is best done locally or regionally, so that sources of </li></ul><ul><li>biomaterials are close to processing facilities, minimizing </li></ul><ul><li>transportation costs. </li></ul><ul><li>The equipment should be inexpensive and simple so that </li></ul><ul><li>it may be locally obtained and managed. </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioners should be encouraged through awarding of </li></ul><ul><li>“ carbon credits” for the resulting CO 2 reduction. </li></ul><ul><li>Initially, it may not be worthwhile to locally recover and/or </li></ul><ul><li>process the bio-oil, but it may be feasible to deliver it to </li></ul><ul><li>more centralized facilities for processing. </li></ul><ul><li>Excess burnable vapor could be used as a local power source. </li></ul><ul><li>Excess heat could be locally used (such as for heating barns). </li></ul>
  12. 16. The Future - <ul><li>The establishment of regional analytical and </li></ul><ul><li>service facilities to aid local efforts would be </li></ul><ul><li>desirable. </li></ul><ul><li>With larger scale operation, utilization of the bio </li></ul><ul><li>- oil produced along with the biochar would be </li></ul><ul><li>practical. This would probably require further </li></ul><ul><li>upgrading and processing for most uses. </li></ul><ul><li>Power, generated from excess burnable vapors, </li></ul><ul><li>could be used locally or sold to the grid. </li></ul><ul><li>Excess heat could also be used for heating </li></ul><ul><li>contingent buildings. </li></ul>
  13. 17. Biochar had its start in early societies It’s use is described in the book, “1491” by Charles C. Mann on the pre-Columbus Americas. It was believed used to enrich the soil by thousands of years ago by the inhabitants of South America and it has been referred to as “The Black Gold of the Amazon”. It’s benefits appear to be long lasting, and the soil is still fertile today.
  14. 19. How to make biochar <ul><li>Small scale production by individual </li></ul><ul><li>farmer or forester </li></ul><ul><li>Collective operation by a group </li></ul><ul><li>Larger scale industrial level </li></ul>
  15. 20. Nature of small scale production <ul><li>Apparatus should be simple enough </li></ul><ul><li>for use by the farmer or forester </li></ul><ul><li>using his supply of biofuel. </li></ul><ul><li>Effluent is not collected, but is burned </li></ul><ul><li>as fuel to maintain the pyrolysis. </li></ul><ul><li>Excess heat produced is used locally </li></ul><ul><li>by the producer. </li></ul>
  16. 21. Some “small scale” efforts - <ul><li>Cooking stoves used by third world </li></ul><ul><li>societies. </li></ul><ul><li>Our “campfire” attempts.(Ted Wysocki, </li></ul><ul><li>Alan Page) </li></ul><ul><li>Oil drum apparatus (Alan Page) </li></ul><ul><li>Bob Essert’s device (by Alan Page) </li></ul>
  17. 30. Essert Pyrolyzer
  18. 31. Page Pyrolyzer
  19. 32. Some advantages of scaling up <ul><li>It may prove feasible to recover the effluent and </li></ul><ul><li>otherwise use its combustible vapors and </li></ul><ul><li>condensable liquid. </li></ul><ul><li>The liquid may yield “bio-oil” which then may be </li></ul><ul><li>used: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Directly as an industrial fuel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Further upgraded to give domestic and mobile fuels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and marketable chemicals. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Excess energy can be used by allied facilities like </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Community housing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Light industry </li></ul></ul>
  20. 33. Biochar Engineering Pyrolyzer
  21. 36. Agricultural Testing Studies are underway at the New England Small Farm Institute to study the effect of biochar on plant growth. This involves comparing growth without biochar to that with biochar alone and with combination with fertilizer and/or compost.