Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bio-char. Mobile Machine

Here is an article about a mobile bio-char machine that can process farm waste at the rate of about one ton an hour.

Mobile 'Biochar' Machine To Work The Fields

by Martin LaMonica
August 25, 2009

Caption: The Biochar 1000 converts agricultural wastes to charcoal, which is then added to soil, a process that enriches soil and removes carbon from air.
(Credit: EcoTechnologies Group)

An ancient technique to fertilize soil by creating charcoal from plant waste is being revived to tackle some of today's environmental problems.

The latest company to pursue manmade charcoal, called biochar, is Biochar Systems, which has developed a biochar-making machine that can be pulled by a pickup truck. Two customers--a North Carolina farm and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management--will be begin testing the units this fall.

The unit, called the Biochar 1000, is designed to convert woody biomass, such as agricultural or forestry waste, into biochar, a black, porous, and fine-grained charcoal that can be used as a fertilizer. It uses pyrolysis--slowly burning biomass in a low-oxygen chamber--to treat 1,000 pounds of biomass per hour, yielding 250 pounds of biochar.

There still isn't a well established market for selling biochar, but there's growing interest among researchers in the process as a way to cut greenhouse gas concentrations. The United Nations has proposed classifying biochar as a carbon credit for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

When forestry or agricultural waste are converted into biochar and put into the soil, the carbon that would have been released through decomposition is held in the soil for hundreds or potentially thousands of years, say proponents.

A number of companies have formed to either create fertilizer or use modified machines to convert biomass into a liquid fuel such as methanol. The first U.S. biochar conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, two weeks ago, organized by the International Biochar Initiative industry group.

Tons of green waste
Biochar Systems, a joint venture created by BioChar Engineering and EcoTechnologies Group, has developed a mobile machine targeted at landowners or other organizations that generate a lot of "green waste," such as agricultural producers, nurseries, or land managers. The biochar can be used on-site as a soil amendment or moved and sold as a fertilizer, according to Fernando Migliassi, chief corporate development officer at EcoTechnologies Group.

The Bureau of Land Management will use one unit, which weighs 4,000 pounds and is 12 feet long, seven feet high, and five feet wide, to improve soil that has been damaged by mining, according to Biochar Systems. The North Carolina Farm Center for Innovation & Sustainability will use test a unit as well to see how agricultural waste can be converted into fertilizer.

The Biochar Systems Biochar 1000 costs $100,000 and is capable of turning out 1,000 tons of biochar a year.

Another unit will be tested by the Colorado State Forest Service to thin forests and treat the tons of wood infested by pine beetle into a soil amendment. Thinning forests manually is very expensive but the biochar machine could be a cheaper route.

"If this is feasible, it would allow us to manage a greater portion of forested lands that right now aren't cost effective," Joseph Duda, forest management supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service told ClimateWire.

The U.S. produces 368 million tons of forest product waste a year and another 60 million tons a year of wood infested by the pine beetle, according to BioChar Engineering. Having a mobile unit reduces overall pollution as biomass doesn't need to be hauled for treatment at a centralized plant, according to the company.

But although it has potential to mitigate climate change, some people have warned against relying heavily on biochar as a carbon offset. The impact of biochar on land may have changed since the time thousands of years ago when people in Amazon region created charcoal, called terra preta.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BIO-CHAR, an easy way to make it.

Link to website of video about making bio-char.

Consists of two barrels- one fits inside the other with a few inches to spare all round. The inside barrel has no top and is filled with wood and turned upside down into the outside barrel and kindling is put between the barrels all the way to the top. The bottom of the outer barrel has holes around it for combustion- the top is closed and has a hole for the chimney which acts as a vacuum to draw up the heated gases. When done the whole thing is left to cool (The burning takes about 3 hours). The bio-char is then mixed 50-50 with good compost and watered so that the mixture is inoculated with the organisms from the compost- it is now ready to put on your garden at the rate of about 10% by weight.

Ken B

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bio-Char and Rock Dust could be the answer

Here is an article I wrote, part of which was printed in our local paper..

Global Warming. The simple answer.

If we sit back and do nothing to combat global warming then I agree we are in trouble. However there is still ample time to reverse this situation, but it will need the cooperation of big business and the average citizen.

Why is it, when faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem, that the people who have the means to solve it do nothing when the answer is so simple? Annually, we put into the atmosphere an estimated 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which has been proven to have a deleterious affect on the temperature of our planet. Cutting down on the amount of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere isn't going to help in the short run, so the simple answer is to remove more than we put in on an annual basis.

However, there are more problems that are affecting living on this planet than just Global Warming. There is the accumulation of garbage which is causing contamination worldwide; disposal of sewage is affecting our drinking water and the fragile environment of our oceans; the reduction of our forests will have an affect on the air we breathe; the chemicals used to produce our food have caused many of the diseases that fill our hospital beds; there is a shortage of food for the population of the planet today, which, coupled with a reduced supply of water ( caused by the drought in certain areas due to the reduction of trees), is the direct cause of much of the strife that costs so many lives and costs so many dollars that could be used in a more beneficial way; much of our good farming land has been built on, or ruined by bad farming practices; and there is such a scarcity of jobs worldwide that there is the continual exodus of much of the rural population to the cities.

Luckily the answer to all of these problems is to address them collectively, because every problem is caused by one of the other problems and is directly or indirectly connected to them all. Most of the problems have been caused in the last 150 years or so, and it will probably take that amount of time to cure them.

Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have depleted our top soil of many of the nutrients that are required to grow healthy food. Just adding these chemicals reduces the bacteria and fungi that create the nutrients that sustain our bodies. It also makes the plants less healthy and more susceptible to diseases and attacks by pests. Good for companies, bad for humans and the inhabitants of this wonderful planet!

It has been proven that the topsoil can be regenerated by the addition of finely ground rock dust together with organic farming practices. This is how it formed originally. Glaciers ground the lava and other rocks on the surface, and after the ice age the dust was blown around the world to become the fertile top soil that was beginning of life. It contained a myriad of nutrients that was available in a form that all plants are able to flourish. All of the animals that ate the plants flourished also. When they died they put back into the soil some of the nutrients they had consumed and the soil remained fertile. Until man started to interfere, especially in the twentieth century! Luckily there are millions of tons of ground rock dust just waiting to be put to use. Most of it is man made in quarries and gravel pits and put aside as fines or whatever other word is used to describe the waste product that they have no use for.

Fifteen hundred years ago the inhabitants of the Amazon knew the answers to most of the problems,(some of the problems had not been invented yet!). They had to feed all of their people in the cities while still retaining the integrity of the forest and the agricultural land that sustained them. They used raised bed and total organic farming practices to feed their enormous population from a relatively small area of farm land. Instead of the modern practice of clear-cut and burn of the forests, they practiced selective cut and char, plus replanting cleared forest areas with the very special plants that they used in everyday life. Not only for building but to recreate the optimal environment for all of the plants that they used for medicines and food, and the animals and other creatures that were essential to their way of life. They dug trenches in the soil, put in the trees they had cut down and then covered them with the excavated soil. The wood was then ignited and burned with a lack of oxygen. The result was charcoal. This charcoal is still there after 1500 years! We call it terra preta, black earth. What they had invented was a method of growing that alleviated the need for fertilizer forever. The bio-char that was the basis for their farming soil and was responsible for an amazing number of operations that sustained the integrity of the soil and produced the prolific number of healthy plants that fed the Amazon people.

When incorporated in the soil, charcoal extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The charcoal is used to create nutrients used by the plants and the charcoal that is used is replaced by the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Amazons caused very little pollution and their carbon footprint was very small. Charcoal is one of the best filters and could be used to sustain our water supply. Combined with rock dust, charcoal is a long term fertilizer that only needs to be assisted by good farming and gardening methods such as the addition of compost or composted manure annually.

There is such an abundance of materials that can be turned in to charcoal, or as this product is now called, bio-char, ( this is made with a lower temperature.), that we will never run out. In fact we produce an enormous amount ourselves!

Products to produce Bio-char.

Obviously wood is the first choice, including mill by-products. Here in the Cariboo we have an abundance of bug killed wood that is going to waste.
Garbage is another product that can be turned into charcoal. Yes, it will have to be sorted! But that should be done any way. This in itself will make many products available for recycling, and will reduce the amount going into landfills by over 60% or even more!
Sewage is a product that will always be available! Done properly the resulting charcoal could be used to improve forest soils and to produce the plants that we will need for fuel when the oil runs out.

The equipment needed to make the charcoal is relatively inexpensive. The costs are offset by not allowing the smoke to escape, and using the bio-gas and liquid produced to create the heat to make the charcoal and to create electricity. The excess electricity could be put in the power grid or used to power towns and villages. In fact the creation of charcoal actually produces 3 to 9 times more energy than that required to produce it.

In the USA and other countries much work is being undertaken to come up with a solution to our global warming. Unfortunately this process is taking too long and it is time for all countries to start to work together as the simple answer is staring us in the face, in my opinion.

At least one forward thinking company has developed a machine which when mounted on a truck, can go from farm to farm and convert the waste to bio-char at the rate of one ton an hour. It collects the gases and oil produced which is then used to propel the vehicle to the next site and heat the next batch of charcoal.

Uses for the end product- Charcoal.

The primary use for the charcoal would be in agriculture and horticulture. Incorporated in fields in large quantities, together with rock dust and other organic amendments, the farmers will be able to use second quality soils to produce prime crops. ( In developed countries most of the prime agricultural land has been annexed to build on!)This in itself would eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, reduce cultivations and act as a filter to clean the water as it goes in to our water sources. The charcoal would also extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for ever!

A certain amount of charcoal incorporated in our forestry soils would be an enormous benefit.
It would also be available for every gardener.

Charcoal is such a good filter element that it could be used by every industry, especially, mining and farming, to avoid the pollution of our water by toxic run-off which would go a long way to cleaning our rivers and lakes.

The remainder could be used to create electricity, and would eventually replace the need for nuclear power, and the use of non-renewable resources to create electricity.

If the oil companies, chemical companies and fertilizer producers were smart enough to get on the bandwagon, not only would they make more money for their shareholders but they would actually be responsible for undoing the harm that they have done to our planet!

Reducing the garbage, and eliminating the sewage problem will clean our rivers and oceans. Another benefit is that there would be a decrease in the diseases that are caused by the addition of chemicals to the soil in which our crops are grown. Because of the new jobs that would be created worldwide there would be very little unemployment which could lead to a period of relative peace and prosperity.

Regarding “Prosperity” the above could be the answer needed that will allow the mine to go ahead with the blessing of all parties. More jobs could be created by setting up an organic greenhouse operation powered by the energy created by the making of bio-char. It could be created by the sensible use of bug kill wood, garbage and sewage. The bio-char could be used as a filter for the tailings ponds, as a soil additive for the forests, where it will sequester carbon dioxide for hundreds or even thousands of years. Local farms and ranches would also benefit by increasing the fertility of their land. The making of bio-char in now a proven alternative that is carbon negative, and there are now machines both portable and stationary, that can use wood waste, farm waste (including animal manure), sewage and organic garbage safely, without pollution, and create more energy that is used.

Surely this is worth a try instead of sitting down and waiting for the inevitable!