Support the Arctic Sea Ice Forum and Blog

Author Topic: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice  (Read 28832 times)

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1305
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #50 on: February 03, 2019, 04:55:44 PM »
Neven, I know bio char doesn't belong on the Mauna Loa CO2 thread. It is so easy to get off subject,my apologies.
 After rereading the old thread I have a few comments.
 I think Wili is correct and collection of feedstock needs to utilize equipment that doesn't negate any positive carbon sequestration effects with more fossil fuel emissions. One of the reasons I am planning on building a little bio char plant is to use the extra heat to render fat for making biodiesel. The biofuel will fuel the tractor for collection of feedstock, distribution and incorporation into the soil, and chipping wood . I am also interested in methanol from wood gas but I need to figure out how to do that without blowing myself up. I would also like to capture exhaust heat to heat a mass of rocks with some sort of radiator to help heat my house.
Another angle for me is to utilize pig waste added to the new bio char to both help age / biologically activate the char before burial and use extra nitrogen in the pig waste so it doesn't leach away unused.
I have sandy soil that tends toward alkali so lowering pH is probably benifitial and easy to monitor. I have land that is natural pasture I don't currently use that needs more nutrients and would make a good place to sink carbon.
 So there are multiple things I am trying to do to utilize extra heat in the pyrolysis process as well as deal with pig waste, improve pasture, and potentially synthesize methanol for biodiesel production.
 I have always put a winter cover crop on the land I use for my gardens and I will probably stick with cover crops and compost additions for that area. Building enough compost to cover more than my garden areas utilizing farm produced feedstocks however is just too difficult. I hope bio char and pig waste can serve multiple purposes but I don't trust or use pig waste in any garden areas. Pastures yes, gardens no.
 The garden is now over two acres with a two foot stand of peas, fava, and oats. I haven't used any fossil fuel there in three years. Not for fertilizer, tractor fuel or irrigation. It is time to plow in the cover crop and get to planting . We got about eight inches of rain over the last couple weeks so I am as happy as a pig in ....
 

wili

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 2376
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 40
  • Likes Given: 224
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #51 on: February 03, 2019, 05:01:29 PM »
I gotta ask, Bruce, does your place just smell like bacon all the time? :)

And if you give it enough time, composted pig manure should be fine on anything. It can't be more dangerous the humanure, can it? And I assume you are familiar with that book/concept? But maybe that would require using too much space for too long?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1305
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #52 on: February 03, 2019, 05:42:57 PM »
Wili, Good to see you survived the deep freeze! 
In order to run a farm you have to carry a farm insurance policy . Mine got cancelled a couple years ago because the insurance carrier found out I was selling both pigs and vegetables from the same farm. It became obvious I wasn't going to get another carrier unless I chose one or the other, pigs or vegetables . I chose pigs . I can still grow vegetables but I can no longer sell them .
 I am pushing what is legal I am sure by producing biofuel or building a bio char plant. Running a still for methanol would undoubtably terrify anyone of authority. Human waste goes into a septic system and nobody seems ready to broach the notion that we should compost the stuff . A bridge too far although humorous.
 I can grow Cannibus as a feedstock for compost but I have to pay over a thousand dollars a year for permits and pay to show it doesn't have any THC in it. I can raise pigs without much oversight but I have to get my wells checked for nitrates if I grow vegetables. I live in an upside down world and trying to do the right thing is the quickest way to irritate the authorities. Sidd could better fill us in on permits and hassles of bio production . If I tried to sell the stuff I'd really be screwed !
 My bio char plant will have to double as some sort of barbecue pit to skate regulation. I have to make my own fat for bio to avoid the nutty regulations it takes to collect resturant grease. I can't sell organic vegetables produced without fossil fuel and have insurance . I can't grow a useless ( not really useless) weed without userous permitting.
 Good morning from the other side. I think I have already polluted the bio char thread.
 
   

« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 07:23:31 PM by Bruce Steele »

dbarce

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #53 on: February 05, 2019, 09:39:19 PM »
It is time to plow in the cover crop and get to planting .

sorry for the non-biochar question in advance, but how are you planning to plow in the cover crop without using fossil fuels?

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1305
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 30
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #54 on: February 05, 2019, 11:51:37 PM »
dbarce, I render lard , convert it to biodiesel , and run my tractors on my homemade fuel.
Technically not totally fossil fuel free yet because I buy barley for the pigs and there is embedded fossil fuel in the purchased feed. I am confident however that I could feed the pigs without purchased food if I only kept a few pigs rather than trying to make a living as a pig farmer. Making money is always a trick without fossil fuel consumption.
 Any carbon I might be able to sink on my farm from feedstocks for compost and cover crops I produce without fossil fuel should be potentially negative carbon. Bio char should contribute to long term soil carbon content furthering potential negative carbon goals.
A question for you dbarce, do you know any examples of anyone sinking more carbon than they consume ?
 

sidd

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 4186
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 103
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #55 on: February 06, 2019, 06:38:18 AM »
Re: "little bio char plant is to use the extra heat to render fat"

process heat is interesting. i am using solar hotwater collectors to preheat biod feedstock and then burning some feedstock to get to temperature. (need to adjust the burners on the furnace ... not the same as for fuel oil or for biod.) If the restaurants didnt like the glycerine soap so much, i might burn the glycerine too. What do you do with the glycerine that comes out the bioD processing ?

Re: "methanol from wood gas"

yeehaa, explosion proof everything, all switches, pumps, exhaust fans, breakers ... might wanna invest in nonsparking tools. Also, as Mr. Steele knows, in addition to explosion risk, methanol makes you blind, mad, dead in that order.

Re: capture exhaust heat

this is trickier that it sounds. if you capturing it under the house, be real careful of leaks into the house. better do outside, then heat water as xfer fluid for water based home heat. also there are issues with cooling the exhaust too much and doing bad things to the combustion chamber and flue.

Re: "regulations it takes to collect resturant grease"

not too onerous as far as i see. Need the right tanks. Amish welder puts em together for me, with the heating tube and float gauge and sight glass and all, or you can buy em from that outfit in indiana. Trucking costs are a bitch tho, unless you buy a trailer load, but mostly cheaper to weld em up yourself. Tanks got to be in the right locations, permitted, but that's the restaurants problem. Bigger problem is smalltown law enforcement slapping tickets on everything they dont like. Cost of doin business. Eventually, hopefully, you get to know them and work out a modus vivendi. Or else pull out of the territory. In couple cases we actually got restaurant owners trucking used oil to us rather than deal with local enforcement issues.

Re: cannabis for compost

hell with that. cannabis for compost ?! if i growed cannabis, i'd smoke it. just like growing crops for ethanol for transport fuel is crazy, if i make ethanol i intend to drink it. your mileage may vary.

Re: no farm insurance

Ouch. Ouch. OUCH. I couldn't live like that.

Also Mr. Steele, i take it you are zoned ag ? do you really need a permit for biochar pit ? Ifso i guess CA is really a different country.

sidd

« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 06:57:49 AM by sidd »

sidd

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 4186
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 103
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #56 on: February 06, 2019, 07:27:11 AM »

Martin Gisser

  • Guest
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #57 on: February 06, 2019, 08:31:40 PM »
So I rediscovered this thread once more :)

Meanwhile I've moved into an old crumbling farm house here in Bavaria. The polar opposite to a modern insulated house like Neven's. Most of the house currently (winter) is a huge walk-in fridge. My bedroom upstairs has 2°C (36F) right now.

Heating and cooking with wood: some axed myself, some commercial compressed saw dust.

Now I can produce nontrivial amounts of biochar while using the energy. I've got a barrel full at the moment, could be 5, but I'm lazy and the old oven is not yet optimized: I just put out the grate (which is for stupid coal burning) and replaced it with a fireclay plate, so I can harvest glowing embers. Requires some skill to avoid mess when quenching the embers in water.  Luckily the chimney sweeper saw no problem with this change - usually you are not allowed to modify an oven, or even build your own serious one.

The char barrel has a little hole at the bottom and I use it to filter my urine. This saves a lot of water - peeing into a stupid flush toilet is a ridiculous abomination. In summer I'll mix it into the compost. The saw dust gives very fine char, so the pore space between the bigger chunks from the wood is filled - else the filter barrel wouldn't work.

I'm still developing my "carbon negative" household procedures. Then I might do a video, because the details a hard to explain in writing.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 08:44:45 PM by Martin Gisser »

sidd

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 4186
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 103
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #58 on: February 06, 2019, 10:19:03 PM »
Re: filter urine thru char then compost

beautiful. I need to talk to my neighbours about this idea, mix in char with the hay bedding under the animals, find out if it will hurt livestock.

Thanks for the tip, Mr. Gisser.

sidd

dbarce

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #59 on: February 06, 2019, 11:47:05 PM »

bruce, after reading your post history in more detail, I truely find your approach laudable, and it sounds like the right way to go towards a carbon negative life. Would be super interesting to get some numbers on how much C you are sinking. The processes you describe do sound complicated to a layman. Or are they not? Do you know of others doing this with pigs?

A question for you dbarce, do you know any examples of anyone sinking more carbon than they consume ?

I've thought long and hard about this. The answer is a negative thus far. On a Carbon Atom by Carbon Atom basis there are always hidden carbon costs (like your barley, or the C used to build the tractor).

IMO the best theoretical path to achieving this goal is to reduce C consumption to a minimum. An extreme case I have met in person was a very isolated hunter gatherer tribe in southern sudan. Their C consumption was low (as far as I can think, only the wood used for fire). I am very aware that voluntarily turning society back to the paleolithic is improbable. But if we want to get serious about our predicament, at the very least 'making money' has to disappear as a priority. Do I see it happening? Nay.




Martin Gisser

  • Guest
Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #60 on: February 07, 2019, 01:12:00 AM »
Re: filter urine thru char then compost

beautiful. I need to talk to my neighbours about this idea, mix in char with the hay bedding under the animals, find out if it will hurt livestock.

Thanks for the tip, Mr. Gisser.

sidd
Actually I'm not yet sure how long it will work.
Started last week only. It is a mixture of anaerobic biological and chemical: Top layer is old Terra Preta and a little pond sludge. Then comes washed-out char. Bottom is highly alkaline (pH10+, test strips maxed out) where I haven't washed out the ashes much.
On the lid there's a funnel with a ping pong ball to close against smell. (The pingpong ball in funnel is quite amazing and counterintuitive. Works only when barrel is filled and airtight. Else the ball blocks. (Nice kitchen sink experiment: A world class theoretical physicist predicted it wrong.))

The barrel inside I smeared with clay, because the sides can serve a shortcut for the waters and the alkaline can corrode the barrel's plastic.

The char should sink in water. What doesn't sink gets boiled 2x (no extra energy as the oven runs anyway for heating.) Then it sinks down.

----------
P.S.: The fireclay plate I mentioned above can (and almost surely will) crack. Just put a log of ice cold wood on the hot thing. It is supported from below with a brick and stuff, where the ash tray was before. This also keeps it hot. Front and back I left some opening for primary and secondary air. Know what you do before tinkering the oven.
The whole modification is already worth it for the reduced ashes.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 02:19:18 AM by Martin Gisser »