Arctic Sea Ice : Forum

AGW in general => Walking the walk => Topic started by: Jim Hunt on May 02, 2013, 03:09:37 PM

Title: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 02, 2013, 03:09:37 PM
Laurent and I got into a discussion about Terra Preta on a thread about "Renewable Energy (http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,16.msg4872.html#msg4872)". I reckon the topic is worth a thread of its own, so here it is!

To set the ball rolling, here's the BBC Horizon programme that first introduced me to Terra Preta:

http://youtu.be/qqp_H95wjPE?t=29m (http://youtu.be/qqp_H95wjPE?t=29m)

N.B. That YouTube link didn't work quite as anticipated. You may wish to skip to 29:00 or thereabouts to go straight to the Terra Preta part.

If you prefer browsing websites to watching TV programmes, here's Biochar Haiti:

http://biocharhaiti.wordpress.com/ (http://biocharhaiti.wordpress.com/)

and here's Biochar India:

http://www.biocharindia.com/ (http://www.biocharindia.com/)



Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Neven on May 02, 2013, 08:40:04 PM
I'm very interested in this as well. A research paper came out last week that said that very little of the CO2 gets locked through biochar. I'll see if I can find it.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 02, 2013, 11:49:13 PM
Here's some rather older research, funded by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=16168 (http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=16168)

They reckon that:

Quote
Pyrolysis-biochar systems might abate approximately 7–30 t CO2eq ha-1 yr-1 using dedicated feedstocks compared with typical biofuel abatement of between 1–7 t CO2eq ha-1 yr-1. By each of these measures PBS appears to offer a more efficient way to abate carbon than alternative uses of biomass feedstock, or land to grow such feedstocks.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Neven on May 03, 2013, 12:10:13 AM
Found it, Jim: Soils Cannot Lock Away Black Carbon (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=soils-cannot-lock-away-black-carbon)

Quote
Charcoal and other forms of black carbon do not, as previously thought, stay where they are buried

By Tim Radford and The Daily Climate

Environmentalists have argued that the use of biochar could slow and ultimately reduce global warming by taking carbon out of circulation.

LONDON – Climate scientists may have to rethink some of their old assumptions about carbon. US and European researchers have just established that black carbon, soot and biochar – the burnt remains from countless forest fires – doesn't stay in the soil indefinitely.

Around 27 million tons of the stuff gets dissolved in water and washed down the rivers into the oceans each year.

Black carbon or biochar has been hailed as one possible way of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, by taking carbon out of circulation. But this study, according to a report in the journal Science, "closes a major gap in the global charcoal budget and provides critical information in the context of geo-engineering."

That sucks, if true. I was hoping on experimenting with this stuff in 2-3 years.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 03, 2013, 01:20:38 AM
Charcoal and other forms of black carbon do not, as previously thought, stay where they are buried.

That sucks, if true. I was hoping on experimenting with this stuff in 2-3 years.

Yet the Horizon documentary speaks of "very dark soil that covers tens of thousands of hectares" associated with "exquisite pottery, much of it that dates from the time of Christ". It doesn't seem as though everything's been washed away "in the heart of the rainforest", even over a millenium or two?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Lewis C on May 03, 2013, 01:37:04 PM
Jim - As far as I can see the paper's finding is of the charcoal content of waterways - without any distinction as to the charcoal's origin. It is not news that only a small fraction of the charcoal produced in wildfires will be taken into the soil and retained, with the rest decaying or being washed into the nearest watercourse.

As you say, the terra preta regions of the Amazon (which reportedly amount to an area equal to France & Spain) demonstrate the multi-millennia retention of charcoal once it is buried. There will of course be minor losses where serpentine rivers' slowly carve through treated former farmland, but these don't begin to justify Radford's interpretation of the paper as undermining Biochar's critical role in global Carbon recovery.

Monbiot wrote a despicable hatchet piece for the Guardian slagging the option as seeking to "Char the Earth" for carbon credit profits - which exemplified the bigoted blanket opposition to anything other an 'Emissions-Control-Only' approach that underlies much of the opposition to Biochar. In my view that outlook reflects a lack of understanding of the urgency of our predicament, which we demonstrably cannot get near resolving without rapid global deployment of both Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration alongside stringent Emissions Control.

Regards,

Lewis
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 03, 2013, 09:47:31 PM
After some search I think I got some idea on how to make terra preta :
You need to have some charcoal or biochar (we have seen that previously)
Secondly you need to have some "good bacterias" called EM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism)
These EM (effective micro-organisme) can be found in the  sauerkraut (Choucroute pour les intimes), sourdough, kefir, kombucha, cheese ... The more you add some type of bacterias the more these bacterias would be able to thrive.
You mixed charcoal (some break the charcoal in dust) and EM for one day or two then you add the stuff in your soil ! (I did not try yet !!!) (just a speculation)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 04, 2013, 11:02:10 AM
My understanding of these matters is sadly purely theoretical.  I'm told that using charcoal on its own is not such a good idea. Mixed with urine:

http://www.re-char.com/2013/01/07/the-results-are-in-again/ (http://www.re-char.com/2013/01/07/the-results-are-in-again/)

or cattle slurry:

http://www.biochar.ac.uk/project.php?id=6&r=a (http://www.biochar.ac.uk/project.php?id=6&r=a)

seems to work better. Maybe adding an exotic mix of carefully selected microorganisms is better still?
Title: Biochar good ... but smoke?
Post by: GeoffBeacon on May 04, 2013, 02:56:00 PM
Jim

I interviewed a few years ago Johannes Lehman (http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/ (http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/)) who said

Quote
Annually, 60 to 80 megatonnes of carbon cycles between the atmosphere, the plants and back to the atmosphere. Every 14 years or so, the entire atmosphere has been cycled through the plants and back again.

Human activity produces 7-9 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually, so only a small proportion of carbon needs to be diverted from this cycle into a slower biochar cycle to have a significant effect.

I get the Digest from biochar@yahoogroups.com

What worries me is the effect of smoke (black carbon) that amateur efforts produce. See http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2010/07/black-carbons-grey-areas/ (http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2010/07/black-carbons-grey-areas/)
Title: Biochar capacity discussed
Post by: GeoffBeacon on May 04, 2013, 03:20:05 PM
I  also discussed biochar with Simon Shackley of the UK Biochar Research Centre http://www.biochar.ac.uk/index.php (http://www.biochar.ac.uk/index.php).

I sent the earlier quote from Lehman and these:
Quote
5. One of the most exciting new strategies for restoring carbon to depleted soil is by using biochar. This is basically porous charcoal made by burning grass, corn and rice husk and other organic farming wastes that absorb CO2, like a charcoal filter in a cigarette absorbs
gases.

Widespread practice of biochar making could absorb 40 percent of annual CO2 emission!
http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=116215  (http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=116215)

Quote
At the global scale, early estimates by the International Biochar Initiative suggest that it is feasible to remove one gigatonne of CO2 [anually] by about 2030, which makes it as potentially important as other major carbon mitigation activities (CO2 Capture and Geological Storage (CCS), renewables, efficient vehicles, etc.).
http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=16168 (http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=16168)

Simon's reply
Quote
hello Geoff - hope you're well.

RE: the below. Yea the 1 gigatonnes is  annually. Johannes has previously published 5.5 to about 9 gigatonnes  but this was based upon large-scale energy crops + dedicated forestry. 

The more conservative number of 1 GT is still very ambitious and would  be hard to achieve, but doesn't rely upon energy crops + new  plantations - rather its an estimate of existing agricultural +  forestry residues and waste streams that would be suitable. all very  uncetain right now.

We've come up with estimates for UK situation -  defra will publish them early in 2010.

best for now,

simon

I noted the qualification "doesn't rely upon energy crops + new  plantations".

Title: Biochar as an alternative to ...
Post by: GeoffBeacon on May 04, 2013, 03:49:39 PM
When discussing carbon footprints, of say beef (see http://nobeef.org.uk (http://nobeef.org.uk)) I often ger the response. "The land on which cattle or sheep graze cannot be used for anything else. It would just go to ruin."

But let us stretch our imagination to the point that climate change is being taken as seriously as it diserves. OK, that is far-feched but if we did we would not let that land go to ruin. We would apply more effort to it and produce food and also sequester carbon.  This prompted me to write to Hiliary Benn, who was then Secretary of State to DEFRA. I refered to this in the email exchange with Simon Shackley:

Quote
Simon

Thanks.

Last year I pestered Hiliary Benn about biochar. I also asked him at what carbon price would it be economic for farmers to take  sheep off the hills and turn the increased biomass into biochar?

This question is more complicated than it first appeared to me. For example:

1) If you stop producing sheep on Scottish hills does that cut total sheep production worldwide? (Reducing worldwide production would have a large effect on climate forcing.)

2) In what circumstances would the carbon from the vegetation be  sequestered anyway - e.g. as peat?

Are these the sort of issue you are covering?  I think it  particularly important to give farmers the right incentives.

Best wishes

Geoff


There may be complications but I still think it a good idea to stop sheep farming and replace it by growing carbon crops and food crops. Food crops which are more efficient in their use of land than sheep.

Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 04, 2013, 05:21:49 PM
I think there is something wrong ! Too much energy is needed to make the charcoal and spread on the fields !

Well, if you want to do it, here is an other method

http://www.downsizer.net/Articles/Make_your_own/Charcoal_Making/ (http://www.downsizer.net/Articles/Make_your_own/Charcoal_Making/)

This site is full of other useful informations !!!
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: GeoffBeacon on May 04, 2013, 06:55:19 PM
Laurent

Look at all that smoke being created by making biochar that way.

It may not be as bad as diesel fumes for climate change but probably very bad. Some of that will get to the Arctic and help melt the snow and ice.

They need a much better engineered solution. What about microwave ovens using the electricity from windfarms when it's being thrown away.

I had a similar suggestion for torrifaction which produces partly-baked biochar. See An idea for storing renewable energy  http://www.ccq.org.uk/?p=324 (http://www.ccq.org.uk/?p=324).  I've been asking around to find if this was sensible.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 04, 2013, 10:09:07 PM
This idea of torefaction is interesting !
I wonder if that smoke/gas can be burn even at low temperature like 200/300 °C ?
I could add an other drum above the rocket mass heater and send the gaz in the second chamber like on this drawing (a little drawing is better...) (the added drum is the green stuff). Would it work without oxygene ?
Of course this is for a very small scale and for the period when the house will be heated !

I found that link very interesting :
http://www.greenyourhead.com/2013/04/terra-preta-sanitation-at-home.html (http://www.greenyourhead.com/2013/04/terra-preta-sanitation-at-home.html)
I am used to handle my poo !!! It's easy go get the habit, just stop using your drinking water to handle that !
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 06, 2013, 01:59:38 PM
Even monkeys know how to use biochar !
Colobus monkey medicine - BBC (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFzVdfozISo#)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 06, 2013, 02:27:53 PM
http://www.gekgasifier.com/ (http://www.gekgasifier.com/)
I did not think of that ! Making gaz with wood !
It does remind me there was some vehicules using gaz during ww2 !
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on May 07, 2013, 08:53:02 PM
http://www.ithaka-journal.net/55-anwendungen-von-pflanzenkohle?lang=en (http://www.ithaka-journal.net/55-anwendungen-von-pflanzenkohle?lang=en)
That's crasy how many uses we have with biochar !
Some more on the root of the site !
http://www.ithaka-journal.net/wege-zu-terra-preta-aktivierung-von-biokohle?lang=en (http://www.ithaka-journal.net/wege-zu-terra-preta-aktivierung-von-biokohle?lang=en)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: JimD on September 07, 2013, 09:39:43 PM
Neven
That sucks, if true. I was hoping on experimenting with this stuff in 2-3 years.

Don't give up yet. Found this great no hype overview via Google Scholar.

Quote
the scientists who work in this field seem to agree on two things. First, biochar does indeed have potential to store carbon, boost soil fertility, generate energy, and mitigate pollution. But, second, there are a hundred caveats and unanswered questions. Biochar technology, it turns out, is both incredibly simple and, as yet, somewhat enigmatic.

Biochar has great 'potential' that needs to be researched and the limitations and uses determined.  There is a LOT of hype out there that is not backed up by research but at the same time it does look like many aspects of it will work out.  Many of its potential valuable uses have nothing to do with agriculture.

Quote
With the right feedstock and optimal pyrolysis, biochar retains half or more of the carbon in the original biomass. And, in the soil, that carbon is remarkably stable....
...In addition to long-term carbon sequestration—and associated reduction of carbon dioxide emissions—Spokas says biochar has demonstrated “marvelous suppression” of other greenhouse gas emissions from soil, especially nitrous oxide.

So the first thing many of its promoters need to do is stop making it themselves and trying to get others to do it as well.  One is likely to produce way to many pollutants otherwise (no sense making things worse) and they are wasting a huge amount of energy produced in the process that needs to be captured and used.   If this ends up being suitable for sequestering large amounts of carbon it will need to be done on a large industrial scale and under stringent controls in order not to worsen pollution, etc.  It is not suitable for home manufacturing.
Quote
Moreover, Lehmann calculates that the initial pyrolysis used to create biochar produces at least two to four times more energy than is used to make it, including the energy costs associated with biomass production, transport to the manufacturing site, the pyrolysis itself, and subsequent biochar soil application.

It has many potential benefits to farmers (but we do not know if it is suitable for use everywhere - chances are that it is not).  Two very good things...

Quote
Biochar can have an unusually high cation exchange capacity, but also appears able to adsorb phosphate, an anion (no one knows why).

One thing that bites both ways depending on where the farmer is and his soil moisture requirements. 
Quote
biochar also increases the soil’s water-holding capacity, sometimes dramatically so.
Retaining too much water might make biochar use impossible in some locations as saturated soil kills many plants and if the ground is too wet it cannot be worked either.  That being said if you live in a drought prone area...
Quote
Ippolito says biochar technology potentially could be a tremendous asset for farmers facing drought conditions; they could increase soil water-holding capacity for, say, a 10-year period and also reap extra plant benefits.

The below should be a very good feature but there will likely be limitations about this aspect that provide an optimal use pattern.

Some of the big unknowns are:
We do not know if the Terra Preta was man made or a naturally occurring substance (forest fires, etc.) though it was most likely made by man.
Biochar made from different materials (wood, manure, crop waste) has different properties and some may not be suitable for agriculture use.  Research needed.
Similar pyrolysis methods yield different propertied biochar.  Process control is critical.  Some materials require very different pyrolysis methods.
 
A BIG reason we need to study this a bit before jumping off into it is the following statement..
Quote
Spokas and colleagues reviewed more than four dozen biochar and black carbon studies dating from 1850 to 2011 to assess “agronomic impact beyond carbon sequestration.” Findings were inconclusive. Half of the studies reported positive effects on yield, 20% no effect, and 30% negative effects. The overall impact on yield ranged anywhere from +200% to –87%.

Quote
Large-scale biochar application would also require a compelling economic incentive for farmers. Currently, there is none.

“All the way back to the 1700s, there is literature saying that biochar would not produce the yield benefits to pay for itself,” says Spokas. “That’s a big problem.”

Regarding the above I would say that it might pay to use it on soils which are very depleted.  But if we really want to use biochar to sequester carbon then that is what you do and then you give it to the farmers for free to marginally increase yields and grow a little more food.  Everyone wins.

Quote
This practical, entrepreneurial approach coincides with the view from academia. Lehmann says biochar should be considered “a tool in the farm toolbox,” alongside composts, fertilizers, crop residues, and mulches. “Biochar has gained, for better or worse, some silver bullet attribute,” he says. “There is no silver bullet. There is a portfolio of options.”

The biggest users of biochar are
Quote
At the moment, most of Levine’s Biochar Solutions customers are interested in land reclamation: oil and gas producers, hard rock mining companies, and landfill owners. His second largest buying sector is the landscape services industry, and the third is split between water filtration and other industrial uses.

https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/csa/articles/58/9/4
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on October 07, 2013, 10:41:33 AM
Biochar - boon to soil health and crop production
http://www.academicjournals.org/aJaR/E-books/2013/3Oct/AJAR-%203October%202013%20Issue.pdf#page=45 (http://www.academicjournals.org/aJaR/E-books/2013/3Oct/AJAR-%203October%202013%20Issue.pdf#page=45)

Impact of addition of biochar along with Bacillus sp. on growth and yield of French beans
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304423813004111 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304423813004111)


Linking N2O emissions from biochar-amended soil to the structure and function of the N-cycling microbial community.
http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/24067258/reload=0;jsessionid=YFT4eftXsSVaJFpu14C4.38 (http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/24067258/reload=0;jsessionid=YFT4eftXsSVaJFpu14C4.38)

Influence of buffalo manure, compost, vermicompost and biochar amendments on bacterial and viral communities in soil and adjacent aquatic systems
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0929139313002199 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0929139313002199)

Agricultural soil and drilosphere as reservoirs of new and unusual assimilators of 2,4-dichlorophenol carbon
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1462-2920.12209/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1462-2920.12209/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false)


Some others studies ... biochar or not biochar ?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 07, 2013, 11:28:16 AM
http://www.bing.com/search?q=mobile+pyrolysis+units&form=MSNH14&refig=ac009ae51221417db59c8426c515fff4&pq=mobile+pyr&sc=4-10&sp=1&qs=AS&sk= (http://www.bing.com/search?q=mobile+pyrolysis+units&form=MSNH14&refig=ac009ae51221417db59c8426c515fff4&pq=mobile+pyr&sc=4-10&sp=1&qs=AS&sk=)

http://www.bing.com/search?q=mobile+biochar+units&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=mobile+biochar+units&sc=0-22&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=885994185abe4ed68e964e155fa96431 (http://www.bing.com/search?q=mobile+biochar+units&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=mobile+biochar+units&sc=0-22&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=885994185abe4ed68e964e155fa96431)

Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on October 08, 2013, 01:18:00 PM
Wonder how to make biochar ?
Making Biochar For Small Farms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqkWYM7rYpU#)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: JimD on October 09, 2013, 09:56:16 PM
Laurent

That is the very kind of biochar production that scientists indicate should not be being done.  It produces far more pollution than an industrial process and does not capture the waste heat for further use.  Home production is not something any of us should want to be going on as it is likely a net climate negative if done in the backyard fashion.

Many people are ahead of the science on this subject.  We need to be much more programmatic or we are going to be making lots of mistakes.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on October 09, 2013, 10:34:02 PM
Jimd, you are certainly right on this !
I think my previous proposal (hypothetic) :
https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,273.msg5157.html#msg5157
may be much better !
I am seeing biochar (terra preta) as being something that has to be use, with an infinitesimal fashion like biodynamie.
From what I am reading, there is no use of just spreading biochar only, his purpose is to host (because of the high porosity) some bacterias, mycorhises, water, nitrate... so it has to be charged with this stuff for a while at least 15 days in a mixture of compost tea, urine and mycorhises.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 09, 2013, 11:11:46 PM
Laurent

That is the very kind of biochar production that scientists indicate should not be being done.  It produces far more pollution than an industrial process and does not capture the waste heat for further use.  Home production is not something any of us should want to be going on as it is likely a net climate negative if done in the backyard fashion.

Many people are ahead of the science on this subject.  We need to be much more programmatic or we are going to be making lots of mistakes.

That process won't even yield 20% biochar and it burns up all the extra energy potential, making CO2 faster than the Earth does. There are low temperature pyrolysis processes that will yield 50% biochar or higher temperature processes producing mostly bio-oils, still making enough syngas to run the process and then some. The problems involve the specific biomass required. Let's say we want to make biochar to sequester carbon on a massive scale, which the world needs to do. I don't see how it can be done without deforestation and monoculture of forests. Making good biochar processes requires specific biomass. It's only logical that the specific chemistry relates to the materials used. 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on October 09, 2013, 11:25:50 PM
If we really want to sequester biomass, wouldn't be more effective to cut the trees and bury them below 1 meter of earth where anaerobiose start (it is more 35 cm but let's say 1m) ?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 10, 2013, 06:20:34 AM
If we really want to sequester biomass, wouldn't be more effective to cut the trees and bury them below 1 meter of earth where anaerobiose start (it is more 35 cm but let's say 1m) ?

I assume you are talking about CO2 and not biomass, but it can be looked at both ways.

Many forests have roots below 1 meter and they don't last long after the forest is cut down. An actively growing forest will sequester CO2, while a mature or old growth forest has already done that work and reaches equilibrium. That said, there is no desire in my heart to destroy such biodiversified areas of our world. We've destroyed enough and it's time to rebuild.

I imagine it's possible to find the most CO2 sequestering per area plant on Earth, grow it and find a way to preserve it's carbon content, like convert it to carbon and sink it into an ocean trench subduction zone with concrete or similar booties.

A shallow burial of biomass on normal land will just make methane and there is even anaerobic bacteria at extreme ocean depths. Preserving carbon near the Earth's surface happens under acidic conditions that prevent decomposition, like in swamps. Much like the paper mills in valleys, it doesn't smell too good, because of the hydrogen sulfide produced. Acidic biomass could be added to swamps, but the caustic to originally make soap and candles came from particular wood chips converted to ash. An environmental impact study would be required for specific biomass added and a cost/benefit analysis.

These simple proposals are to imitate how the Earth sequesters carbon. The day may dawn when mankind doesn't just have to stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, but remove the damage done. I'm not opposed to biochar, but see certain limitations, like there are only so many branches to trim from driveways and everyone doesn't live in central Florida, to be sarcastic. Mankind seems to be great at making algae from agricultural runoff and spreading invasive species like the water lily. I was looking for ways to collect and get rid of such biomass. They aren't wood chips, but even fine carbon can be compressed to imitate biochar, so it will be retained and assist soil. All biomass has potential fuel benefits liberating us from fossil fuels. I came across the mobile biochar units long ago, because I was examining the logistics involved in removing such biomass in a profitable way that was environmentally friendly. I'm thinking of making biochar in the sense of activated charcoal, that won't be leached from soil, because the pellet size is too big. I'm also thinking about it in the sense so it can be made from materials that aren't trees. What can I say, tree huggers just think that way? Biomass doesn't have to be plant material, so even jellyfish is a possiblity. There is nothing wrong with converting a curse to a blessing.   
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili on October 10, 2013, 03:37:57 PM
Keep in mind that you will need to get pretty much all of your power for growing, cultivating, cutting, collecting, transporting, processing, and burying... any biomass from non-fossil "death" fuel sources in order for any of these schemes to have the remotest chance of working.

We are so accustomed to the enormous amounts of nearly free, dense energy that ff provides us that we tend to quite easily come up with "solutions" that are extremely energy intensive without thinking about the consequences of using all that energy and about where it will come from.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 10, 2013, 06:20:57 PM
Keep in mind that people don't use their fireplaces as air conditioners. Pyrolysis is an exothermic chemical reaction that creates more energy than it consumes.

Around mid January, '74, I was working for the largest producer of methanol. Methanol was $0.08 per gallon, acetone was $0.11 and gasoline was $0.32. Pyrolysis is one of the methods to make methanol. Less than 10 years ago, I was present in an oil refinery where they were cutting apart a large methanol unit and shipping it to Trinidad. The unit was mothballed once ethanol became available and it wasn't economical to make methanol from petroleum.

The logic of politics gets complicated, but the logic of chemistry and economics follows their unique paths. The fuels we have used were determined by the powers that be and not logic. 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili on October 10, 2013, 07:37:04 PM
"The fuels we have used were determined by the powers that be and not logic."

Well put.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 10, 2013, 09:40:24 PM
To my knowledge, no one has ever made activated charcoal for agricultural purposes the way my research has guided me, unless it's considered some ancient Amazonian civilization may have stumbled on it by their slash and burn methods. They also added broken pottery, which makes sense in sandy soil. Water levels in the Amazon basin rise and fall, so they built mounds and roads connecting various communities. I picture what they did as smart agricultural practices.

The science behind making activated charcoal is well understood. Activated charcoal requires regeneration and microbial regeneration is a well known method.

That said, with today's science, we should be able to figure out an environmentally friendly method to assist agriculture and sequester carbon while first ridding ourselves of some of the plagues we have created for ourselves. One biomass doesn't equal another, because they all have their unique chemical signatures. Processing jellyfish isn't the same as processing water lilies or pond scum algae or wood chips.

It's wise to regulate or govern anything mankind comes in contact with, so the process is sustainable. If an area of the world has a lot of kelp, for example, it isn't wise to harvest so much kelp that the environment can't replace what we do. Governments should focus on history and consider it an obligation to return things to what they were. The Earth didn't screw things up, we did.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili on October 11, 2013, 05:03:40 AM
Yes, yes.

Science and technology will always ride to our rescue at the last moment, for ever and ever amen.

Thank goodness that those two horsemen had absolutely no part in getting us in the utter sh!thole we are in today, or we wouldn't be able to trust them to get us out of it.

Thanks goodness.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on October 11, 2013, 06:07:02 AM
Yes, yes.

Science and technology will always ride to our rescue at the last moment, for ever and ever amen.

Thank goodness that those two horsemen had absolutely no part in getting us in the utter sh!thole we are in today, or we wouldn't be able to trust them to get us out of it.

Thanks goodness.

wili, that has nothing to do with:

Quote
Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice

Think about it!
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Susan Anderson on November 07, 2013, 12:53:43 AM
This is slightly off side but relevant to restoration and permaculture; it made an impression on my heart and mind a few years back, and I bring it up when I can, because it is such a bold and brave effort, and imho deserves to be promulgated.

"Greening the desert"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk)

One of the pieces to the puzzle of the future for me is if, as I believe, we only have a decade or two of near normality to come, how I should live and plan.  I think about my youth when there was a big back-to-the-earth movement, and how much work it actually turned out to be to live that way.  It confirms the feeling I have at my core that things that do not involve caring for the earth and working as hard as it takes to do so is a huge mistake.  This kind of farming involved a level of love for the earth, study, and knowledge of how it works that is a vanishing art.

As such, it appears to have failed to be generally accepted and adopted, although it was the only thing that worked, because it didn't involve a lot of machines and manufactured materials, and was hard work.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on November 07, 2013, 01:28:11 AM
This is slightly off side but relevant to restoration and permaculture; it made an impression on my heart and mind a few years back, and I bring it up when I can, because it is such a bold and brave effort, and imho deserves to be promulgated.

"Greening the desert"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk)

One of the pieces to the puzzle of the future for me is if, as I believe, we only have a decade or two of near normality to come, how I should live and plan.  I think about my youth when there was a big back-to-the-earth movement, and how much work it actually turned out to be to live that way.  It confirms the feeling I have at my core that things that do not involve caring for the earth and working as hard as it takes to do so is a huge mistake.  This kind of farming involved a level of love for the earth, study, and knowledge of how it works that is a vanishing art.

As such, it appears to have failed to be generally accepted and adopted, although it was the only thing that worked, because it didn't involve a lot of machines and manufactured materials, and was hard work.

Deserts exist on Earth in all climate extremes. Cold, glaciated times have the most deserts, but even a Hothouse Earth will have deserts. The only way to avoid deserts is to wake up and notice all the water that is available. Removing salt isn't that complicated, but some areas are far from the oceans. For now, I simply see mankind avoided those places and not using materials available to fix the problem of land lost to deserts. Just because an ocean is salty isn't really that big of a deal, it just requires an effort to change the reality in certain areas of our world. Even a desert has some value, if you think about it.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: JimD on November 07, 2013, 04:12:44 PM
Susan

Such stories are very inspiring and show what can be accomplished under the right circumstances and with the right resources.  But when the narrator states that "We can regreen any desert...we can desalt it....you can fix all the worlds problems in a garden...." one has to keep in mind that this is not literally true and that he is speaking in a philosophical sense as well as in a farming sense.

While much of the problems we have today are related to climate change and human ineptitude in agricultural practices there are still factors which no amount of reasonable effort can overcome.  For that word 'reasonable' is key as reclaiming unproductive land in many cases will require more resources than is justified by the effort.  Sort of an EROEI for agriculture yields.

Many of the areas of the middle east were at one time the most productive farm land on earth. Among the factors which key in that not being the case today are.  The naturally changing climate as we rose out of the last ice age and passed through the Holocene.  The middle east warmed and saw increased amounts of rain fall for a long period of time.  Eventually however the rain fall patterns moved on and the area became much drier.  While that was going on the human population grew and we saw the beginning of agriculture - with all of its bad side effects of tilling the soil, over grazing, and most of all the invention of irrigation systems.  And all of the above promoted a dramatic rise in population.  Eventually all the above factors resulted in the middle east we have today.  Ancient irrigations were very destructive in the long run and are responsible for much of the high levels of salt in the area where that video was shot.  This is the case all over that region of the world.  Their agricultural systems were chasing a changing climate while being pushed by over population to overuse the land.  Sounds familiar doesn't it.   

While the techniques certainly work, given sufficient resources, will they last?  Climate change projections for that region of the world would not make one optimistic.  By the end of the century that region of the world is projected to see much higher temperatures and far less rainfall than today.  This strongly implies that the farm shown in the video will once again look like it did before they started with their new form of irrigation (actually not new as it is a copy of what was used there 4000 years ago). 

In a static situation what they are doing would work at some undetermined scale.  Or even reasonably well if the rate of climate change were at a non-human influenced pace (changing over periods of thousands of years).  But we are in the Anthropocene now and we are changing the climate at unbelievable rates.  If a cost benefit analysis were performed, which took into account what the climate was going to be like in 2100, we would likely find that reclaiming the deserts of the middle east was not worth the effort as we will not be able to keep ahead of the changing climate in those regions (it is like trying to build sea walls to save many cities from rising sea levels - it is a waste of resources as it just will be overcome by events - just move somewhere else).  Those techniques shown will come in handy in places like the American mid-west and the steppes of Russia/Ukraine in the future though. 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili on November 08, 2013, 01:45:02 AM
Here's another approach that looks interesting:

Woody Agriculture: Badgersett’s 2013 MIT Climate CoLab Presentation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtbOt6eoZtU&list=PLRUZo4Q2yFsXOfl97jVN-U6eZL4SB0_LI (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtbOt6eoZtU&list=PLRUZo4Q2yFsXOfl97jVN-U6eZL4SB0_LI)

(Thanks to hank roberts at RC for the link.)

My only problem with this approach is that, inspired by a friends similar ideas, I bought a big bag of hazelnuts and started chowing them down. A few minutes later, I was in the emergency room with a pulse of 3-5 beats per minutes. The attendant asked my family to come in to have last words with me. Luckily I stabilized. But it just goes to show that noe one-note solutions are going to work for everyone. 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: ggelsrinc on November 09, 2013, 04:46:45 PM
Quote
At best, common renewable energy strategies can only offset fossil fuel emissions of CO2 – they cannot
reverse climate change. One promising approach to lowering CO2 in the atmosphere while producing
energy is biochar bio-energy, based on low-temperature pyrolysis. This technology relies on capturing the
off-gases from thermal decomposition of wood or grasses to produce heat, electricity, or biofuels. Biochar is
a major by-product of this pyrolysis, and has remarkable environmental properties. In soil, biochar was
shown to persist longer and to retain cations better than other forms of soil organic matter. The precise halflife
of biochar is still disputed, however, and this will have important implications for the value of the technology,
particularly in carbon trading. Furthermore, the cation retention of fresh biochar is relatively low
compared to aged biochar in soil, and it is not clear under what conditions, and over what period of time,
biochar develops its adsorbing properties. Research is still needed to maximize the favorable attributes of
biochar and to fully evaluate environmental risks, but this technology has the potential to provide an
important carbon sink and to reduce environmental pollution by fertilizers.

Quote
This means that pyrolysis produces
3–9 times more energy than is invested
in generating the energy.

Source: http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/publ/FrontiersEcolEnv%205,%20381-387,%202007%20Lehmann.pdf (http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/publ/FrontiersEcolEnv%205,%20381-387,%202007%20Lehmann.pdf)

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2F6%2F6e%2FGruta_Pedra_Pintada.jpg&hash=afdf2f605c7786ef364047ee9a7725f9)

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2Fc%2Fc6%2FFazenda_Colorada.jpg&hash=efb1451b012f4f6a75af8c67744f8947)

Quote
Geoglyphs on deforested land in the Amazon rainforest.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoglyph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoglyph)

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2Fb%2Fbf%2FTerra_Preta.jpg&hash=34ffbb555688ab30d8aa4434a9d7e26b)

The evidence shows mankind being in the Amazon basin at least by 11,200 years ago, geoglyphs indicative of a large human activity, terra preta indicating farming on soil not fit for farming and reports of a civilization along the Amazon River by Francisco de Orellana, the first European to travel it's length in 1542. Considering terra preta is often associated with broken pottery, I think it's reasonable to associate terra preta with an intentional agricultural purpose, even if it originated by accidental discovery, like adding charcoal to a latrine to absorb odors (which is just speculation on my part). High human density requires agriculture, but it's possible such activities could have been accomplished by people moving about and returning to previously known good locations. Further examination of geoglyphs and carbon dating of terra preta soil is required to paint a better picture along with further examination of roads and bridges.

I haven't heard anyone discussing a possible connection between biochar and sewage treatment (in the past or present), but I've only initially examined the similarities I saw. Pottery spells cooking with fire and large groups of people require sanitation. Clay to make pottery doesn't exist everywhere and the same can be said about wood suitable to make charcoal, which is lighter than wood, making it easier to transport. People learned to work smarter and not harder long before we did. 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on August 14, 2014, 06:40:14 PM
A number of videos from the British Biochar Foundation's recent conference have just been posted on YouTube. The audio isn't terribly good on most of them, but the music on this one is clear at least.

The Earth Systems "CharMaker" Mobile Pyrolysis Plant in action in Australia:

http://youtu.be/rrxNG4IKriI?list=UUzhFk1kBWzxdxCEVRsea1tg (http://youtu.be/rrxNG4IKriI?list=UUzhFk1kBWzxdxCEVRsea1tg)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Michael Hauber on August 15, 2014, 12:11:57 PM
I've been dabbling in a bit of biochar in my backyard. 

Does anyone know how the storage of carbon in the soil from burning wood for charcoal would compare with letting the wood rot near the surface of the soil and building humus?  I've recently read some interesting stuff about Hugelkultur - burrying logs whole as a slow long term composting method.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Jim Hunt on August 16, 2014, 09:36:16 PM
Does anyone know how the storage of carbon in the soil from burning wood for charcoal would compare with letting the wood rot near the surface of the soil and building humus?

I feel sure any "char" enthusiast will assure you that "biochar" is far superior to letting wood rot. They will also tell you that the wood is "pyrolysed" and not "burned" when the charcoal is created.

You sound as though you will understand German better than me, so here's an introduction to some of the complexities of producing "helpful" biochar instead of "harmful" (in the short term at least):

http://www.ithaka-journal.net/wege-zu-terra-preta-aktivierung-von-biokohle?lang=en (http://www.ithaka-journal.net/wege-zu-terra-preta-aktivierung-von-biokohle?lang=en)

With luck you might even be able to explain the gist of the comments to me?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Michael Hauber on August 17, 2014, 12:01:35 AM
My father is german, but my parents came to Australia when I was a baby and I know very little of the language.

I have found that soil humus does have a residence time measured in hundreds to 1000 or more years.  (source) (http://books.google.com.au/books?id=7kCQch_YKoMC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=soil+residence+time+humus&source=bl&ots=LHp1g52Uvm&sig=eFduKyuTQ9lRuhTPMim3RXuDrDM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3MvvU62UMdDc8AWTsIHIDA&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=soil%20residence%20time%20humus&f=false)

Also I have found an interesting  scientific review (http://eusoils.jrc.ec.europa.eu/esdb_archive/eusoils_docs/other/eur24099.pdf) which confirms that biochar does remain in soils for centuries to millenia, and highlights many issues with biochar that need further research.  The most significant for any home gardener being that it tends to raise soil ph - which can be a good thing or bad thing depending on current ph and what you want to grow.  A key uncertainty is that we don't understand fully what went into the terra preta soils of the amazon, and whether burning different feedstocks may make a difference, or whether other additives may be important to getting the same result.  Another thought that comes to my mind is that the original Terra Preta was probably built up over centuries.  Most scientific studies to date are only on the effects of biochar for a year or two.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on August 17, 2014, 08:59:12 AM
If humus can stay for a long time, it can go very quickly also (seen a french study recenty). Especialy in area where you altern drought and flood (I am thinking Mississipi river area).
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: morganism on August 17, 2014, 10:59:17 PM
You might want to head over to Permies.com for info on hegelkulture and some biochar info.

Had some woodgas and rocketstove folks over there also.


My outlook on the ancient TP was that is was indeed a sanitation solution.

Waste goes into an unfired pot, then it is covered, and a top added like a vinegar crock.
Stack em in a low lying area just outside camp.

When you had farmed and gathered an area out, Or when it got too whif, you light a fire and leave for next encampment.
The locals still do this today. They find some dry wood, light the fire, then layer green branches over it to make reducing atmosphere

When you rotated back to that area, you would do the same thing. Slash back the jungle, burn it for a charcoal stockpile for the waste pots while you are there.
Then you go out with a 6 foot long log, and smash the old pots, and shovel sand over the shards and reduced human waste.

Also check out
Farmers for forty centuries. 
Account from 1800's on how Chinese farmers operated, with a big section on human waste reclamation
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on January 14, 2015, 12:32:16 AM
MAKING BIOCHAR: with Peter Hirst of New England Biochar
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXMUmby8PpU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXMUmby8PpU)

Biochar Potential or Pitfall? Carbon Storage vs Soil Quality
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX7vMAC2cSQ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX7vMAC2cSQ)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on November 04, 2015, 10:17:19 AM
This is an interesting link for making biochar and using the energy.
http://www.soil-carbon-regeneration.co.uk/biochar/instructions/ (http://www.soil-carbon-regeneration.co.uk/biochar/instructions/)

Did not try it yet, I will think of it.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Martin Gisser on November 04, 2015, 04:48:27 PM
Wow! Somehow I missed this thread. I'm preaching biochar since many years, starting around 2005. My last garden (which Neven had visited, oh small planet) was one of the first biochar gardens in Germany: Started on sandy granite base with almost no humus. I used the embers of my garden fireplace (me pyromaniac) to fill the holes left by the boulders I plucked out. Then I had second thoughts. That's how I got a biochar fetishist.

Basic points:
1) If you burn wood you could as well leave 10-20% of the energy for char. The char needs to be well burnt out (not BBQ char) and optimally put into water while still glowing (boosts porosity and water holding capacity).
2) Before added to soil the char needs to be loaded with nutrients. (Otherwise it sucks them from surrounding soil.) 2.1) First, at least 1/2 year anaerobically e.g. in a closed barrel of urine. Alternatively, use it at the bottom of your bokashi bucket (then no complicated tinkering necessary to make such a bucket. Plus, the seepage is far less acidic.
2.2) Second, put it into compost for at least a year.
-- Then it is loaded, equilibrated, and much of the potentially bad stuff (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, dioxins) decomposed.

I still have pots with soil made from 80%vol char. The growth is not phantastic, but good enough for this amount of char.

My theory is: The bacteria in the anaerobic deep pores can make mineralized phosphorus bio-available again (like what happens in sediment of eutrophicating lakes). This is a major boost for soil fertility, having some anaerobic pockets distributed. Furthermore, there's the anammox nitrogen cycle which also requires anaerobic conditions. This is perhaps one mechanism that reduces the leaching of nitrogen. Both things seem still missing in current research, e.g. in the new edition of THE BOOK:

J.Lehmann, S.Joseph (eds.), Biochar for Environmental Managementm 2nd ed. 2015

Ceterum censeo: The future of agriculture is biochar - if Homo S Sapiens is any interested in any future.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Laurent on November 04, 2015, 04:57:51 PM
Do you have some youtube (flickr...) link of your garden or biochar stuffs ?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: jai mitchell on November 04, 2015, 05:28:55 PM
soon biochar will be produced on an industrial scale, possibly with hemp as a feedstock.  The production of biochar will involve the capture of volatile organic compound gasses for the production of syngas, which will be stored and used for electric power generation.

the biochar will be distributed as a soil amendment using regenerative agriculture methods where it will significantly reduce nitrate runoff and will remain buried in the soil since it won't be left on the top layer but buried under layer upon layer of compost.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Martin Gisser on November 04, 2015, 08:46:44 PM
Do you have some youtube (flickr...) link of your garden or biochar stuffs ?
The garden looks like any other garden. The pots look like any other pots.

I could dig out one spectacular foto from my camera: Mushroom mycelium surviving a massive drosophila attack in pyrolized pellets

In 2011 I did some experimental economics of biochar and found the "fossil fool's price" of 1 metric ton of pyrolized pellets to be -343€ (sic, minus) incl. VAT :-). But meanwhile the price of heating oil has fallen quite a bit. Here's the page:
http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Experiments+in+biochar (http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Experiments+in+biochar)
There I also suggest the "wood gas hybrid upgrade pack" for electric vehicles. That would be some serious 21st century German car engineering, for a change...
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Neven on February 03, 2019, 11:25:41 AM
Martin, I have been thinking of you . I am going to build a small bio char plant.
I am afraid I am polluting this thread . Suggest another and I will follow you there.
Yes, time for such a thread. (First I need to fix my washing machine, having run out of clothes...) Best simple biochar oven: https://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/39
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele 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 ....
 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili 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?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele 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.
 
   

Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: dbarce 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?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele 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 ?
 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: sidd 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

Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: sidd on February 06, 2019, 07:27:11 AM
I continue biod discussion here:

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,2124.msg188248.html#msg188248

sidd
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Martin Gisser 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.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: sidd 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
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: dbarce 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.



Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Martin Gisser 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.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Villabolo on July 22, 2019, 01:30:44 AM
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: TerryM on July 22, 2019, 02:04:49 AM
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Villabolo on July 22, 2019, 02:49:50 AM
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry

I see your point Terry, but I was wondering whether coal can be transformed into bio-char. My apologies if that is not possible.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: TerryM on July 22, 2019, 04:47:35 AM
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry

I see your point Terry, but I was wondering whether coal can be transformed into bio-char. My apologies if that is not possible.
My mistake - I assumed you were asking about the possibility of burning wood in a repurposed coal burning facility.
AFAIK coal can not be transformed into bio-char - but this is far from any expertise that I may have.


Sorry for my misinterpretation.
Terry
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: etienne on July 28, 2019, 09:42:31 AM
Hello,
Just one out of topic question regarding to what had been discussed above. What is the need to filter urine before putting it on the compost? I always hear that you could simply go to the compost and let it out.

Also an out of topic comment about using canabis for the compost. I believe that there are other plants that grow fast and can be used . I will try comfrey next year, but there is also miscanthus, alfalfa, mustard, nettles... that can be used. I am not a spcialist, but I'm sure that it is possible to find something producing high volume of biomaterial that is legaly easier to handle. Of course canabis becoming legal everywhere, it could be a good thing to gather some exeriences. Please don't believe I agree with this evolution. As a father of two teenagers, I'd be happy to just say that it is bad and illegal.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: be cause on July 28, 2019, 10:38:56 AM
.. while I as a 'user' for over 40 years would be happy to tell them the health benefits .. reduced cancer risk , healthy liver . prevention of symptoms of many illnesses , pain relief without addiction and endless other bodily and spiritual benfits . Learn the truth about cannabis and you will want some yourself .. b.c.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 28, 2019, 12:33:51 PM
Hello,
Just one out of topic question regarding to what had been discussed above. What is the need to filter urine before putting it on the compost? I always hear that you could simply go to the compost and let it out.



Urine is sterile (and perfectly safe unless you take drugs) unlike faeces, and it will not cause any problems on the compost heap - unlike faeces. The only "problem" is that it contains lots of nitrogen, that is why you should not put it directly on plants. If you dilute it at least 1:5 with water it is great to water plants - a much better use than putting it on the compost heap which does not need it anyway, unless you put many "high-carbon" materials like dried leaves on it).

Also, you can get a bale of hay or a heap of woodchips or leaves even, keep pissing on it and pretty soon you will have the perfect compost (as wood has a high carbon ration relative to nitrogen, and urine adds the necessary nitrogen for the microbes to break it down).

Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele on July 28, 2019, 06:04:55 PM
El Cid , Feedstock for compost is an issue around here. Dry Mediterranean climates don't produce lots of grass, alfalfa or green leafy compost that supplies nitrogen for your compost pile. We tend to get woody mulch and without lots of green waste you need to add some form of nitrogen to get compost to cook up to temperatures that kill weed seeds and pathogens. Without abundant grass we also don't have a dairy industry nearby so manure sources are also hard to come by. Coppiced wood lots use fast growing trees that need lots of water so not an option either.
 Tillage and long dry seasons make sinking carbon in soil a difficult task. Pastures can be composted with some good effects at sinking carbon  but the gains are reversed if the ground is plowed. I am not opposed to using animals for human food if the protein can be produced at carbon costs similar to those achieved by growing plants. I think the idea of a crop like hemp that can supply both seeds for animal feed and lots of plant material for composting may have some benefits but it requires cultivation. There might be a way to remove the plant material and compost it and then use a seed drill to replant without tillage. Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel to run everything you are not going to make much headway in sinking carbon. At a small scale, garden size , you can do much of the work by hand and ultimately that is probably the only solution , go small, do lots of labor by hand and forget making a living/ making money. How that feeds all the city people I have no idea.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: TerryM on July 28, 2019, 07:25:49 PM
El Cid , Feedstock for compost is an issue around here. Dry Mediterranean climates don't produce lots of grass, alfalfa or green leafy compost that supplies nitrogen for your compost pile. We tend to get woody mulch and without lots of green waste you need to add some form of nitrogen to get compost to cook up to temperatures that kill weed seeds and pathogens. Without abundant grass we also don't have a dairy industry nearby so manure sources are also hard to come by. Coppiced wood lots use fast growing trees that need lots of water so not an option either.
 Tillage and long dry seasons make sinking carbon in soil a difficult task. Pastures can be composted with some good effects at sinking carbon  but the gains are reversed if the ground is plowed. I am not opposed to using animals for human food if the protein can be produced at carbon costs similar to those achieved by growing plants. I think the idea of a crop like hemp that can supply both seeds for animal feed and lots of plant material for composting may have some benefits but it requires cultivation. There might be a way to remove the plant material and compost it and then use a seed drill to replant without tillage. Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel to run everything you are not going to make much headway in sinking carbon. At a small scale, garden size , you can do much of the work by hand and ultimately that is probably the only solution , go small, do lots of labor by hand and forget making a living/ making money. How that feeds all the city people I have no idea.
How long before long pig appears on the menu - at least as feed for our porcine companions?
Will we be feeding city people, or feeding on city people?


Sorry if the above is too gruesome to speak of, but in every major disaster/famine that I'm aware of nothing much was left out of the cooking pot.
Terry
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 28, 2019, 07:45:23 PM
Bruce,

I am certainly talking about garden-scale here. With lots of woody materials, your own urine is the best solution at this scale to produce compost.
Also, let's not forget that currently only 1-2% of the population works in agriculture and I do not see why that could not be say 5 or even 10%. Lots of small market gardens around cities are ideal for fresh produce (greens, rootveg, tomato, berries etc). And these farms can be tremendously productive, managing 2-3 crops per year using not much else than a glasshouse (for growing transplants), compost (some of it made on site) and human labour. As the demand for local, organic food grows this seems viable to me.
As for your Mediterranean-type of climate I have no experience, as I live in a temperate zone (getting closer to subtropical thanks to AGW), with even distribution of rain (500-600-700 mm/yr), and winter lows of cca -10 to -15 C, summer average daily highs of 25-30 C. So my experiences are with this setting. But growing for example a sunnhemp-sudangrass mix could work even at your climate I suspect. Or maybe not. Some people started to use this as a cover crop here after wheat harvest as it creates huge yield and "grows" its own nitrogen and does not need much rain either. At least that is what they say
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele on July 28, 2019, 08:51:19 PM
El Cid, I remember my first morning in Hungary . Jet lag had me up early wandering the mostly empty streets of Eger. I followed an  elderly woman carrying a large basket of apricots as she walked to sell them at the morning vegetable market downtown. A local vegetable market was the center of activity at that hour and the customers could walk there to buy what they needed.
 I have seen and experienced very similar mercados in Mazatlan and Tepic Mexico. Vegetables, fruit local food, in season , fresh and aromas unique to each market and each season. A farmers market around here involve farmers that likely travel one hundred miles to sell their produce and zero locals selling the excess of what their orchard or garden might produce from their home garden efforts. As far as carbon or fuel use goes I don't think selling fresh produce in the city of LA is ever going to be local or low carbon. The distance of moving food into cities means farmers markets are not local in many population centers around the world.
 How small farmers can grow food, cut emissions to near zero , sink carbon, service distant markets, and pay their bills is a conundrum I have never figured out. I believe you could do all those things at a small scale but distance is a deal breaker.   
 
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: wili on July 28, 2019, 09:00:50 PM
Bruce wrote: "Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel ..."

Or until you can figure out how to use your acorn-fed pigs as draft animals to pull cartloads full of silage??  :)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 28, 2019, 09:07:02 PM
Bruce,

I heard about a couple of smaller scale ( a few acres) market gardens who seem to have figured it out. I've never visited them but saw a couple of videos with them for example:

http://www.singingfrogsfarm.com/our-farming-model.html
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 28, 2019, 09:12:13 PM
Besides, it also would not be so bad if many people transformed at least a few square meters of their lawn into a veg garden using their own homegrown compost. Huge amounts of food can be grown in a small area if you have big compost beds. Eg. Last year I dug up something like 13 kgs of sweet potatoes from cca 2m2 (and I have never grown them before and did nothing with them other than plant 'em - just experimenting with it). Same amount of carrots (cca 6-7 kg /m2 with basically zero input), not to talk about salads greens which can be grown on 1-5 m2 for the whole family. So have hope!!!

:)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: P-maker on July 28, 2019, 09:20:08 PM
Having dealt with this idea of using biochar for a decade, I decided some years ago to actually do my own experiments. A loadful of bonfire charcoal and a bag of - very expensive - organic charcoal went through my compost bin two years in a row.

Every year, I noticed that eathworms disappeared as soon as the "organic" and nutrient-enriched charcoal had been buried in the soil. I don't blame the worms. In real life, the smell of burnt material should scare away any sensible earthworm destined to survive on green surface litter. It simply does not make sense for an earthworm to stay below a burned piece of land. However, over the past couple of years I had all sorts of worries about poisening myself and my family with PAHs and even worse carcinogens through the vegetables we eat from the garden.

Finally, last year and this spring in particular, the earthworms had returned in greater numbers, and since spring came early this year (first sowing in greenhouse mid-Feb), I decided to plan for two crops this summer. Everything has grown according to plan, despite some severe drought periods since Apr.

Currently, potatoes, carrots, peas, beens and courgettes are eaten every day with great pleasure. When I dig out my half-a-pound potatoes, I even reckognize my old charcoal fragments, as I turn the soil.

So, from a personal experience, I would recommend to use charcoal as much as you possibly can. Put it through the compost bin, piss on it if you like, bury it in strips, so the earthworms will have a refuge in the strips in between, and just wait for the bumper crops to appear after some  years of drought and flooding.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele on July 28, 2019, 10:15:39 PM
Singingfrogfarm is beautiful and productive and if every small farmer had access to free compost that a local municipality donated it would be a good model. The carbon cost of the green waste that the city collects probably exceeds the amount you could ever sink. I think carbon neutral means keeping track of all the inputs. That is why doing it on your own land means cover cropping , composting, and maybe some bio char . Manure is important IMO. Buying lots of supplements is usually an indication of bigger problems.
 P-Maker.   Thanks for the tip about placing bio char in strips.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 29, 2019, 08:00:51 AM
Back to topic:

I have never seen any use of biochar. I guess that in easily dissolving tropical soils it is very useful to stabilize them and keep the nutrients for centuries, but in much more stable temperate zone soils, compost is a much easier and useful solution. Biochar is too much hassle with no added use beyond what good compost gives you. I think biochar is not for the midlatitudes.

Don't kill me for this :)
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Neven on July 29, 2019, 03:19:54 PM
We won't kill you, but isn't the idea of biochar also to store carbon?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 29, 2019, 04:12:19 PM
As far as I understand biochar, its main "sellingpoint" is very long term storage of carbon and its stability-it degrades very slowly. However, it takes very much work and very much energy to create biochar. is it worth it? It is much easier and energyefficient eg to mulch with a thick layer of woodchips, to put compost on top of the soil, or covercropping/soilregeneration/regenerativeag on a larger scale in most environments and gets the same or better results. I think biochar has no advantage but many disadvantages in the midlatitudes. In a rainforest-climate (Amazonas Basin) where soils lose their nutrients very quickly due to continuous leaching, the above solutions might not be enough and biochar might be better it seems exactly because of its extreme stability. But I think it is a special situation with huge amounts of rain and heat all year.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Bruce Steele on July 29, 2019, 07:25:36 PM
I would agree that compost is the easiest and also the heathiest option for plant growth and health. The plant growth also means extra root production and surface carbon moved to depth but much of that carbon is in the form of simple sugars that are rapidly consumed by fungi, bacteria, a viruses. Some polysaccharides , humic acid and fulvic acids produced by plants are semi labile and consumed at a much slower pace but charcoal from pyrolysis is very stable and will last a very long time buried in the soil.
 Compost and carbon transfer by plants must be constantly be renewed or it's benefits diminish over time and almost all the sunk carbon moves back into the atmosphere. So I think some addition of bio char can much improve the timeframes of carbon retention in soil . Maybe a pain in the ass but there is no reason to let that stop you.
 I need heat to render fat for bio fuel production. There is no good reason that heat couldn't be supplied with bio-char as a by product, it is just a way of burning wood with minimum oxygen supplied.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: jai mitchell on July 29, 2019, 07:54:39 PM
WRT the energy required to generate biochar.  It turns out that by providing a continual supply of agricultural and forestry waste streams the biochar manufacturing facility could also be used to generate electricity.  In this system the exhaust stream is still hot enough to catalyze the incoming material, causing degasification with those gasses captured and used to further drive the electric turbine. 


Even after the exhaust is used to char the incoming material it's heat could then be used for space heating in cold weather climates (or thermal storage for nighttime use).


This process is seen to be profitable under a very low carbon price.


The use of biochar is not a permanent storage system but rather one that slows the process of release to the atmosphere from land-use sources.  However, if applied to wholescale agricultural practices thin increased health of the soil biome would effectively sequester more carbon than is currently being released to the atmosphere each year from all anthropogenic sources.


This would require the global ban of the use of all penetrating herbicides, like glyphosate.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 30, 2019, 03:42:49 PM
I understand what both of you say but I can not conceive that it could be done on such a large scale that it would matter for the planet. Reforestration/soilhealth practices seem doable on a planetary scale but biochar? How many million tons would need to be produced?

And what Bruce wrote above: yes, once you added the chips/compost etc, you need to grow things continously, keep the soil covered, keep photosynthetizng, etc to keep the carbon in the system. But that is not a problem, that is what regenerative ag is all about, isnt it?
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Florifulgurator on July 30, 2019, 05:02:46 PM
1Gt/y of biochar seems realistic. Plus there is synergistic organic soil carbon accumulation - if done right (pre-load with nutrients from overflowing CAFO manure pools). That can make quite a dent.

Especially when the wood comes from dying forests that would otherwise dissolve into CO2.

Here in Bavaria we now have German Waldsterben 2.0. Not only spruce are dying, even beech getting sick from drought and heat. Right on the hill behind my house. :( Wood prices now are so low that local farmers with forest can no longer make money from their necessary work in the woods. Another nail in the coffin.

So, there is also straight-forward agro-economical reason that calls for biochar producing wood gas power plants. Alas, even German technocrats don't yet get it.

https://www.zeit.de/wissen/umwelt/2019-07/klimawandel-waldsterben-milliardenschaeden-wiederaufforstung
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on July 31, 2019, 08:30:08 PM
As for your German forests: we have much less rain than you and still have nice beech-oak forests so I do not believe that the lack of precipitation is the problem. As for spruce: both in Germany and Austria huge monocultures were planted that are prone to all kinds of sicknesses. If you plant monocultures instead of biodivers forests, do not be surprised that they get sick by the first sign of trouble. Any trouble
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Florifulgurator on September 28, 2019, 08:36:47 PM
As for your German forests: we have much less rain than you and still have nice beech-oak forests so I do not believe that the lack of precipitation is the problem.
Our forests were used to some more precipitation. Another factor seems the lack of water holding soil due to long-term non-sustainable forestry. (Despite the concept of Sustainability coming from historic German forestry. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505431.2010.519866 )

Quote
As for spruce: both in Germany and Austria huge monocultures were planted that are prone to all kinds of sicknesses. If you plant monocultures instead of biodivers forests, do not be surprised that they get sick by the first sign of trouble. Any trouble
Plus, spruce is actually an alpine tree. Its natural habitat is not Lower Bavaria. Foresters have told it 15 years ago already that Lower Bavarian spruce is going to die off. Now here we are.

Still also the deep rooting trees are struggling at many places. Around my place there are patches of dying larch, pine, beech trees.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on September 28, 2019, 09:04:06 PM

Our forests were used to some more precipitation. Another factor seems the lack of water holding soil due to long-term non-sustainable forestry.

I can totally agree with both points. The water-holding capacity of forests is key though. Increase carbon in any soil (pasture, cropland or forest) and you will have much more drought-resistent plants.

Coppice with standards was a pretty sustainable practice for millenia (since 4-6000 BC in Europe!). Maybe we should return to it where we can
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Hefaistos on November 29, 2019, 02:40:08 PM
"This dark material: the black alchemy that can arrest carbon emissions "

"While scientific research has established the benefits of biochar in theory, deploying it in a way that makes a real difference is a challenge. One of its most obvious uses is in tree planting, which is poised to become a major activity in the UK over the coming years.
...
 Dr Saran Sohi leads the UK Biochar Research Centre in Edinburgh which is injecting biochar made from forestry residue such as bark around tree roots as part of a tree-planting project near Loch Ness. “It really does seem to offer some quite marked benefits in terms of tree health, early stage growth and nutrient management,” says Sohi. “Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/29/this-dark-material-the-black-alchemy-that-can-arrest-carbon-emissions
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: El Cid on November 29, 2019, 07:40:52 PM
“Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”


You don't need biochar for that. You simply chip the tree (much cheaper and uses less energy!) and mulch around the new seedling. Puts the nutrients back into the soil, and stops weeds from growing. Much better than char actually
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Pmt111500 on December 08, 2019, 08:20:02 PM
“Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”


You don't need biochar for that. You simply chip the tree (much cheaper and uses less energy!) and mulch around the new seedling. Puts the nutrients back into the soil, and stops weeds from growing. Much better than char actually

meh, I kind of thought the idea of Biochar is to get some energy without losing nutrients in smoke/burned gases. Of course you can till the stems back into soils and get a fungus infection next year if you don't change the crop.
Title: Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
Post by: Florifulgurator on December 09, 2019, 07:09:22 PM
simply chip the tree
Ideally the wood chipper is self-powered by wood gas and leaves behind charred chips.

Gas turbine/pyrolysis powered vehicles are known since 50 years. E.g. the M1 Abrams battle tank.

Here is an old kitchen table experimental estimation of numbers, showing that with wood pellets a wood gas hybrid electric car is something totally realistic. Pellets have higher energy density than the battery. -- Wood chips have much higher volume, but seem realistic as fuel for large forestry/farming machinery that can dump the char in situ. https://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Experiments+in+biochar

(I need to drop this every now and then, hoping that some serious engineers pick it up.)