Sunday, January 10, 2010

Understanding Biochar from Biomass Energy --
Part I

During the next few months we will be posting our understanding of the potential benefits of biochar (on our Blog and also our webpages on Biochar and Soils).

Three aspects of biochar have especially piqued our interest:

(1) Terrestrial carbon sequestration and reductions in other greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide emissions from soils,

(2) Improvements in Water Quality (e.g., wetland creation and enhancements, water pollution from nutrient runoff -- P, K, N).

(3) Agriculture (improved soils for higher crop yields requiring less fertilizer).


2 comments:

Erich J. Knight said...

Al Gore is now focused on Building Soil Carbon. Now I stand square behind him!

All political persuasions agree, building soil carbon is GOOD.
To Hard bitten Farmers, wary of carbon regulations that only increase their costs, Building soil carbon is a savory bone, to do well while doing good.

Biochar provides the tool powerful enough to cover Farming's carbon foot print while lowering cost simultaneously.

Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 80%-90% Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 2X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration (= to 1 Ton CO2e) + Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels = to 1MWh exported electricity, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
Microbes like to sit down when they eat.
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life.

Another significant aspect of bichar is removal of BC aerosols by low cost ($3) Biomass cook stoves that produce char but no respiratory disease emissions. At Scale, replacing "Three Stone" stoves the health benefits would equal eradication of Malaria.
http://terrapretapot.org/ and village level systems http://biocharfund.org/
The Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF).recently funded The Biochar Fund $300K for these systems citing these priorities;
(1) Hunger amongst the world's poorest people, the subsistence farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa,
(2) Deforestation resulting from a reliance on slash-and-burn farming,
(3) Energy poverty and a lack of access to clean, renewable energy, and
(4) Climate change.

The Biochar Fund :
Exceptional results from biochar experiment in Cameroon
The broad smiles of 1500 subsistence farmers say it all ( that , and the size of the Biochar corn root balls )
http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=75

Mark my words; Given the potential for Laurens Rademaker's programs to grow exponentially, only a short time lies between This man's nomination for a Noble Prize.

This authoritative PNAS article should cause the recent Royal Society Report to rethink their criticism of Biochar systems of Soil carbon sequestration;

Reducing abrupt climate change risk using
the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory
actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html

There are dozens soil researchers on the subject now at USDA-ARS.
and many studies at The up coming ASA-CSSA-SSSA joint meeting;
http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2009am/webprogram/Session5675.html

Research:
The future of biochar - Project Rainbow Bee Eater
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20090211-20142.html

Japan Biochar Association ;
http://www.geocities.jp/yasizato/pioneer.htm

UK Biochar Research Centre
http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/sccs/biochar/

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.
Cheers,
Erich

Ron Larson said...

Steve:
Erich is a friend - and I am not surprised that he again got to this fine website before me. I second everything he has said about Biochar.
I would like to chat off-line about your work. I am doing some analysis very much like yours and think we can help each other develop stronger arguments on why Biochar is important. Hope you can write. Ron