Biochar - for Climate, Soils and Energy Ron Larson What Biochar is How to Produce Biochar Biochar's Impact on Climate and Soils Who is Opposing and Why What it Takes to Have a Big Impact The Boulder and Other Conferences The Copenhagen Conference Infertile >> Fertile << Biochar
How Can Biochar Be Carbon-Negative? What is Biochar Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal high in organic carbon and largely resistant to decomposition. It is produced from pyrolysis of plant and waste feedstocks. As a soil amendment, biochar creates a recalcitrant
soil carbon pool that is carbon-negative, serving as a net withdrawal of atmospheric carbon dioxide stored in highly recalcitrant soil carbon stocks. The enhanced nutrient retention capacity of biocharamended soil not only reduces the total fertilizer requirements, but also the climate and environ-mental impact of croplands. (International Biochar Initiative Scientific Advisory Committee) Major Techniques: 1. Slow Pyrolysis traditional (dirty, low char
yields) and modern (clean, high char yields) 2. Flash Pyrolysis higher char yields modern, high pressure, 3. Fast Pyrolysis modern, maximizes bio-oil production, low char yields 4. Hydrothermal Carbonization under development, wet feedstock, high pressure,
highest char yield, a different char Ron Larson Biochar Background
1973 1977 1981 1982 1994 1995 2004 2006
2007 2007 2008 2009 US Congress - Policy NREL Principal Scientist UN Conference - Nairobi USAID Sudan Retired Charcoal-making stoves Stoves list coordinator mostly char First learned of Terra Preta
ASES Solar Today Editorial (next) Start Terra Preta IAI Conference NSW, Australia IBI-1 Conference Newcastle, UK 1st North American (USBI) - Boulder Last lines that I wrote in Nov. 2006 CHAIRS CORNER Ron Larson, Ph.D. Positive Charcoal = Negative Carbon? Why adding charcoal to the Earth's soils
will also address climate change. .... Better than any other national group, 25x25 can help ChAr get the R&D start that is critically needed. I look forward to hearing from readers on other ways we can break new ground with the barely recognized, but, I believe, most promising potential of ChAr. Nov. '06 ASES, Kutscher, Overend
Two very short mentions of Biochar (in two chapters). First Large (?) Biochar Meeting International Agrichar Initiative 2007 Conference
April 29 - May 2, 2007 Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia 100 Attendees; Sponsor - Best Energy Chair?? Stephen Joseph First day at NSW Ag station (Lukas van Zweiten) (20 attendees) Many farmers; 2/3 from Australia Change from IAI to IBI Opening View at www.biochar-international.org
James Lovelock guardian.co.uk; 24 March 2009 I said in my recent book that perhaps the only tool we had to bring carbon dioxide back to pre-industrial levels was to let the biosphere pump it from the air for us. It currently removes 550bn tons a year, about 18 times more than we emit, but 99.9% of the carbon captured this way goes back to the air as CO2 when things are eaten.
James Lovelock, cont'd guardian.co.uk; 24 March 2009 There is no chance that carbon capture and storage from industry or power stations will make a dent in CO2 accumulation, even if we had the will and money to do it. But we have to grow food, so why not help Gaia do the job of CO2 removal for us? IBI Keys, part 1 The keys to advancing biochar are recognition
of biochars climate benefits, and the elucidation of biochars many value streams, including: 1. Biochar sequestration, and possible carbon (C) credits 2. Additional C and Non-C emissions reductions from biochar systems 3. Bioenergy co-products (syngas, bio-oil, heat) 4. Water quality impacts (reduced nutrient leaching) IBI Keys, concluded 5. Enhanced productivity (crop and non-crop
biomass) 6. Enhanced soil water retention 7. Reduced chemical fertilizer inputs 8. Waste reduction, utilization, and addedvalue 9. Reduced soil erosion, degradation 10. Agricultural intensification, reduced land conversion 11. Distributed, on-farm systems Biochar Claims, Simplified List
1: Will remove Carbon From Atmosphere in Gigaton per year levels (Gt C/yr) 2: Will restore soil carbon and increase soil productivity 3: Can add significant carbon-neutral energy (in many forms) 4: N20, H20, Jobs, Rural Economic Development, National Security, Ocean
acidification Lifetime of Char vs Compost One IBI Scenario Same, Barchart Form http://www.biochar-international.org/sites/default/files/ final%20carbon%20wpver2.0.pdf Cost Analysis
Almost no data Costs seem to be less than $200/ton char possibly even $100/ton Sales price $500/ton common; larger in
small quantitities; Maybe $200-$300. Raw material cost for NREL approx $30/ton Fast Pyrolysis Fluidized Bed Reactor (2009 in press) JE Amonette
Example with a match In Air or in Liquid Air: flow through updraft and downdraft Slow (more solids) Fast (more liquids and gases)
Similar, add dryer + generator Typical Pyrolyzer Ref. IBI Four Temperature Influences Different feedstocks (Lehmann) Soils: Benefits of using biochar in the garden, Part 1 1 2
Stored carbon in a long term stable sink Reduces soil acidity: raises soil pH Reduces aluminum toxicity Ref. http://biochar.pbworks.com/FrontPage Benefits of using biochar in the garden, concluded 10 Increased soil aggregation due to increased fungal hyphae 11 Improved soil water handling 12 Increased available Ca, Mg, P, and K
13 Increased soil microbial respiration 14 Increased soil microbial biomass 15 Stimulated symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes 16 Increased arbuscular mycorrhyzal fungi 17 Increased cation exchange capacity IBI Example News Items Fertiliser demand is heating up Weekly Times Now 10/06/2009
UK researchers aim to prove farm climate cure Reuters 10/06/2009 Agriculture to Play a Major Role in Mitigating Climate Change; Treehugger 10/05/2009
The Biochar debate Environmental Research Web; 10/03/2009 Examples of Claimed Results Now dozens of Improved productivity photos like these Terra-Preta soils in Amazon up to 2 meters deep.
Stocks & Flows BiofuelWatch (BFW) Opposition -1 First seen in Sept, 08 (Newcastle Confer'ce) Two main: Almuth Ernsting & Rachel
considerable truth, but not for Biochar carbon credits can control Standards are being developed BFW Opposition, concluded Claim #3 Longevity in soil not proven
Claim #4 Increased productivity unproven
they no or inappropriate citations large amount of millenial life-time data selective negative citations ignore/deny all of Terra Preta Claim #5 Toxicity only supposition, zero neative data
Char now used medicinally excellent absorber Geoengineering This perspective on geoengineering apparatus from Wall Street Street Journal 15 June, '09 Jamais Cascio
Royal Society Criteria & Ranks Using biochar to sequester carbon dioxide is also surprisingly low against all four criteria. Read more: http://2020science.org/2009/09/01/geoengi neering-the-climate-a-clear-perspectivefrom-the-royal-society/#ixzz0TZYheANq Royal Society Comparison - 1
Royal Society Comparison - 2 Royal Society Recommendation ! 1.2 Emerging but as yet untested geoengineering methods such as biochar and ocean fertilisation should not be formally accepted as methods for addressing climate change under the UNFCCC flexible mechanisms until their
effectiveness, carbon residence time and impacts have been determined and found to be acceptable. One view in Science Using biochar to sequester carbon dioxide is also surprisingly low against all four criteria.
Read more: http://2020science.org/2009/09/01/geoengi neering-the-climate-a-clear-perspectivefrom-the-royal-society/#ixzz0TZYheANq Recent NRC Report on Biology "A better fundamental understanding of plant growth and productivity, as well as of how
plants can be conditioned or bred to tolerate extreme conditions and adapt to climate change, will be key components in increasing food production and nutrition in all areas of agriculture to meet the needs of 8.4 billion people by 2030 (Census Bureau, 2008), while allowing adequate land for energy production and environmental services."
[http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php? id=12764] Convention on Biodiversity Therefore, given this conversion and emissions associated with degradation, the current terrestrial stock of ~2,400 Gt is possibly about 40% below the natural reservoir when at equilibrium with current climate. http://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/
cbd-ts-43-en.pdf Where the land stock exists Ten Wedges? a. Total land area b. Assumed available 15 G ha 2 G ha c. Assumed annual biomass 20 Gt /ha-yr
d. Assumed annual carbon 10 Gt C/ha-yr e. Assumed annual char 5 Gt C/ha-yr f. Annual sequestered = b*e Aside: Conversion 10 Gt C/yr 10 Gt/ha = 1 kg/m2 Ten Wedges? (cont'd)
Antonietti suggests 2 million plants each operating on 10 sq km (1000 ha) very short transport distance! In Gha, this is exactly same as above: 2 Gha Heritage CO2: Assume 2 Gha/6 G people = 1/3 ha per capita = 3000 m2 (if 50 yrs, then 60 m2/yr as world average) For US: owns about 30% of the present excess CO2. 0.6 Gha/.3 G people = 2 ha/capita. If 50 yrs, then 400 m2/yr
Ten Wedges? (concluded) Heritage CO2: A. For world: Assume 2 Gha/6 G people = 1/3 ha per capita = 3000 m2 /capita (if 50 yrs, then 60 m2/yr as world average) B. For US: owns about 30% of the present excess CO2. 0.6 Gha/.3 G people = 2 ha/capita = 20,000 m2 per person ( If 50 yrs, then 400 m2/yr per person)
C. In char terms : half these amounts in kg Newcastle Conference (Sept. 08) Biggest name was Tim Flannery (Aus) About 200 (a full house in City council) No early site visits Traveled with Andrew Heggie (forester) Met Nathaniel Mulcahy (World Stove) Had two posters (policy) Maybe five companies Good report by Albert Bates (eco-village)
Approved Boulder (regional, not intern'l) Boulder Conference Big plus to have USDA Secr. Tom Vilsack About 300 (essentially sold out) Sunday visit to BEC (mobile unit) Nice response to Dave Yarrow re nutrition Same for Nathaniel Mulcahy (World Stove) First detailed LCA (Cornell) New method on lifetimes (Florida) Maybe ten companies
Good report in The Economist Formed USBI Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP-15) Two weeks in December. Thousands of delegates, press, NGOs In September, dropped the word Biochar from the draft document Not clear why. (claim for needed
speed in getting finished) Ideas from Peak Oil Conference 1. We have been ignoring the Peak Oil driver too much. Probable peak last year. General agreement very soon if not already. 2. Shale gas may not be the panacea claimed. Huge differences in views by experts. 3. Almost no mention of climate topics. 4. Almost no mention of Biomass (or other). Ideas from Peak Oil Conference
5. Biochar can make a huge contribution on Peak Oil (use of non-char portion of biomass) 6. Need to emphasize water more (not much needed to char; HTC produces water) 7. Need to emphasize small scale; low capital 8. Look again at EROEI (Use 30 GJ/t C?) 7 Gt C/yr goes with 500 Quads/yr = 500 EJ/yr. So 500E18/7E9 t C = 70 GJ/t Carbon. Off roughly by factor of 2 (the non-char energy?) Conclusion From Markus Antonietti
(Hydrocoal): Warum nicht mal Negativ denken ? Why not even think 'Negative'?
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