>>Well, good afternoon. We’re going to go ahead and get started here,
maybe some more folks will join us as we go. Welcome to the webinar on Biochar
Production Potential, we’re going to talk to Darren here at the Utah State University. He’s actually a CSU alumnus, so, thanks
a lot for helping us out with this there and we appreciate working with
beyond this workshop and, then, some of the other things we’ve done and
look forward to seeing your photos and such.>>Go Aggies, go Rams.>>Yes, right. Hopefully we do a little better as we
continue to move this season here, so.>>Yes.>>Darren is an assistant — excuse me, an
extension assistant professor of Forestry at Utah State, he’s also the chair of the Utah
Biomass Resources Group and he’s got a lot of expertise on some of these different projects
they’ve been working on related to converting — well, we’re going to talk about exactly what
Biochar is, about converting grass material, plants and other such living
materials into Biochar. And, so, we’ve done some really cool
things over the last few years here, actually together we did some cool workshops
last year and we’re going to have a video on our website about that, but Darren’s
been doing a lot of really good things over the last several years and so. Darren that’s a good introduction,
I’ll let you take it away.>>OK, thanks a lot, John, I sure appreciate it. How’s that volume?>>Looking good.>>OK, yes, I’m Darren McAvoy. I represent the Utah Biomass Resources Group. Slide here, I was realizing, as we were chatting
at the beginning, I didn’t really plan this, but this shows Logan — presenting
from Logan, Utah. The northern part of Utah,
about 20 miles from Idaho. This slide is looking up into Idaho, across the
Cache Valley and down in here is where Logan is. And that’s where, on Monday, I fell off my bike
and I’ll share with you once the full glory of the left side of my face
and, for the rest of the time, I’ll try to give you this right-side
profile, it’s not quite so beat up. So, anyway. Yes, I represent the Utah Biomass
Resources Group, these are our partners. Partner along with Amaron Energy and Forest
Service, the BLM, Utah Department of Ag and Food, the Department of Natural Resources,
others include Euclid Timber Frames and more. So, Biochar. We’re going to talk about Biochar
and Biochar Potential today. What is Biochar? As a simple explanation or definition,
Biochar is charcoal for agriculture. It’s similar to charcoal, it’s maybe cooked
a little bit longer, some of those — those [inaudible] cooked off of it,
that you might leave on for charcoal and what we’re left with is mostly carbon. Can be 70 to 90 some percent pure carbon. And Biochar can be made from
any organic material. This is how it’s made. With pyrolysis. And that is roughly Latin
for separation by fire. It’s a thermal — thermal-chemical
decomposition of the wood. It’s not flaming combustion but there is glowing
combustion under very limited oxygen conditions and at temperatures of 400 to
600 degrees Celsius, roughly. It does four things, it does a lot of
things but these are the main four things. Biochar absorbs nutrients and water. When we add it to soil, it
changes soil structure. It increases the microbial activity
and ecosystem of microbes in soil. It increases soil water holding capacity. So, in states like Utah, where I’m
from, that’s a pretty important thing, we’re the second driest state in the nation. And we talk a lot about these days, or
I do, about this potential value chain. If we — when we look at Biochar singly, it may not necessarily hold its value
when compared to other products. But when we consider that all four of
these steps, our value-added steps, then it starts to make a lot more sense. For 1) it reduces wood waste
and hazardous fuels. And that’s, largely where I come at it
from, as a forester and extension forester, for me I’d spent a good part
of my career running through the woods this time of
year, lighting piles on fire. Sometimes those slash piles
would be as large as my house. And we just run day after day from pile to pile, trying to burn up as much material
as we can, post logging season. And it’s a heck of a lot of waste
and carbon into the atmosphere. And there might be a better
way of approaching things. 2) It absorbs nutrients and moisture. We can use it to, say, between
sewage plants in a small town and the wetlands, to soak up that phosphorus. And then we’ve added value to the Biochar by
soaking a bit phosphorus and other nutrients and we put it on our soil,
for number three and, then, it helps improve long-term soil
productivity and, at the same time, when we put it in our soil, its long-term
carbon sequestration, it can last for tens, hundreds or thousands of years in soil. Very durable. When you — Biochar material, woodchips,
very small woodchips, they come out looking like very small woodchips, except black. It retains the same shape. It shrinks a little bit and significantly. But it looks like whatever you put
in, essentially, just blackened. They’re woodchips, look like
big black woodchips. Quick one slide history of Biochar. Forgive the quality of this slide, its
overused and just thrown in half the internet. And, so, this comes from the Amazon rainforest
and the history is 20 years ago or so. A [inaudible] is flying over the Amazon,
that was recently logged for grazing land. And, supposedly, it’s a virgin rainforest
and he sees these straight lines down in what was the forest soils. And it didn’t make any sense to
him and he goes to inspect these and finds these large embankments of darker
soils, also known as terra preta soils, that are 2500 years old and cover a
significant portion of the Amazon basin. And, in fact, the Amazon was heavily
populated, there were large cities there and they supported themselves with, not
with the agriculture of the slash-and-burn and the poor rainforest soil
quality that we see on the left. It rains so much, the water just
leeches the nutrients right out of it. What they did is, they mixed their pot
shards, and their compost, and their waste, and their charcoal, and they burned it
in these big embankments and buried them. And, over time, created what are now known to be
super soils, or terra preta, dark earth soils. And the essential key to
that, we think, is Biochar. Is the charcoal component of that. And here, on the left, you see a
typical rain forest soil profile from Amazon, and above the productivity. And, on the right, you see a terra preta soil,
a Biochar enhanced soil, and the productivity, perhaps, five times to eight
times more than on the left. And now it’s worth five times to
eight times in real estate value. So, this is something that these people’s
ancestors gave them thousands of years ago. And our knowledge of Biochar could be looked
at as a way to give a gift to our ancestors, many generations into the
future to amend our soils, to make them more productive,
and to store carbon. And here’s some history of Biochar
or charcoal production here in Utah. And you’ll see these all over
the west and Intermountain West. I believe Colorado has some, these are just
west of Evanston and have been refurbished, these are charcoal kilns, and back in the
day, pioneer times, there were iron smelters, a big industry for iron smelting and in Salt
Lake City, and they needed the steady heat and the high temperature
heat that charcoal produces. Plus, they knew that wood
was mostly air and water. You couldn’t afford to haul it from the
winter mountains clear over to Salt Lake City. So, they decided to build
these kilns here near Evanston and process the wood closer
to where it comes from. And, in the plaque that describes
this site, they talk about pyrolysis. This pyrolysis it’s essentially
the same process that we use today. A big part of my approach is dealing
with hazardous fuels, like we have here. This is a pinyon-juniper woodland. In the foreground, pinyon, or
juniper, here in the background. You can see some of these junipers,
or, when you get into the stand, they’re actually almost ancient,
they’re quite old. And, so, this is a persistent stand that
we want to protect and we want to, maybe, cut some of these expanded stands around
it to protect the persistent stand. And, so, pinyon-juniper has been shown to
have expanded across the Intermountain West by at least three times over since
settlement, European settlement. Partly because of — we’ve stopped wildland
fires and partly because of grazing animals, they choose the grasses that allows
the woody vegetation to keep growing and it changes the balance of things. Right now, this is a hazardous
situation for firefighters to enter into. This is a picture of that pinyon-juniper
resource across the Intermountain West, including Colorado and it’s 50 million
acres and growing in this region. And, if you drew a bigger — great big
circle around the West, including, you know, the loose interpretation of the West, including
Texas and others, I’ve seen estimates upwards of a hundred million acres of this material. And, in Utah, it tends to be at about six
tons per acre, it’s really spread out. So, again needing to densify it closer
to where we cut it, closer to the stump, is part of the mission that that we’re on here. And, of course, beetle kill, I don’t have to
tell Colorado residents about beetle kill. This is in Utah and you’re into
mountains, and, by some descriptions, you might say we have too much
above-ground carbon in this forest system. And there’s things that I
think that we can do about it. And, of course, the concern is wildland fire. I think, if we make Biochar in control
situations with some of this fuel, it will help reduce wildland fire hazard
and make things safer for firefighters. Not too far down the hill from the winters,
out in the vernal basin, close to Colorado, probably about five miles from the Colorado
border here, where this picture was taken. An abandoned well pad, oil and gas
pad on BLM land in the thermal basin. And the soil is quite white and, obviously,
non-productive, it’s a tough desert soil with only 10 inches of rain a year. And part of the reason soil is white is
because it doesn’t have very much carbon in it. It lacks carbon and these mining
restoration, these mining lands that need restoration can
benefit by an addition to carbon to their soils and so can farm lands and so. I see, we talked about, a minute ago I mentioned
that there’s too much above-ground carbon in our PJ lands of pinyon-juniper woodlands, or
cedar woodlands, and our upland conifer forests, our beetle-killed forests, and
not enough carbon in these soils, so I see Biochar as a way to balance that out. We can add Biochar to our soil and
that carbon will be stored long-term and improve the soil productivity. So, to get started down the road
towards Biochar, we, as a biomass group, got started with a gasifier, the
process is called gasification. Where we cook the wood at
very high temperatures, upwards of 700 degrees Celsius,
800 degrees Celsius. And this relatively simple GEK,
gasifier exchange kit, that we purchased. And we ran — and, so, it turns — we put a
barrel full of wood chips on and it turns it into — run it through a propane
generator, we clean up the gas, we’re going through a generator and make enough
electricity for two homes or, in one case, one country rock band, we had
Utah’s first wood-fired concert with the Dragon Wagon Machine, it
was a lot of fun but it wasn’t all that practical to produce remote power. And as we’re working on this machine, we
were getting help in creating a partnership with a company called Amaron Energy,
and a lot of what I’m going to talk about for the next few slides is in relation
to our partnership with Amaron Energy. This is a machine as we’re
working on that gasifier, the other corner of the shop was this
machine, it’s a pyrolysis machine. And, so, this cooks the wood in the absence of
oxygen, or very low limited amount of oxygen, and thermally decompose it
into these three products. Into Biochar, a bio-oil and a syngas. A syngas is what we were
making with the gasifier. And, but — and this is great, so,
we started to experiment with it, with all kinds of different woody feedstocks, and found that it was pretty
useful, pretty robust. We could put in all kinds of woodchips and
it would effectively pyrolyze this material. But the next challenge was to make it
mobile, to get it closer to the landing, to the stump where we’re cutting this material. And, so, we put it inside of this blue, 20-foot
storage container, a friend of mine likes to joke that all pyrole — all biomass
machines are mysterious things inside of blue trailers, old storage containers. But — so, this is in Bingen, Washington,
where the Washington Department of Natural Resources invited
teams from around the west to have a mobile pyrolysis
cook-off, if you will. Sort of a competition, who can
make the highest-quality Biochar and bio oil in a certain amount of time. And Amaron Energy won that petition and garnered
another $30,000 grant to go back to Cle Elum, Washington a few months later
for another demonstration. In the meantime, we got a grant
to scale that technology up. This is the heart of the new reactor. We got a sum grant from the US
Department of Transportation, my former partner Dallas Hanks was critical in
making that happen, he has since passed away but he got us started down this road. And, so, this is the heart of the reactor. It’s a 24-inch diameter tube, whereas the
other reactor was just a 7-inch diameter tube. That smaller one could handle,
perhaps, 1,000 pounds per day of input and this newer machine is 24-inch
diameter tube, it’s 15-foot long. Again, housed in this super
insulated and heated environment, and can handle up to 20 tons per day of input. So, a loaded log truck is about 25 tons,
so approaching that amount per day. And that tube is mounted inside of this machine, this is Jeff Caldwell, hard
at work from Amaron Energy. And, so, that tube is inside there
and these are gas exchanges that — with heaters down on the
bottom, and it’s super insulated. So, the tube is constantly turning,
it’s a rotary pyrolysis kiln. And, over about 10 minutes time, it’s at
a 1-degree angle that tube inside of here, and the pile of the woodchips move through
it and turn into those three products. It’s all very controlled,
each station along the way. You can add or reduce the temperature. So, we can make very precise
Biochars with this approach. We’d like to get to a world where
someday we start with a soil problem and we reverse-engineer a Biochar to fix that
problem, not quite there yet but that’s kind of the direction that the industry is moving. And, so, here is the mobile pyrolysis machine. Again, in the mysterious blue container. This time a 40-foot container. So, that machine is inside this container. And, here on a demonstration in Nevada
that lasted for more than 40 days. And, out in the pinyon-juniper resource, you
can see my shadow here standing on the mountain of feedstock, that we were aimed at processing. This is the input, so, we
fill this with a tractor. It climbs up in here, the Biochar or the
raw wood chips, excuse me, drop down in, work their way through the
machine, Biochar comes out, by oil comes out and biogas comes out. And, so, if we set up this system
more close to a sawmill or someplace where we could use this process heat, close to a
chicken poultry facility, or that sort of thing, this process heat could be utilized along
the way and electricity could be made in addition to Biochar and bio oil. So, since I’m talking about Colorado,
I’d include the slide of our — this is a back to the smaller machine,
we did a demonstration in Snowmass, Colorado for the Colorado
Wildland Fire conference. I think this was in 2015 and we’ve
been to Colorado a few times. John [inaudible] is our host here, who
kindly had us back this last winter, and we did demonstrations in the
Grand Junction area and Rifle area, and they were pretty successful, we had a lot of
interested folks, so momentum is slowly gaining. And the feedstocks that we put into it. So, I mentioned this machine is quite robust,
can handle a wide variety of feedstocks. I think we’ve done 23 different kinds. Lots of — this is pinyon-juniper feedstock,
lots of that other conifer feedstock, upland conifer, Aspen, [inaudible],
kind of you name it in that arena. On this end we have phragmites, an invasive
swamp breed, that’s what these pictures, of phragmites, this background picture. It’s taken over significant portions of the
Great Salt Lake and this is a way to use it. So, this is phragmites we made Biochar from. And this is very unusual,
it’s just a couple weeks ago. This is fabric waste from New York
City, where there’s more than — there’s hundreds of factories in New York
that waste up to 30% of their fabric. And, so, people from there have been in touch, there’s this company called Thread Cycle
[phonetic] that’s interested in reducing that waste amount, so we’re working with
this company in New York City on the idea of placing one of these pyrolysis machines
in the basement of a factory in Manhattan. we’re also — yes, OK, that’s enough. I could go on and on. Here are the Thread Cycle
girls, Chloe and Angela, and you can see they think this
is funny, there are boxes that — this is the raw material that
they ship to us, this is dacron. We also pyrolized cotton and rayon with them, just a couple of weeks ago it’s an
interesting sort of side project, and I like that this box — this photo
captured the Manhattan mini storage box there. Here we have a photo of Russian olive and
another invasive tree taken over large parts of wetlands, bottomlands, crossed the west. And this is on the curlew National Grasslands,
just north of us here, over the Idaho border, where we are making Biochar out of Russian
olive in cooperation with Amaron Energy and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest,
and working on a research project. Turns out this currently grassland
is critical mating habitat for monarch butterflies from
Mexico, pretty surprising. And, so, we’re planting islands of milkweed
and other forbs and plants that are beneficial to the butterflies out in a restoration project. They’re trying to use Biochar to grow
better milkweed and pollen for butterflies, so from fabrics in New York
City to butterflies in Idaho, it’s kind of a fun project to be working on. But it does have its challenges. I want to go through a couple of these. One of them is just — it’s
feedstock preparation. We asked for chips, you know,
maybe to be an inch or smaller, and we get pieces larger than our arm sometimes. And, in some cases, we’ve had to pay more
for the chipping of the material, then, was paid for the pyrolysis of the material. So, that’s a challenge that we need to work
around and I’ve got some ideas on that. When we’re working in these remote
locations, such as Nevada, we asked for chips that are inch less and we get
chunks of wood like this one. It tends to break up the machinery,
this is a rotary valve piece that busted up because of that piece of wood. And, we’re 200 miles from Salt Lake City for
another piece, so it becomes pretty expensive. This is a Biochar coming up out of the
machine and into a super sack, a bulk sack. And, notice, this spot right here, this is the
quenching station, this is a close-up on that. This is something we added later, got to turn
the fire off at the end, otherwise it can burn up super sacks, or we’ve given early
in our tenure learning about this, some of the first Biochar we made at a
demonstration, we gave somebody a bucket off and they’re driving home with it, and
it’s in the back of their pickup and, next thing they know, they got
flames coming out of the back of their truck, as they were driving home. So, we’ve had that some really
fun exciting times. Another challenge that we did not foresee,
when we started down this road in in 2010. At that time petroleum was approaching
$100 a barrel and, so, our oil — this is our oil here, that’s
being stored, had some value, it could be mixed and used as a bunker fuel. But since petroleum dropped to less than
$30 a barrel, our oil lost all of its value, which was hard because it was helping
to break even on the on the operation. And, so, they added — Amaron put together this
incinerator, so the oil could be just gotten rid of because out in the middle of Nevada
desert it became a bit of almost a liability, it was what it cost us money
to have it transported. It can be refined into a higher value product,
it’s like a crude, a caustic crude oil. With the Biochar, we can make very
precise Biochars with this approach, and we can use this approach to reduce
wildland fuels and there’s lots of advantages to this very precise approach to Biochar making. I wanted to mention briefly
what torrefied wood is. Torrefied wood is similar to Biochar. It’s brown instead of blacked. You can see here, some raw
torrefied and this is a block of it. And Amaron and another company, AEG Coalswitch, are making a similar product
with a different process. Are working with PacifiCorp and Rocky
Mountain Power to replace 10% of the coal to Utah power plants using this material. We’re working up towards building a stockpile
of many hundreds of tons of this material for a one-day test at the hunter power plant. That’s coming up. So, shifting gears here a little bit to what
my Nevada partner calls caveman Biochar. These are flame cap kilns, a very simple
approach to making Biochar that anybody can do in their backyard, or out in the woods,
or anywhere where you have excess fuels. These kilns come from Oregon,
they’re also called Oregon kilns, or I hear them call them box kilns. It’s just a metal box, five foot by five
foot, two foot high, it’s labor-intensive. So, I hosted — this is Kelpie Wilson, from Wilson Biochar Associates,
Cave Junction, Oregon. She brought this trailer down with four of
these kilns and some wind screens and, then, I hosted a workshop with the USU
Extension, grant from USU Extension. This was in May, in Draper, Utah,
just south of Salt Lake City. May of this year 2017. And 60 people came. There’s a little bit unique crowd in that —
it was a good mix of foresters, and arborists, and fuel reduction folks, and city managers, so. In the extension world that’s known as a
diverse audience, so that was pretty cool. And Kelpie taught us that day how to how
to make Biochar with these simple kilns and she brought four those kilns with
her and left them, I purchased them, so they’re ours and in use here in Utah. And here’s that same day. So, we load the kiln up with this
material, bigger logs on the bottom and smaller on top and we top light it. And part of the idea is that it creates a flame
across the top that no oxygen can get down in, so the only oxygen comes along the edge. And, so, that’s how we limit
the oxygen into the process. And these are wind screens, it was a quite
a windy day, so we added wind screens to it. We don’t often use those but
occasionally they’re required. And here’s looking down into
the kiln as it’s going. We keep — at this point we might add some more
wood until we fill it up and go ahead and burn down until it looks about like this. And if you let it keep going, you would
just have ash, like we have a layer of ash on top, but, mostly, this is just coals. And, so, but the key part here is to
quench it, to add perhaps 80 gallons of water to it and put that fire out. Stir it up and, then, we have Biochar that can
be used as a soil amendment, we’re ready to go. Sometimes we’ll pour it out on the ground. At this point it’s quite friable, quite brittle,
so we can just drive over it with a pickup or something to bust it up to make it better
for horticultural, agricultural purposes. And we took those kilns after that demonstration and started using them near
Price, Utah, near Soldier Summit. And this is a picture of — just as I pulled
on to the site that day where they were used, I was so pleased to see flames, controlled
flames, going on out in the woods, in the middle of the forest, safely. There’s some new research that
shows that just the charcoal edition of the wildland fires is a
benefit to forest health. And here’s another safer way
without the bother of wildland fire, although wildland fire is an important part
of our ecology, it can be a little bothersome. And, here’s a way to sort of
replace a little bit of that. These are my partners at Division
of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. On this grant, Natalie Coughlin, from Moab
and PG Abraham [phonetic] from Heber City, on a kiln that’s the middle of a cook. And, after it burned out and some of the
flames died down, added a bunch of water, this is the quenching phase, stirring it up. And, in this project, most of
the Biochar were spreading back out on the forest soil, after
we’ve extinguished it. And fire crews are doing this work and
it was a thinning of Aspen and Doug Fir, so it was it was waste where there need to be —
it was hazardous fuels needed to be dealt with. And, so, now, we have this Biochar
in the soil and the theory is that, if it’s going to increase water holding
capacity, it’s going to make the trees that are remaining more resistant
to insects and diseases and to droughts and, thereby,
more fire resistant. So, we’ve reduced the fuels, made
the forest more resilient that way and made it more resilient
with the addition of Biochar. And here’s some — this is what it
looks like for the char on the ground. Over time this will work down into the
soil, especially the smaller pieces, and the addition of cattle that graze the site, beat it down into the ground
pretty successful over time. And, the intention is that people run with
this idea, if you don’t need that Oregon kiln, you can use about any vessel that you have. My friend is firefighter here in town, and, he
— this is his Biochar maker, in the backyard. It’s just his little fire pit. I gave a demonstration on Biochar
production at Boulder, Utah, not Boulder, Colorado but Boulder, Utah Harvest Festival. Here, just a month or so ago, and I
asked them what they had available. So, just the kilns were being
used up there in Soldier Summit, and they had this cattle trough available, and,
so, that worked great, we made Biochar with that and I want you to note that it’s right next
to these wood panels, and garden, and home. We had a fire, you know, we had a hose
there, we were taking good precautions and we had sprinklers going on the
field across the road next to here, but this is something we can do right in
the wildland urban interface next to homes. This is my partner since
retired, Dusty Moeller, from — we were in Nevada here and this is one of the
Nevada kilns I mentioned earlier — that it’s — these convict labor in Nevada on — within
Nevada Division of Forestry, Eric [inaudible] is in charge of that project and work
out in pinyon-juniper using kilns like this and reducing hazardous fuels. And the fun part of this is that,
when the crews are a little bored and the ground is flat enough,
they take one of these — two of these hoops off and they roll it
up, put it on its side and walk through it like a hamster wheel to move
it around the ground. It’s so easy, even a baby can do it. Now, this is called a top
lit updraft, very common, old school Biochar production,
backyard approach. And this is just a picture of some pipes at the
— we have a water laboratory here on campus, and this is their boneyard, and I walk
my dog through here sometimes and dream about turning these vessels into Biochar kilns. I haven’t got permission
yet, but I’ll work on that. So, and the point being that you can use
just about anything that’s available. And my interest, I meant to say
there, that my interest is in working with some people to scale this up. I made contact with a potential
strong industrial partner last week, and we’re talking about using a much bigger
box and a track hoe to do the same approach and scale it up, so we can really reduce
fuels in a large — on a large scale. And, so, how available is Biochar right now? This is in Salt Lake City, this
is on Amaron Energy’s landing, so all these super sacks
are all full of Biochar. So, that these can be purchased in
Utah, but it’s not like you can just go to your local store and buy it quite yet. This is, this back to the photo, Jonah Levine,
from Confluence Energy in Kremmling, Colorado. And, then, this is in Nevada,
in a demonstration back in 2012. Right now, Jonah is based out of
confluence and has Biochar available there, and I understand there’s one or two other
Biochar production outfits there in Colorado. So, in some ways you guys
are a little bit ahead of us. And, you can, off of Amazon or some stores,
you can buy a Biochar amended compost. And this is really the direction a lot
of folks are going in the industry, trying to mix it with a compost because
it’ll absorb all those nutrients from that compost and make it more productive. Few words on our application
trial tests of Biochar in Utah. This is a drilling pad, abandoned
well pad from oil and gas and you guys know all about that in Colorado. Most of these are two and a half
acres and there’s tens of thousands of them now dotting the western landscape. And many of them are being reclaimed
successfully but some are not, this is a failed reclamation project,
just came back into cheatgrass, and hell of cheating [phonetic]
and undesirable weeds. So, they turned it over to us and the
Utah Biomass Resources Group are working with Colorado residents from Silverton, Chris
Pelts, sorry to say he’s leaving Colorado now, but moving to Wyoming, but
anyway, here’s Chris down here. And, so, we put a bunch of trials of
Biochar applications on this site. And this is the same site gridded out. So, we used the typical mining
approaches, the mining companies approaches like adding gypsum and straw and other things. NPK’s fertilizer, I have to say
one of the results of this work is that this company QEP Energy stopped
using NPK commercial fertilizer because they found these other
approaches was more effective. So, before we got going,
we did a greenhouse study. This is soil from that site in a greenhouse,
with Biochar in this one and none in this one. And the Biochar moved down through
the soil and allowed the water to move down through the soil profile. We had much more productive
above-ground biomass and not much going on in the typical, you know, soil. This is a site on the ground,
it’s tough site, not so easy. And, so, we had started with very
crude Biochar application methods. So, you can see, we got better over time. This is Chris monitoring the site. What we’re finding is we have the best results where Biochar is available
and visible on the surface. And this is how we’ve stepped up our game a
little bit, instead of just hanging a super sack from a from a tracker or from a forklift,
we were able to use this lime spreader now to just spread Biochar in or bigger scale. This is an old settling pond that has been
abandoned and they turned it over to us to use Biochar — see if we can use
Biochar to better reclaim the site. And this is Confluence Energy
Biochar on this side, purely black. This is another product, it’s what we’re calling
a high cope compost or high carbon fertilizers, this is from Mancos, Colorado,
from the Excelsior Mill there. They just — it’s a crude Biochar,
they’re not really selling it as Biochar but they had a large legacy pile of Aspen
and other material catch on fire and they — to deal with the fire they buried it in
and, as a result, made a very crude Biochar. It’s cheap and we’re finding some of
our best results with this this type of product, at least banged for the buck. Here’s a picture that results and — where
we used that mixed materials out in here. Where we have [inaudible] drill. It was used here, these are more
sacks of Biochar in landing, so we’re having pretty good
success on this site. And one last study I wanted to mention
with application in the Wasatch Front, work with UX USU Extension partners, commercial
vegetable farms in the USU Botanical Center on Biochar application for growing better
tomatoes, more productive for melons. We’re still monitoring for the results of that. For more information here’s my
website, our Biomass Group Website, there’s lots of information there. I’ve written a lot of articles
about this in my newsletter, the Utah Forest News, it’s available there. And I’ve done a few other webinars
with partners, similar to this one that might offer a little different perspective
and they’re available at this link here. And here is my contact information, feel
free to contact me if you have any questions. Always interested in comparing notes
with other Biochars, thank you very much.>>Good job there and that’s
some awesome information. Every time I listen to you speak
I learn a little more about some of the things that are going on Biochar. We’re actually looking at seeing what we can’t
do here on the less slope to continue some of that work that we did
together last year, so, hopefully, folks will stay tuned for
some opportunities there. I do have a — both, go ahead and, if you
have any questions for Darren on the bottom of the screen there’s a pop-up little
chat box, you can type it into the chat. And, in the meantime, if you would please
indicate how much you’ve learned during today’s webinar, that would be very helpful for us, so
that webinar poll has just been pulled up there, and you can you can click on there. Looks like we’ve had some great info
there and there’s info that will come out on the email list there, so that
if you need to get ahold of him, or you’re obviously welcome to do that as well. And, so, here is that —
here’s that webinar, excuse, me poll on the webinar that you can vote on. Hopefully there are some good opportunities
to continue to work together with some of the different folks doing this stuff. I think there’s some really neat opportunities
to utilize this as an agricultural resource. We have a lot of material like
you discussed here in Colorado that we need to figure out a way to do it. So, Darren it looks like one of the
questions is how much oil and gas, into oil, is produced per ton of fuel? Is what this one question is asking.>>OK, I think I understand the question and
for a ton of input of feedstock that we put into the machine, 50 — and this is with Amaron
Energy’s machine, a machine in particular, 50% comes out as bio oil, 25%,
give or take, comes out as Biochar and about 25% comes out as syngas. So, if you put it in ton, you get half a
ton of bio oil, a quarter kind of Biochar and a quarter ton, theoretically,
of this gas material. With the simple kilns ratio is 8 to 1,
we can reduce the amount of fuel volume from branches eight times down to Biochar chips.>>Yes, and I recall from when
we ran the smaller machine here on our demonstration projects that those
smaller chips that were in that size range, they used to [inaudible], I think that was about
an inch, seemed to really pyrolyze much better. You have all that surface area, there’s
some really neat pictures online with electron microscopes that show all
the surface area, where you’re increasing that surface area of the organic matter,
that you’re putting down on the ground, so, I think keeping an eye on using smaller
materials seems to be a really good thing. That’s what you guys are seeing
even in the homemade type ones.>>Yes, absolutely. And the same for application I’m working on a
project, a grant proposal right now to apply it to an existing alfalfa field,
under a pivot irrigation. And the point is to see if we can use less
water and, in the research that I’m doing, talking to partners about it, I’m
finding that one of the keys to that is to have real small piece size
in your final Biochar, so. Because, the stand of alfalfa
is already existing, you can’t turn it into the soil per se,
it’s got to be a topical application. So, small pieces is important there. And, also, your productivity goes up
considerably, when your pieces are small.>>So, another question we have here from
Kefir [phonetic] is, can construction materials with paint and other chemicals become
chemical products easily, become fuel? Or, there difficulties in separating that?>>Yes, there could be difficulties, we
haven’t really experimented with that. We have used a lot of not construction waste but
urban wood waste, tree branches and that sort of thing I am pretty positive
the machine could handle. The material, if it had paint and other
material — other mixed in things with it, we would need to do some research on what
kind of emissions and have to figure out — you have to look at the Biochar
pretty closely at the end and decide carefully how you were
going to apply it, if it’s retained any of those nasty things you certainly wouldn’t
want to put it on agricultural lands. In some cases, maybe not in that particular
case, but other Biochars that aren’t made from maybe the most pure
sources, could be used more for just grown trees or horticultural purposes.>>Yes. And that’s the next part that [inaudible] talks about,
the quality as the fuel burns. It seems like when they were using
the actual pyrolysis machine, I don’t recall any really smoke or
anything coming out of the stack but, whereas you’re using that DIY kind of
situation, that might be a little more concern to address and, I think, what
you put in is what you get out. So, if you put clean materials
in, you’ll get a clean good burn. And, if it’s a quality box that’s
burning appropriately, it’s my guess so. Much, you know, I would assume that anything we
put in there is going to potentially come off when you’re burning, so let’s make
sure we’re using probably more clean and less hazardous materials.>>I agree with that. And, additionally, John, I — it’s the
next steps for me and my research — one thing and my work, my application — is
one thing to scale it up, as I mentioned, to bigger machinery, the simple approach. But, also, if I can get the funding
to have the emissions tested, there’s a fire lab Forest
Service has in Missoula. They’ve already done — burn open
piles in this controlled situation, so they have sort of a baseline we know
how much emissions come from open piles. And I’m very confident that, in these
kilns, it’ll be much, much cleaner. Anecdotally, about evidence of that,
just our air quality person is associated with prescribed burning a
multi-agency person was at. There’s been to a couple of
my demonstrations this way and he said he confirmed what my thought is, that most of the smoke is
actually burned up with that flame. All the smoke that’s coming up through
those flames, that flame cap design, and it’s getting burned up, so the
emissions, I think, are much less, but the research still needs to be done on that.>>Yes, I think that’s a great theory and we’d
love to see some more involvement with that, you know, we get a lot of questions from
individuals who are looking to, you know, implement these on their orchards or
other places on their own properties. And, so, having some of this information
for those folks and referring, I mean, to each other to talk about these ideas. There’s definitely some neat
things that people are thinking of and I think we can continue to learn. Another question here is, what
is the BTU value of Biochar? And, can it be used as a
higher temperature fuel?>>Yes, it’s very similar to charcoal. We could modify the process. We might, like in simple kiln, we
might quench the fire a little sooner, leave some of the volatiles on
there, that we wouldn’t want for Biochar, to make more of a charcoal. In fact, on my way here, maybe
this question came from Steve. I had a conversation with a
gentleman, I think from Ohio, who is interested in this Biochar
product to fire pottery kilns, right? And, I don’t have any research on it
but it’s very close to charcoal, like, it seems like it would work pretty well. So, yes, we’re working on that.>>I think we know the answer to
this but let’s just clarify it. Could the material be burned in pits? And, then, after the Biochar is produced,
that soil and Biochar be returned and pressed into — processed into the soil?>>Yes, absolutely can be done and pits. Any container like that is
going to limit oxygen. In fact, back in the day, when I was a
consulting a forester, at northern Idaho, for especially clean logging jobs, one of my
favorite results in harvesting and dealing with the slash would be winter
logging on top of snow. While you’re protecting the ground, and,
then, in that situation, I’ve had instances where we just dug a big trench next to
the landing and got a fire going in there and just all winter long, essentially, for four
months, put slash, the debris into that pit, and it just kept absorbing it and absorbing it and we were done, we just
buried the whole thing. So, if I could find where that
pit is, and all those pits in northern Idaho, I’d have
these Biochar stashes. I guess we have a little
terra preta things going up there right now, in some ways unintentional. But, yes, that method can certainly be used. One of the challenges would be just
recovering the Biochar out of the pit. Assume — it’d be such a concentration, it’d
be probably more effective to spread it around but — and, if you got a tractor to dig a
pit, you got a tractor to spread the char, so it shouldn’t be that big of a problem.>>Yes, and I think for some of the
folks who are growing for orchards and things this is a really neat thing. We talked about the emissions and there’s more
to look at but the process by which were earning in the absence of oxygen, really
produces a lot less emission, so it can really be something that’s good. And a little more pressure comes
on these agricultural communities to adjust those prescribed and
pile-burning type activities, so.>>We’ve been working — peripherally I was
discussing with orchard growers here in Utah. The idea of using cherry pits, I’m not
sure if Colorado has a cherry industry.>>A little bit.>>A little bit? We have a significant one here and a big
waste product is the chip — is the pits. And, in any pits, I think, would work. It’s a nice piece size, they could
be easy to pyrolyze and, potentially, it could be set up where
the process heat was used in processing the cherries,
it was that sort of an outfit.>>See, another question. They want to know a little bit if
Biochar is available as a commodity, I think we saw that it’s pretty small scale. And we did talk to the guy Adam, down
in the southwest portion of the state about that, they see the products there. And, then, what is the typical price per yard
for both purchasing and selling [inaudible].>>It’s changing over time. I don’t know if I’m going to have
the best numbers but in the range of a couple hundred dollars a yard. I’ve seen it as low as maybe $140 a yard. $180 a yard, that range. Five years ago, we were talking
closer to $1,000 a yard. So, if you look at that trajectory,
it’s certainly going to get cheaper as more people get into it
and start making their own. It presents another sort of
interesting issue we have in the field. A lot of times we talk about Biochar
in tons, and other times by weight, and other times we talk about it by volume. And we talk about adding 10 tons per acre,
for example, is a typical application rate. But, how much volume is that? It can be quite variable. Especially if you just quenched
your char, it’s carrying a lot of water, so it’s going to be heavy. So, still working out some of those variables.>>Really interesting. One last question we’ll wrap it up here with is, just touch a little bit more
on the torrefied wood. You’ve mentioned it real briefly,
and what the fuel value of that is? And obviously, we’re going to see more coming
out of the project you guys are working on?>>Yes, I’m really excited about that. In some ways that has the greatest potential
to use the highest volume of hazardous wood. My understanding is that it burns about
like coal, it’s very similar to coal. We’ve done several tests in a
scaled-down powerplant with our partners at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. They have a combustion facility there
where they have scaled-down guts of all different kinds of power plants. So, we can run tests at reasonable costs and
without interrupting power production there. And, one of the big questions that way wasn’t so
much about the BTU value but how it would crush and how it would feed and mix with the coal. And, with the right approaches we found, at
that facility, that it can mix quite well with the coal and not require much
for upgrade, for the facility. And, part of the motivation
there, as I understand it, now Utah does not have a
clean power requirement. So, I didn’t think we’d have much chance of
making this happen in Utah but I come to find out that — in particular
the Bonanza power plant, near the Colorado border, in Uintah Basin. When they were commissioned by the EPA, they
were told they could burn x-number million tons of coal, whatever that number is. And, that’s their life, that period,
that’s as long as they can run. And, so, that’s a true incentive, if we can
use wood to stretch out the life of that plant, which is relatively young, it’s still, what? It’s only ten years old now. And if they keep using coal at the current rate,
they’re going to have to shut down in ten years. And, so, if we can replace some of that
coal with this torrefied wood product, perhaps that plant can last
for another ten years. So, just working on those ideas.>>That’s awesome there and I
think that’s a good segue for now, and I really appreciate your time.>>Thank you, John, appreciate it.>>Yes, glad to have you, look forward
to seeing that we can do some more. I’m John Rizzo with the Small Acreage
Management Program here at CSU. And, I want to thank Darren McEvoy from
Utah State University, and looking forward to chatting with you guys some more. Keep an eye on our website for
additional resources and information. And, in the meantime, have a great winter.