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Biochar AKA Terra preta (6 posts)

  1. chrisc
    Member

    Ancient techniques pioneered by pre-Columbian Amazonian Indians are about to be pressed into service in Britain and Central America in the most serious commercial attempt yet to reverse global warming.

    Trials are to be started in Sussex and Belize early in the new year, backed with venture capital from Silicon Valley, on techniques to take carbon from the atmosphere and bury it in the soil, where it should act as a powerful fertiliser.

    The plan is to scale up rapidly into a worldwide enterprise to reverse the build-up of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, in the atmosphere and eventually bring it back to pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

    ...

    Trees and plants soak up carbon dioxide as they grow, but release it again as they are burned or left to rot. But burning them largely in the absence of oxygen, through pyrolysis, reduces the amount of the gas emitted by 90 per cent, and stores the carbon in the charcoal instead. It also gives off energy that can be used as an efficient biofuel.

    If the resulting biochar is then buried in the ground it will stay there for some 5,000 years, keeping the carbon out of the atmosphere, and nourishing the soil while it is there. It also cuts down on the use of fertilisers; reduces the emission of methane and nitrous oxides, which are also greenhouse gases, from the ground; filters out pollutants; and retains water, thus combating flooding.

    The new enterprise will start with wood grown in Suffolk and with prunings from the Belize cacao trees that supply Green & Black's chocolate. But its founders hope that it will rapidly become a worldwide industry.

    Mr Sams calculates that if just two and a half per cent of the world's productive land were used to produce biochar, carbon dioxide could be returned to pre-Industrial Revolution levels by 2050.

    I hope he is right.

    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

    Posted 9 years ago #
  2. chrisc
    Member

    Lots of interesting links here:

    Biochar is a charcoal that is the byproduct of the burning of biomass in a low oxygen combustion. In combination with Micorhyzal Fungi, it produces a supreme fertilizer and leads to a particular type of soil, called Terra Preta. Biochar, while in the soil, is stable for hundreds of years is a carbon sink and is also capable of absorbing CO2 - as a part of soil. So it appears to be a biomass energy technology that is not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative.

    http://green.onevillage.tv/?p=194

    Posted 9 years ago #
  3. chrisc
    Member

    carbon dioxide negative cooking

    When you produce charcoal in you simple kiln...

    ...why not use the heat from the the pyrolysis gas burning to cook food?

    http://www.holon.se/folke/carbon/cooking.shtml

    This is great!

    Posted 9 years ago #
  4. emanuel
    Member

    What I don''t get about the biochar article is that you need to grow trees, then cut them down and store their carbon. But once you cut them down you no longer have those trees around to absorb more CO2. So how is this different than just planting trees and leaving them there?

    All I can think of to justify the claim that this reduces CO2 is that in the very long run, those trees would likely get burned up in a forest fire, releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere, and buried biochar will never burn up. But then we are talking about an affect that will take hundreds if not thousands of years to make any kind of notable effect.

    Is there something I am not understanding here?

    Emanuel

    Posted 9 years ago #
  5. truthmod
    Administrator

    Something like this has always been my fantasy--that somehow we'll learn to harness to excess energy of global warming to fuel our energy needs. It's seems simple enough: with global warming, we have too much energy, if we could redirect that energy to provide for some of our requirements, perhaps we make some real progress at solving two our greatest problems.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  6. chrisc
    Member

    So how is this different than just planting trees and leaving them there?

    When the trees biodegrade they release the carbon they captured, if they are turned into charcoal and it's buried in the the earth then it stays there for hundreds or years.

    I guess the key is to combine this with forest farming and permaculture -- abandon industrial agriculture (it's doomed anyhow) -- this could form the basis of the post-industrial society?

    Posted 9 years ago #

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