Monday, May 26, 2008

Agrichar...a potential "win-win-win"?

Agrichar is the scientific buzzword given to a charcoal material made from the pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) of agricultural waste materials. According to this recent article from, the potential benefits of this material include:

* Sequester carbon captured by plants from the atmosphere into charcoal which can be buried in soil. Agrichar is recalcitrant, so this would be sinking carbon from the atmosphere into soils for decades to centuries (?) and thereby reducing CO2 forcing on climate change.

* Increase soil fertility and generally improving soil quality (drainage, aeration, nutrient availability, microorganism habitat, etc.), promoting healthier and more diverse agro-ecosystems and improving crop yields.

* Exert a positive influence over nitrogen biogeochemistry in soils, potentially leading to a reduction in the production of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas approximately 300 times stronger than CO2.

* Provide a benign source of biofuel energy, as well as other potentially useful by-products (e.g. wood vinegar)

* Drive innovation in small scale (household- to village- scale) efficient kiln designs, for making agrichar/charcoal in a manner that's decentralized and with reduced impacts on air quality, human health, etc.

* Encourage the widespread production of charcoal materials of sufficient quality and very low cost for application in drinking water filtration systems.

This could be huge! I gotta learn more about this agrichar stuff...

More in this Nature article, for example...

And a short film from the Australian Broadcasting Company...

A post and great ensuing discussion on Grist.


joelsk44039 said...

We have a project that will pyrolize dairy manure to produce short chain hydrocarbon gases (methane, ethane, propane and butane) which will fuel internal combustion engines to produce power. This is an ultra-low emission process. The current project will generate 2.25 MW of power.

The residue ash, including biochar, will be field applied instead of using raw manure, eliminating the odor, pathogenicity and insect/rodent vector attraction. The residue is dry, odor-free and can be hauled long distances economically. It can be field applied at any appropriate time, not just prior to planting seed.

We have a number of additional projects using this same technology with wood waste, sewage sludge, municipal solid waste (garbage and trash) and other waste products.

Joel S. Keller
R&A Energy Solutions

(440) 377-2387

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