Re: [usbiochar] New Research Article on Forest C Sequestration vs. Bioenergy #bioenergy #sequestration

Paul S Anderson

To Tom and all,


Extremely interesting.   I will leave the chemistry to the chemists.   I will comment on the lower amount of CO2 emissions, which reveal that there was less thermal energy released (assuming quite complete combustion of a lesser amount of pyrolytic gases). 


If standard pyrolysis has a 20% weight yield of charcoal, and if the “50%-ash-added” pyrolysis had a 78% increase in biochar carbon, then  0.78 x 20% is 15.6%, giving a total of 35.6% weight yield of charcoal.  


In conditions where the components (biomass and ash) are in supply, and where there is no useful value for the released thermal energy, this could make the difference between making a profit or not from the biochar.


This experience (and others similarly structured) should be replicated, and if successful, should be considered for commercial applications.  


But what do the chemists say about the process?   And does the 450 deg C biochar have the desired characteristics for adsorption, water retention, pH, etc?   Making more of what might not as good is not progress.   Much still needs to be known.




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From: <> On Behalf Of Thomas Casten via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 8:57 PM
Subject: Re: [Biochar] [usbiochar] New Research Article on Forest C Sequestration vs. Bioenergy


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I discovered a fascinating 2018 paper today, attached, titled " Unexplored potential of novel biochar-ash composites for use as organo-mineral fertilizers" Wolfram Buss et al that bears on this thread.

The research looked at making biochar with finely ground spruce and pine pellets and with the same feedstock plus between 5% and 50% ash from biomass boilers with the same feedstock.  


Hold on to your hat!  The 50% ash addition resulted in a 78% increase in the biochar carbon from a given amount of feedstock.  This was an increase in the biochar carbon, although the ash analysis showed no carbon.  The ash seemed to act as a catalyst, enabling the biochar carbon to convert to recalcitrant carbon at a lower temperature.  In addition, the biochar pellets were loaded with plant nutrients, so they should create interesting yield increases in crops or trees in the initial year.


In my economist view, this is a game-changer.  The percentage of biomass carbon that becomes recalcitrant biochar carbon goes from perhaps 45% to near 80%, and the CO2 emissions from the pyrolysis is slashed.  Lower cost biochar, more effective biochar, and significantly more carbon sequestration, with less CO2 emissions.


Am I missing something?




Thomas R Casten
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On Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 6:38 PM Kelpie Wilson <kelpiew@...> wrote:

Hi Kim,


To me this looks like delusional pipe dreams from economists. First of all, there will never be a meaningful carbon tax. Second of all, Searchinger* is right, biomass energy is not even carbon neutral because 1. it takes energy to remove and process biomass and 2.biomass energy encourages shorter rotations than even timber production. Mark Harmon et al** have shown that shorter rotations permanently and severely reduce the carbon storage ability of forests. They also degrade forest soils and decimate biological diversity. 


We need to focus on using less energy overall. There will always be some opportunities for biomass energy as we harvest forests for other purposes, but to allow biomass energy to be the driver of forest management sets up a horrendous incentive that no carbon tax will ever control. 


The only exception to this is if we were to establish plantations such as willow coppice on degraded land that is currently not storing much carbon. That could result in net carbon benefits overall. Otherwise, biomass energy needs to be restricted to wastes and residues of other processes that were just going to burn up or rot. This assumption was the basis for the 2010 Woolf-Amonette paper on the technical potential of biochar


Until we reach a steady state economy without growth (I know that is heresy) we will never have a prayer of solving the climate problem or any other environmental problems. A big push to develop biomass energy would not do a thing to reduce fossil fuel energy because humans seem to have an endless appetite for more of everything. We need to address the demand, not the supply.





On Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 2:20 PM Kim Chaffee <kim.chaffee2@...> wrote:



I just came across this new article from Science Advances on the environmental tradeoffs between bioenergy and allowing forests to remain undisturbed.  I’ve only read the abstract, but the authors claim that “increased bioenergy demand increases forest carbon stocks, thanks to afforestation activities and more intensive management relative to the no-bioenergy case.”  I wonder if this will settle the debate about the climate consequences of bioenergy.  Your thoughts? 


Kim Chaffee






Ms.Kelpie Wilson
Wilson Biochar Associates

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Thomas R Casten

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