03. Biochar production

This project is investigating biochar produced from two technology types: a medium-scale continuous feed gasification unit (Cambodia), and a smaller scale portable batch unit (India & Philippines). These fit into a wide spectrum of processes which can produce biochar. In addition to this field tests will use burned rice husk from a brick making factory – we do not class this as biochar because of the level of oxygen in the system. This will be used to test if biochar has a different effect to conventional burning of rice husk

One of the main variations in biochar is the feedstock, rice husk is being used for these trials. This is one of the most homogenous feedstocks since it is mixed during the milling process, is a uniform size and has little variation in composition. Chemical analysis, Loss on Ignition (LOI), Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and moisture testing has been done on rice husk which has been milled at 6 different mills, which showed only small variation. Variation in the biochar produced from these feedstocks was more significant, probably due to condition differences – temperature, residence time and pressure for example (the technology type was the same in each case).

Biochar can be produced during a number of process types using different technologies and at different scales. Commonly pyrolysis biochar systems are divided into types depending on heating rate: flash (very fast), fast, medium and slow. Slow typically has a low temperature and long residence time, which produces the most biochar. Flash pyrolysis has little char production so is not suitable for making biochar.

Technology ranges from primitive (for example traditional charcoal making kilns) to high-tech for example flat bed or fluidised pyrolysis biochar systems. The technology may be designed for a batch or continuous processes.

Charcoal making kiln near Banteay Srei. 12.05.2010

The scale also varies for biochar production. The Carbonator for example can process between 1 and 10t of biomass per day. At a very small scale, a batch process in cook stoves can produce biochar. For more information on this technology see: http://biocharinnovation.wordpress.com/

In addition to pyrolysis, biomass conversion routes include bioelectrical conversion (microbial fuel cell). Biochemical conversion (anaerobic digestion), fermentation, extraction (i.e. palm oil seeds).

References:

Bioenergy lists http://www.bioenergylists.org/
UKBRC resources and publications: www.biochar.org.uk
Robert T Bachmann presentation – Workshop: Biochar Malaysia. University of Kuala Lumpur. 25 March 2010.

One Response to “03. Biochar production”

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