Top 10 Webinars #6: Biochar’s Contribution to Sustainable Bioenergy Production

March 2012 Screenshot

Today, the Top 10 Most-Watched Webinars series presents “Biochar’s Contribution to Sustainable Bioenergy Production,” hosted by David Laird, a professor in the agronomy department at Iowa State University. Here’s my preview:

1. When farmers harvest residue for biofuel production, they are promised short-term gains (sales, temporary yield increases), but they also face the prospect of long-term losses (degraded soil quality, reduced agricultural productivity).

2. If residue is harvested, biochar can help maintain soil quality by putting lost nutrients back in.

3. So, the pyrolysis-biochar platform may help make residue harvesting more sustainable.

Watch the full webinar here.

– Alex Kirstukas

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Webinars #6: Biochar’s Contribution to Sustainable Bioenergy Production

  1. Jerry Crew says:

    Biochar is what? A byproduct of ethanol production? Don’t have the temperament to merely watch the webinar w/o the interaction! If it is a by-product what happens to DDGs?
    Jerry Crew

  2. astaudt says:

    Hi Jerry,

    The byproducts of ethanol production depend upon the feedstock – whether it is grain ethanol or cellulosic ethanol — as well as the specific production process used (e.g. pyrolysis vs. enzymatic).

    Grain Feedstock –> Produces Ethanol and DDGS (Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles).

    Cellulosic Feedstock (Dr. Laird is referring specifically to the pyrolysis process, e.g. thermal decomposition at 450 degrees C in the absence of oxygen) –> Produces BioOil (further refined to produce ethanol), Biochar (charcoal-like material), and Syngas.

    So, in short, DDGS and Biochar are both ethanol by-products — but result from different ethanol production techniques.

    As Dr. Laird addresses in the webinar, biochar is of particular interest as it can be utilized as a soil amendment. When soil is amended with the biochar material, this can help in recycling valuable nutrients back to the soil, particularly carbon in a highly stable form.

    I found it interesting when he points out that 10-30% of the carbon in Iowa’s soils is actually in the form of biochar – a legacy contribution from prairie fires over thousands of years of our state’s history.

    Thanks for your questions!
    Ann

  3. Jerry Crew says:

    So, we should simulate prairie fires and burn crop residue? If biochar is produced in the absence of oxygen, how would prairie fires produce it? I think I learned in grade school fire needs oxygen to “burn!”
    I am not trying to pick a fight, but I am opposed to cellulosic ethanol produced from corn stover because of the loss of potential organic matter and the potential for increased soil erosion. And, cellulosic ethanol will never compete in a free market and ONLY survives because of mass government subsidies.
    I am one of the “lucky” landowners whose farm is bisected by the proposed transmission line carrying electricity produced by wind turbines–another project kept alive because of huge government subsidies for “clean & green” energy!
    We can’t afford cellulosic ethanol, wind nor solar energy!.
    More fossil fuels are consumed in construction of the infrastructure than will EVER be saved!

  4. Our company offers an emissions-free solution that does not involving burning and its feedstock is waste, as in solid waste, manure, sewer waste, and / or crop residue. It is a wet method, steam CO2 reforming, that produces power for the farm and grid and “green biochar” for soil restoration. See equaresenergy.com, #cleanwastetoenergy #steamCO2reforming When scaled up it can produce aviation-grade diesel by installing a Fisher Tropsch refinery module. The CleanStream Reformer 140 is a 1-dry ton per day system that is built in the factory and delivered ready to install.

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