[Gasification] Gasification Digest, Vol 16, Issue 12 - char contents and nutrients

David Coote dccoote at mira.net
Sun Dec 18 16:17:00 CST 2011

It's an interesting issue. Factors influencing the capability for 
biochar to assist with soil fertility appear to include what the char is 
made from and the process that has been used to make the char. Making it 
from chicken manure will tend to produce a char that has different 
initial nutritional characteristics compared to making it from wood. 
Different pyrolysis techniques will produce chars with different 
structures and different quantities and types of volatiles. Some of 
these volatiles appear to be nutritionally useful. Others may not be 
useful and may even be harmful. There's quite a bit of work underway in 
this area. (There's still how to get it in the ground economically in 
no-till broadacre farming environments but that's another story.)

I found a study a while ago of sites in the northern Pennsylvania region 
- which may be the one Mark refers to below - that found substantial 
remaining contamination many decades after silvichemical plants closed. 
These plants typically used pyrolysis and chemical extraction techniques 
to obtain valuable chemicals. I haven't dug into whether the particular 
techniques used led to PAC's the bugs find difficult to digest, or 
solvents used have sterilised the area, or if the sheer volume of wastes 
have overwhelmed the bioremediation capacity.  Certainly forests spring 
back from the witches brew of chemicals made in a wildfire



> ------------------------------
> Message: 4
> Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2011 19:25:47 -0800
> From: "Mark Ludlow"<mark at ludlow.com>
> To: "'Discussion of biomass pyrolysis and gasification'"
> 	<gasification at lists.bioenergylists.org>
> Subject: Re: [Gasification] gasifier type updarft use rice husk
> Message-ID:<00b201ccbd34$bc891030$359b3090$@ludlow.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Jeff and...
> There's a lot of different opinions on the value/harm of the "tars" in the
> soil. My instinct says "no-no!" but some people drink the distillate and
> think that it is God's blessing!
> If we observe natural phenomena, for instance forest burns (which,
> presumably, have multiple regimens of combustion, from hardly-at-all to pure
> ash) we see that there is usually a strong recovery after a burn, but the
> ecosystems are usually not replaced, intact, but forced to begin their long,
> progressive cycle once again.
> A study of 19th-century charcoal kilns in the Eastern U.S., show that there
> is a lasting effect on the sites on which they were located. On the other
> hand, many suggest that the aromatic compounds produced during pyrolytic
> combustion are valuable components of the signaling network that tells seeds
> and the soil ecosystem that the sky has opened and that the system has an
> altered competitive structure.
> Maybe a little is good; and a lot is bad. But despite the evidence that many
> of the polyaromatic hydrocarbons remaining in the char produced for biochar
> applications is carcinogenic, some certifying bodies have declared it
> "Organic" and suitable for unrestricted use in agricultural applications.
> Who knows?
> Best, Mark

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