Biochar and methane questions.

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by ho-hum, Jun 25, 2007.

  1. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Some questions [before I find out the hard way] about making biochar.

    1. Would a methane build-up cause an explosion or burn off as it was produced?

    2. Does methane have to be vented?

    3. If the oven were sealed after combustion started to stop the entry of oxygen - would the methane still be present when the whole thing had cooled down?

    4. Is there a knack to getting methane out without letting oxygen in?

    To be honest I wish to make some decent bio-char but I have grave concerns about methane.

    As as 13yo I was involved in a spectacular methane explosion as a result of a early humanure/compost experiment and whilst the scars have gone and the ringing in my ears has stopped.... the memory is still there :oops:

    floot
     
  2. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Floot,

    Methane is flammable and should never be allowed to build up anywhere, even if you've got a compost pile near an exterior vented appliance with a gas pilot or spark-ignited pilot. it's crucial to vent methane up and away from any possible ignition source.

    Are you thinking that the methane is coming off of what you're burning? Where is the methane coming from?

    Since the best biochar is made from dry logs and thick branches that are not rotting, they won't have methane coming off of them. Methane is the gas that is produced from damp, rotting greenery, and damp, old rotted wood. It would be a real struggle to get damp rotted wood to burn, better to dry it out first, then burn it as usual.

    If your oven is sealed it won't burn. It takes oxygen to burn wood, especially large pieces that would produce biochar. You mean if after it's charred into charcoal if you shut it down what would be left? Only during the burning process are gasses coming off what's burning, and the main gas that is dangerous to humans is carbon monoxide and smoke, which is why the wood burning stove needs to be sealed to the room, but must be vented vertically out of the room.

    If you got the fire to burn at all it will have been vented, and the smoke, carbon monoxide will have escaped, so there won't be gasses inside the burning chamber.


    here's some info that might help:

    https://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/extforest/WFS1.pdf

    pollution from wood burning stoves:

    https://www.njc.org/disease-info/wellnes ... r-air.aspx
     
  3. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    They make 'syn-gas' out of the commercial bio-char process Floot - not sure whether that's methane or not...the only thing I've come across is that it's the equivalent of LPG in terms of uses...and as far as I know that fits with methane.

    Can't help beyond that little piece of fluff I'm afraid mate! :wink:


    What makes you say that sweetpea? I've seen nothing which supports that statement - quite the opposite. Everyone is using dried green waste and similar low-density materials, not logs.


    And yet (from my last post on the bio-char thread):



    These are people making bio-char commercially. Their method is the same as every other commercial method I've come across - high temps, no oxygen, using mostly scrap material.

    I'm really not pointing these things out repeatedly to annoy you or create bad feeling between us, I just feel you're misunderstanding the whole process...which is no good if you're going to try it yourself or if others emulate your misunderstanding.

    No harm or slight intended. Just trying to help you and others who may be confused. :)
     
  4. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Jez, well, I'm after wood charcoal when I burn for the biochar, not ash, so that requires woody material that's thick enough so you can get charcoal. If it burns beyond charcoal you get ash, which is okay for the garden, but ash doesn't have the ADsorption qualities that wood charcoal has.

    I burn branches and logs until they are completely black and about ready to break apart, them sink them in cold water to stop the burning process. There is ash in the crevices, but for the most part it's black char that is easily crushed into biochar bits :)
     
  5. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    PS. Whatever the commercial people have to do, they have to do. But I'm just a regular person who can make wood charcoal, just the way the original people did thousands of years ago when they burned their crop residue, and cleared land to farm, getting the biochar into their soil that way. Nothing fancy, it wasn't necessary to eliminate oxygen, biochar *happens* :lol:
     
  6. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    I think you're confusing bio-char with ordinary charcoal sweetpea...but nevermind, I wish you all the best with your method. :)
     
  7. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Jez, I understand the distinction between biochar of greenery turned into charcoal through pyrolization and wood charcoal which can be gotten by burning only until it's charcoal. It's all still got charcoal properties in the end with the ADsorption properties that are the effective part of using that as a soil amendment, such as in the Terra Preta example. They didn't use pyrolization and it worked for them. My guess is that it will work for gardeners and small farmers :)

    Hey, I like that Edison quote! Good one!
     
  8. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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  9. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Thanks Jez & Sweetpea.

    9andalf, I saw read that story on the web. How sad and an example of how easy it is to forget the dangers that surround us.

    Ok, I wont use an oven to make bio-char then, instead I will dig a hole and do it that way. The methane can then vent thru the soil.

    cheers

    floot
     
  10. Duckpond

    Duckpond Junior Member

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    I just made a pyrolizing charcoal maker out of a 200 Ltr steel drum and an old beer keg, i will post pics if anyone is interested.
    I made it with a welder, angle grinder and drill. it cost me about $50
     
  11. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    ho hum
    A flamable gas is definitely produced with the type of process you are speaking about. Historically, gas for lighting was produced from coal by heating it in the absence of oxygen. There are large contaminated sites in most cities which are the result of the process (eg in Newstead, Brisbane)

    The methane definitely needs to be vented otherwise you will almost definitely kill yourself.

    I haven't made biochar, but I have done something similar on a very small scale in a peach tin. If that is anything to go by, the trick will be a small hole which allows enough pressure out, but not too big (which would let oxygen in). Does anyone have advice on the size of this hole? For, say, a 44 Gallon (205Litre) drum - 10mm? 20mm?
     
  12. Ichsani

    Ichsani Junior Member

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    Isn't the coal that was used to make gas different from the young woody growth used to make biochar?

    I don't think biochar would result in anything remotely like the kind of pollution gasworks are renowned for, otherwise, one bushfire and we would be polluted out of existence!

    Don't know about methane production, perhaps google the pyrolisis process?

    Although, methane is a flammable gas, so if the material is burning the methane would burn as well. I guess if you made biochar in a basement (with tight fitting closed doors) you might get a build up that could go boom if you opened the door and let loads of oxygen in after it had all been used up in the room................. but wouldn't you already be dead?

    If a tree falls in the bush..... :?: :lol:
     
  13. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    You can use any dry organic matter to make Biochar, I have been thinking about using sheeoak needles which I might try compacting. I have often found the newspaper I use in my burns is charred and I can still read some of the print. this is not ash.

    You can always try burning in an open drum and put it out with water once the biomass turns to hot coals. this is how I often make it, I mainly use fine sticks up to an inch thick, I get most of my stock from raiding neighbours burn off piles or from downed trees around the house yard. I use larger logs for edging in my food forest. I have found I get a bit of smoke to start with then with a bit of air coming in from the bottom of the drum the smoke stops and I get a very hot jet like flame, adding water creates stream and increases the pores in the biochar, this is call "active biochar". I always lose some hair when making char, long sleeves and thick leather gloves are a good idea.
     
  14. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Interesting summary
    https://saibhaskar.livejournal.com/1276.html

    References:
    https://www.biocharindia.com
    https://www.actioncarbone.org/en/projet.php?typ=ck&id=30
    https://e-terrapreta.blogspot.com/
    https://e-terrapretarooftopexp.blogspot.com/
    https://e-alkalinesoilsterrapreta.blogspot.com/
    https://e-charcoalmaking.blogspot.com/
    https://maghbiocharretort.blogspot.com/

    About the author
    Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, Founder and CEO, Geoecology Energy Organisation https://www.e-geo.org, has been working on Environment and Development issues since last 14 years. He has worked in majority of states in India and also contributed abroad on Biochar, Rural energy and Environmental aspects. He has done research and studies on Biochar and Biochar compost. Designed 40 good stoves, which are low cost and highly efficient, also working on efficient Charcoal retorts. Ardant believer and campaigner for Open Knowledge. Worked with the government, National and international - agencies, NGOs, Institutions etc., on environmental and developmental issues. https://www.saibhaskar.com

    He is presently leading the project "Good Stoves and Biochar Communities (GSBC)", implemented by GEO, supported by GoodPlanet.org France
     
  15. j_cornelissen

    j_cornelissen Junior Member

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    Well we know that methane is flammable and it is important to use that property, i.e. burn it off when it is produced

    When you burn it off you produce CO2, the greenhouse gas that gets all the attention.

    If you don't methane will get in the atmosphere and methane is 20x worse as a greenhouse gas, reason enough to burn it I guess
     
  16. Tropical food forest

    Tropical food forest Junior Member

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    pics please
    !

    you can make char from anything

    charcoal is biochar
    but its usually a highergrade

    good biochar is traditionally the garbage of char making

    - low temp
    -soft
    -greasy
    -incomplete

    doesnt have to be wood.
    grass char works well

    and its pretty much a given that terra preta is significantly derived from Palm frond char
     
  17. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Hi All

    - Biochar is NOT charcoal, biochar has been developed as an horticultural soil improver, not for adding to bbq's. Biochar is fixed carbon which should be produced not only in a oxygen-less environment but it should also be kept at the same temperate during the pyrolysis process, 500-550deg C is best. This captures nutrients onto the carbon complexes in the biochar. If the nutrients are bonded to the biochar, then its easy for microbes especially to break the electron bond and use them for themselves. This relates to the CEC, Cation Exchange Capacity, of biochar; Cation being a negative charge. Most nutrients have a positive charge, and so are attracted to the negative charge and form a bond.

    - My company (BlackEarth Products) produces what we think is one of the best quality Biochar's available, we are using poultry litter and olive pip (which helps in the pyrolysis process due to it's high carbon content). We class our product as a nutrient bonded biochar. We think this is the best feedstock for producing Biochar. I still make Biochar in my home reactor using clean waste timber/wood and beef bones that my dogs no longer want to chew on.

    - Feedstock, any high carbon organic material is suitable, but it has to be quite dry other wise it will not pyrolyse. Re: grass, it would need to be dry and quite loose in your pyrolysis system other wise you would not get a reaction. (why not use the grass for mulch?) re: "you can make char from anything" once again it has to be organic matter high in organic carbon and dry.

    - The pyrolysis process generates syn-gas not methane. The syn-gas reaction in a batch reactor is quite extreme, I like to think of syn-gas is as flammable is petrol. You have to be very very careful with how you build and handle pyrolysis systems. Batch systems create a large amount of pressure when they react and can be as mean as shit to try and control.

    - "good biochar is traditionally the garbage of char making" the early developed char (terra preta) might have been, but the scale they produced at would have been made in earth ovens developed for their food production. The Biochar being produced now has come a long way and our understanding of this product is quite advanced now.

    -Producing our Biochar is a very clean process, we produce less emissions than a Ford Ranger Diesel ute at idle. We convert virtually all the retained carbon in a fixed form, we use micro sprinklers to condense tars and the formation of compounds with NOx and SOx, this also reacts with the gaseous compounds directly to form condensate.

    I'm still writing up our technology page on my website but will post some more details when I do.

    This is the BlackEarth Products system running.
    https://www.biochar.net/wp-content/gallery/biochar-trips/system-running.jpg

    This is a close up of my home batch reactor system running.
    https://www.biochar.net/wp-content/gallery/making-biochar/gas_system_cu.jpg

    Got any more questions please fire away.
     
  18. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Baz I'm happy to hear your source ingredients. I had imagined people knocking down perfectly good trees to turn into biochar - which seemed like robbing Peter to pay Paul (which earning carbon credits). Using a "waste" product is a better approach.

    Do you generate more energy that use put in initially to get it to heat? ie could you use the flammable off gas to heat water to generate electricity or something to really get the most out of the process?
     
  19. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Hi Eco

    We use the flammable syn-gas element produced in the process to run most of the system, so in that way we generate energy, excess heat after this process is then used to help dry incoming biomass which make the system run cleaner, the other way we generate energy is in the production of condensate, this product is extremely complex but part of the chemical can be used to produce energy, it's sort of a Bio-oil, we also produce a tar type of product that could be good as a wood treatment for fence posts (think creosote) and a wood vinegar that full of organic acids which help in breaking down biomass (compost) and other possible horticultural uses some of which I'm trialling here, we are working with the University of Victoria in compiling all the components of our condensate to make sure it's safe and to help develop ways of cracking the chemicals apart. Russell our system developer and myself are quite excited about the condensate side of things.

    Our system is based in Bendigo and we have access to poultry waste from the northern poultry cluster, they produce 60,000 tons a year of waste, a lot of that in used in dynamic lifter type products so the waste does have some value. But we convert most of that wastes carbon content into fixed carbon which removes that carbon from the natural carbon cycle. Mineral elements of the poultry manure are bonded to the Biochar which creates a pretty good fertiliser in it's own right.

    This is a little bit of info on what our Black Earth Biochar contains.
    https://www.blackearthproducts.com.au/about-biochar/application-rates/
    We also have full Chemical Analysis of our Biochar here>>>>

    My home system flares the first 5/10 minutes of the pyrolysis reaction as it's hard to cope with, the process after that is used to self fuel itself, that runs for about 90 minutes. while I would like to use some of the energy from my system I'm more focused on getting the Biochar side of things right (so it does not blow up) My system uses LPG to start the process because during the dry times around here I can not light fires and sparks are hard to contain without interfering with clean oxygen fuel mixes with create no smoke.
     
  20. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Cool - nice process tying it all together like that.
     

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