# Name your favourite BioFuel Technology

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by Singularity, Feb 20, 2006.

1. ### erich_knightErich J. KnightRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
108
"Begetting a virtuous cycle" , I particularly like these quotes in this
14 Aug article:

Published on 14 Aug 2006 by WorldChanging. Archived on 14 Aug 2006.
Terra Preta: black is the new green by David Zaks and Chad Monfreda

This piece was originally published on Worldchanging.com, "the world's
leading sustainability blog."

http://www.energybulletin.net/19281.html

"Claims for biochar's capacity to capture carbon sound almost
audacious. Johannes Lehmann, soil scientist and author of Amazonian
Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management, believes that a strategy
combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion
tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil
fuel emissions! "

And:

"Terra preta's full beauty appears in this closed loop. Unlike
traditional sequestration rates that follow diminishing marginal
returns-aquifers fill up, forests mature-practices based on terra preta
see increasing returns. Terra preta doubles or even triples crop
yields. More growth means more terra preta, begetting a virtuous cycle.
While a global rollout of terra preta is still a ways away, it heralds
yet another transformation of waste into resources. "

This is an interesting "FLash Carbonization" process:
http://www.hnei.hawaii.edu/bio.r3.asp#flashcarb

And the home page:

http://www.hnei.hawaii.edu/biocarbon.asp

Biocarbons (charcoal)
Consider the following riddle:

I am renewable;
I am a chemical element;
as a fuel I am often less expensive ($/GJ) than natural gas; my energy density (GJ/m3) can exceed that of ethanol or LPG; and my combustion does not add to the CO2 in the atmosphere; I am easily stored and safe to transport; I clean the water you drink and the air you breathe; Plants grow best in soils that are enriched with me; I am a key ingredient in the production of semiconductors; When eaten I settle an upset stomach and clean the intestines; and No one is afraid of me! What am I? (if you don't know, please find the answer at the bottom of this page). The Table below lists the current prices of conventional fossil fuels and their renewable alternatives. Observe that at its current price, without any tax incentives or other government subsidies, charcoal is cost-competitive with alternative fossil fuels. In fact, charcoal is the only renewable fuel that is now cost competitive with fossil fuels. Remarkably, at its current price (equal to oil at about$7/GJ) the
production of charcoal is very profitable. This fact is well-known to
charcoal producers, but not to the general public.

FUEL PRICES Fossil Renewable
Coal See note 1 Charcoal $3-8/GJ Oil$3-11/GJ Ethanol $14/GJ Natural gas$2-12/GJ Hydrogen $18-24/GJ Note 1: because of its high content of mercury, sulfur, and other noxious elements and compounds, the price of coal is not comparable to the other (relatively clean) fuels listed. To be comparable, the price of coal should include the necessary cleanup of these noxious materials (especially mercury) at the outlet of the powerplant. Unfortunately, reliable data on the cleanup costs are not easily available. In addition to the fact that charcoal is cost-competitive with fossil fuels, the markets for charcoal are more diverse (and potentially larger) than those open to any other fuel. What other fuel enjoys markets as a potting soil, health food, water purifier, soil amendment, air purifier, metallurgical reductant, and cooking fuel? Furthermore, landfills in the State of Hawaii are overburdened. The Table below illustrates the amount of charcoal ("black gold") that can be manufactured annually by the Flash Carbonization™ process from each county's waste stream. Note that the current wholesale price of charcoal ($246 per ton) imported to the USA is equivalent to oil at
$46/bbl on an energy basis. The production of "black gold" from Hawaii's green wastes could become a$50 million per year (or more)
business for a visionary entrepreneur.

For these reasons, biocarbons (i.e., charcoals) are an important
element of HNEI's overall R&D programs. The ancient technology of
charcoal manufacture has seen dramatic recent improvements in HNEI's
Renewable Resources Research Laboratory (R3Lab). Work continues on
optimizing reaction conditions for using the Flash Carbonization™
process with biomass. UH Flash Carbonization™ process patents are
being actively licensed. Research efforts are also continuing on
biocarbon fuel cell concepts.

(Answer to riddle: charcoal!)

Erich J. Knight

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3. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
Care to defend this false statement? BTW I think you mean electrolysis, not hydrolysis. You do not appear to know much about any of this.

The energy required to split H2O via electrolysis or to make H2O2 is very large and of high quality and in the H2 & O2 produced (when reacted back to water) there is less energy than the input required to separate them (That production process has some thermal losses) Thus, your fuels have net NEGATIVE energy gain.

Contrast this with ethanol produced from tropical sugar cane. Then the net energy gain (fuel energy in ethanol divided by all the non-solar energy input). The net energy gain of ethanol is approximately 800%. This is because the growing cane directly captures solar energy.

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5. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
As many will skim your long post, not carefully reading this part, I wish to note that although what you say is true, Charcoal is twice as expensive as ethanol produced from tropical sugar cane.

Furthermore, Charcoal is not a very practical fuel to use in cars and the partial combustion of wood that is normally used to produce it, releases both a lot of CO2 and also significant amount of poisonous CO.

I know you are well enough informed to know better the relative merits of charcoal and liquid biofuels as replacement for the liquid fossil fuels now in use. Do you have some financial interest making you ignore the facts and promote charcoal?

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7. ### erich_knightErich J. KnightRegistered Senior Member

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108
In another forum a poster characterized me as a chief preacher in the Terra Preta Church.

I shall take on this mantel, and here is my first sermon:

The Terra preta Prayer

Our Carbon who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name
By kingdom come, thy will be done, IN the Earth to make it Heaven.
It will give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our atmospheric trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against the Kyoto protocols
And lead us not into fossil fuel temptation, but diliver us from it's evil
low as we walk through the valley of the shadow of Global Warming,
I will feel no evil, your Bio-fuels and fertile microbes will comfort me,
For thine is the fungal kingdom,
and the microbe power,
and the Sequestration Glory,
For ever and ever (well at least 2000 years)
AMEN

Erich J. Knight

8. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Like most self-appointed preachers, lots of rhetoric and few facts. How about a sermon on the evils of producing more poisonous CO and increasing the atmospheric CO2 during the partial combustion required to produce charcoal from wood?

9. ### michaelangelicaRegistered Member

Messages:
1
Bio Char

The above "prayer" was really a part of a running joke in the Hypography discussion of charcoal amendment to soil (well,you had to have been there)
See
Hypography forum
http://forums.hypography.com/earth-science/3451-terra-preta.html?highlight=Terra preta

It seems burning wood at about 400C does not release excess carbon but in fact locks it up. Amazing as it may sound, it may be a way of sequestering CO2
Not only that, research at Cornell uni has shown that about 20% fine carbon in the soil reduces fertiliser use (Therefore less use of petrochemicals) and reduces water use by 17%
see also
permaculture forum
http://forums.permaculture.org.au/viewtopic.php?t=1775&highlight=terra preta
for more gardening centered discussion

10. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Welcome
Can you give any documentation (not just someone's opinion, but a published study) for this statement. It seems completely false to me.

One could bake wood in the absence of oxygen and avoid producing any CO2 as the wood is "destructively distilled." I think that term is correct, in common use. - The "distillation" part comes from the fact there are many volatiles in wood, especially in resinous woods like pine. However if these volatiles are burned to produce at least part of the energy required for the "no-oxygen baking" that will release CO2.

Until you can explain how wood can burn at any temperature without producing CO2, I claim you are just blowing hot CO2, not facts my way.

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11. ### SingularityBannedBanned

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is there any way to split the C and O2 from CO2 ?

12. ### dixonmasseyValued Senior Member

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2,151
Kiss lots of the South American forest goodbye because of the palm oil plantations

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Biofuel is not clean, it's not a solution, it will demand clearing even more of land for cultivation. Only drastic reduction of all kinds of consumptions will prolongate agony of mankind. Hopefully, warp drive will be invented while agonizing. Otherwise, dying off, surivival of the fittest, and another circle of human evolution (in the best case) this time without fossils.

Last edited: Oct 23, 2006
13. ### dixonmasseyValued Senior Member

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2,151
Heat it up, always works

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Check your chimney for the clues also.

14. ### erich_knightErich J. KnightRegistered Senior Member

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108
Of all the Energy/Climate solutions I've seen, short of a silver bullet like Fusion or Nano-tech Solar or Thermo-electric, This integrated energy strategy offered by Terra Preta Soil technology may provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, A wholistic approach make winners out of all the many parties involved.

I just started checking on the availability of Agricultural grade charcoal, ( dust to 1/2 inch,
high lignin feed stock, 4%- 7% moisture, and the lower the cook temperature the better.) for my own experiments.
I can only find it in Missouri, a 22 ton trailer load, delivered to me in Harrisonburg, Virginia, @ $225/ton. In Missouri @$125/ton

Kingsford Charcoal, may occasionally at their retorts in West VA , over produce for their bricket manufacture use and may have loads available.

A.M. Leonard , a landscape supplier has 50 lb bags for \$70

The Best small scale supply is the grommet "Natural Charcoals", no binders, chemicals, or coal, you do have to grind it up.

The low cook tempts ( 400-700 F) I understand to be important because what is not completely pyrolysised helps the microorganisms populate the small spaces in the char

Brickets are cooked 1500 F

Orchid growers use 20% char in the medium for Lady slippers

I am a landscape design/builder, with other interest in Bio-fuels. I found this Terra Preta work a few months ago and have been posting it around to science forums, local academics, soil science people, local farmers, and authors of relevant news stories.

15. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

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5,502
Now, hemp can be grown with trees in place.

16. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
Yes - green plants do it every day, but it takes more energy than when the carbon was oxidized.

Singularity's Answer "heat it up" is correct, but temperature required is higher than he understands. (Even inside the electric discharge plasma of the CO2 laser, little is disassociated.)

His "Check your chimney for the clues also." is evidence that he does not understand how hard it is to split CO2. The black deposits inside your chimney are not carbon that has had the oxygen removed, but the various complex volitile organic compounds that were driven out of the coal (if anyone still burn that) or wood. They condense on the relatively colder walls of the chimney and can lead to "chimney fires" if they get thick enough so the surface can reach ignition temperatures as the hot smoke/air mixture goes up the chimney.

Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2006
17. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

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5,502
It's a hell of a lot easier to pump the air through algae or just grow a plant to use for fuel.

18. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
Glad to be able to agree with you when I can. Sugar cane, grown in tropical countries is a good choice for the plant. Corn grown in cold Iowa is not.

19. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

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5,502
It's not even the cold in Iowa, it's the droughts. Besides, hemp grows easily in Iowa and it's a rare drought that can take down hemp.

20. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
I do not know much about hemp (makes good rope and some smoke it and that is about the extent of my memories about it.) I would think it hard to get a liquid fuel from it and do not think it is the one of the few complex, but more efficient converters of sunlight into stored energy as sugar cane and corn are. (Some thing about a four step vs three step process, but I forget the details, gives greater efficiency.) Like sugar cane, I think hemp is basically a weed or grass that grows wild with little care or fertilizer required.

21. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

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5,502
Billy, haven't we been over this before? It doesn't even take metal-working to build a press to extract oil from hempseed, and each plant has a lot of it. Some of these plants are over 100 pounds, half of it seed, and about 35 percent of the seed is oil. That can be over two gallons of diesel fuel per plant. It takes more sophisticated means to get fuel from the rest of the plant. Cellulose can also be made into ethanol or methanol.

Hemp never seems to need watering because even though it is an annual (sorry, said perennial before) it has a tap root.

Last edited: Nov 24, 2006
22. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Perhaps. - I do not remember, but do not know of any current use of hemp as source for diesel fuel. Soybeans and a variety of the caster bean plant for small farmers seems to dominate in Brazil, which by law soon will have only "B2" for sale - 2% biodiesel - again leading the world in use of biofuel liquids.)

If hemp were as attractive as you seem to think, why is it not being used? Indian is doing well in biodiesel also, but I forget the plant they are using (not hemp, unless they have different name for it and never identify it as hemp even in articles I have read.)

23. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
5,502
It isn't being used because people know what the U.S. did to Mexico, Panama, and Iraq. The U.S. puts pressure on countries that have laws that the U.S. doesn't like, and that have freedoms that the U.S. doesn't like. The U.S. was built on the ideals of freedom then became among the most oppressive countries in the world. About the only freedom we have is the freedom to bitch about it.