A Modest Proposal for Naming Small Scale Biochar Production Technology

Erin Rasmussen

From Karl Frogner August, 2015

Naming Small Scale Biochar Production Technology
Cone/ Ring Pyramid


~500 l &

Larger BP

? x ? x x x

Small to
~500 l BP
x x x ? x

Cook Stove
Small Cooking

x x ?    

Items in brackets are tentative designations pending a consensus on a good name.
X = Technology type commonly found in units in the category
? = Technology type not commonly found as PDF in units in the category but might fit
(looking for references, help wanted.
BP = Biochar Production (as primary design function)
(LLU) = Low-tech, Large-capacity Unit (looking for a good name – suggestions by workers,
innovators of this category welcome.
PDF = Primary Design Function
(SFP) = Stacked Feedstock Pile
(see: http://tcia.org/digital_magazine/tci- magazine/2014/02/index.htm#?page=26 )
TFOD = Top Fed Open Draft
(TFUD) = Top Fed Up Draft (see: http://greenyourhead.typepad.com/backyard_biochar/
05/04/2015 Flame Cap Tube Kiln)
TLUD = Top Lit Up Draft

The last UN climate change report should have been a wakeup call for everyone, even slumbering believers, that climate change is the preeminent crisis we face as well as the most daunting one we have ever faced. This is heightened by the Popes recent Encyclical dealing with climate change. I am not a Catholic – not even a Christian and don’t agree with everything he said, but the fact that the Pope issued it has forcefully raised for all to see that whatever else it may be, climate disruption is emphatically a moral issue, intimately entwined with a number of other moral issues, the more so because it is human induced. Large numbers of people are suffering and dying and a great extinction of species has already begun. This moral imperative should (& I hope, will) have an impact on the future of biochar’s perceived role in climate change mitigation.

The current level of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeds 400ppm. This needs to be brought down to 350ppm, and soon, if we are to have a chance of maintaining a climate close to the one in which humanity and civilization arose. [1] The exact amount of CO2 needed to be removed is dependent on the amount of CO2 that we continue to put into the atmosphere. But, as modeled by Hansen et al. this can be (could have been ?) accomplished by removing 100 Gt of carbon in the 50 year period between 2031 and 2080. [1] We have only 2 proven means of significantly and economically removing CO2 from the atmosphere, planting trees and sequestering biochar.

Current science and expert opinion indicate that sustainable biochar sequestration could sequester up to 40% of the 100GtC, approximately 30% by distributed low tech biochar production (DLT) systems, while on the other hand, all of the high tech commercial production is not likely to be able to account for more than 10% - though this is still a significant figure. [2]
The moral imperative seems clear. We need a properly balanced biochar program where effort and funding reflect the needs and potential for sustainable, responsible biochar sequestration to responsibly and morally maximize biochar’s contribution to climate disruption mitigation. Our leaders should be advocating for this, we all in the biochar community should supporting this, being careful that our individual activities are not getting in the way.

With that said, can we start a serious conversation on a categorization of low tech units that facilitates low tech biochar’s potential for climate change mitigation?