Al Latham, September, 2009

I have a pdf (download the attached file) showing a simple biochar retort that I put together, that
might be of interest to your viewers.

If you'd like to add it to the Making BioChar.


Paul Anderson, 2009 SeaChar Stoves Workshop

The efforts at SeaChar (Seattle Biochar Initiative) produced a 5-gallon (22-liter) TLUD.

"On Saturday, August 1, Seachar hosted Dr. Paul Anderson (Dr. TLUD) for an all-day workshop in the construction of Top-Lit Up Draft (TLUD) cookstoves. The stoves can quickly be constructed from commonly available materials, and produce charcoal while providing heat for cooking (or other uses). Paul

From the Economist Print Edition August 27, 2009

A new growth industry? Biochar could enrich soils and cut greenhouse gases as well

Coverage North American Biochar Conference, and a good short summary of biochar.

Field Trials;
 I am field testing for the 09 corn season with JMU and consultation  Dr. Hepperly at Rodale Institute.

Ten research priorities were identified at the IBI conference, The following priorities I hope to address:
• 1- Economy research/market research
• 2- plant+soil research depending on biochar
• 5- field trials
• 8- application to soil (depending on agricultural or other

Planting date: June 24th.
Two split plots , which each are split into a 20% (27 tons/Ac) & 5% (7 tons/Ac) application rates,
All chars soaked in tarps for 1 month, all chars were mixed 1:2 by volume with finished poultry litter compost and roto-tilled to 5 inch depth.

Gasifier Charcoal as a Substitute for Vermiculite in Container Growing Media
Tom Miles, August 22, 2009
P Pine Seedlings in 25% BiocharP Pine Seedlings in 25% Biochar
Our second trial of biochar as a substitute for vermiculite in container media for growing tree seedling has proved successful. These tests are by a private nursery to determine if charcoal from a gasifier heating system can be used in container growing media.


 These two posts may be of interest.  In any case, all comments and suggestions are welcomed.

1. A Path Towards Carbon Negative Heating


2. A Path Towards Low Carbon Agriculture

The second link lists 5 possible policy options, with a 6th in the comments, that might be considered. Note: none mentions biochar, but agreement with more than a few pretty much eliminates all but Biochar.  The idea is not to pick winners and losers, nor to tell elected officials what they have to do, and not to give policy staff one word they do not understand but gives them an excuse to walk away from the entire idea.



Geoff Moxham, Paul Taylor, Peter Gibson, John Seed, May, 2009

Rainforest Information Centre, Lismore, NSW

Half the world

Third year results: Fourth Corner Nurseries Soil/Biochar Study
Richard Haard, Plant Propogationist, July 31, 2009

This study predates the coining of the term biochar and I claim grandfather rights to use the word charcoal.

Third year results, Fourth Corner Nurseries soil/biochar study

Summer 2009 Biochar plot studySummer 2009 Biochar plot studyresults are showing some trends I have had difficulty measuring with the last two years of cropping these plots. The use of buckwheat, a short season cover crop plant makes a visual view of performance reflecting nutrition, quite vivid. In spite of the dips in the plots due to deer browse.



Our exclusive process has numerous advantages:

Biochar Notes Links and Pointers
Jock gill, Vermont


Peter Hirst, Pony Farm in Temple, New Hampshire, on May 9, 2009.

Follow the link for some great video from the recent Biochar Roundtable at the Lodge at Pony Farm in Temple, New Hampshire, on May 9, 2009.

Pony Farm Biochar Workshop
Pony Farm Biochar Workshop


PyroGen Power Generation
R&A Energy Solutions, LLC, May 31, 2009
Pyrogen ProcessPyrogen Process
PyroGen appears to be a company in North Ridgeville, OH that combines a prototype skid mounted pyrolytic sludge reduction process with a genset, both from Indiana.
Skid Mounted PyrolyzerSkid Mounted Pyrolyzer


Biochar / charcoal can be used for tapping the Nitrogen and other useful elements. Simple urinals are designed for tapping the nitrogen and other useful elements for using as a soil amending material for improving the quality of the soils, increasing crop production, addressing the global warming by reducing the NOx emissions, avoiding artificial fertilizers, keeping the toilets clean and odor free, etc.

Two sets of prototype Urinals - PVC urinal and Clay pot urinal are designed and being used by GEO.


There was a big debate about biochar in last week’s Guardian, between George Monbiot, who thinks it’s being sold as a “miracle mass fuel cure“, and defenders of biochar, including James Lovelock, who agrees that “it would be wrong to plant anything specifically to make charcoal” but that biochar has net benefits if it’s made from agricultural wastes.

Monbiot says what’s being proposed amounts to “turning the planet’s surface into charcoal”. But is it really? I calculated just how much biochar would really be needed to store all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere…

Energy Cost of Charcoal
Bryce Nordgren, (Rev) March 26, 2009

Because I really had no idea about how much energy it takes to make
charcoal, I made a table from the specs of the Chinese equipment posted by
gordon eliot. Then I calculated the "Energy Cost" of each component in
(MJ/kg). Finally I aggregated the energy costs from the "suggested
charcoal plants" to get an idea of the energy cost of the entire system.
Note that all of their plants use the new high efficiency coal bar
machine. This should represent a best case scenario: maximum rated
charcoal production at rated power. If you make less charcoal and consume
the same power, the energy cost goes up.

Consider this a first step in understanding the energy efficiency of the
entire process. To complete the analysis, we would have to know the energy
content (MJ/kg) of the produced charcoal. The big question is: can you
power a 30kW generator with the syngas in order to take the small charcoal
plant off the grid?


Munda tribals living in parts of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal states, in India, use biochar for increasing the crop production. They mix charcoal with farm yard manure (pellets of small ruminants / cattle dung) and add to the red lateritic soils which are other wise less fertile. They cultivate vegetables and green salad in the well fenced plots of about 1 acre in size. The biochar is mostly a byproduct from the biomass cook stoves in use (most often three stone stoves / simple clay earth stoves). They have access to wood from the jungles, which is used as fuel.

For more details see the photos

and a small video film.
Latitude: 21.9722721074 Longitude : 85.2820737194

For more pictures see


Biochar Makes Organic Farming Practical
AJ Morris,Organic Gardening December 18, 2008

"Almost every farmer is aware of organic techniques for fertilizing crops, yet the majority still use chemical fertilizers

Sorption Hysteresis of Benzene in Charcoal Particles
Washington J. Braida,Joseph J. Pignatello, Yuefeng Lu,Peter I. Ravikovitch,Alexander V. Neimark,and Baoshan Xing, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2003

Charcoal is found in water, soil, and sediment where it may act as a sorbent of organic pollutants. The sorption of organic compounds to natural solids often shows hysteresis. The purpose of this study was to determine the source of pronounced hysteresis that we found in the sorption of a hydrophobic compound (benzene) in water to a maple-wood charcoal prepared by oxygen-limited pyrolysis at 673 K. Gas adsorption (N2, Ar, CO2), 13C NMR, and FTIR show the charcoal to be a microporous solid composed primarily of elemental (aromatic) C and secondarily of carboxyl and phenolic C. Nonlocal density functional theory (N2, Ar) and Monte Carlo (CO2) calculations reveal a porosity of 0.15 cm3/g, specific surface area of 400 m2/g, and appreciable porosity in ultramicropores

Characteristics and sorption properties of charcoal in soil with a specific study of the charcoal in an arid region soil of Western Australia
Claire Louise McMahon, University of Western Australia,Thesis, 2006

Optimization of Stormwater Filtration at the Urban/Watershed Interface
Hipp, J. A.; Ogunseitan, O. A.; Lejano, R.; Smith, C. S.
Urban Water Research Center, UC Irvine, CA

Tests of charcoal in polybags for storm water filtration.

Charcoal and Carbon Storage in Forest Soils of the Rocky Mountain West
The Wilderness Society, October 2007

"Charcoal produced during wildfire events represents an important form of long-term Carbon storage in forest ecosystems. Forest management practices, such as salvage logging or thinning without prescribed fire, may reduce soil charcoal content and, thus, long-term Carbon storage in mineral soils.


Charcoal represents an important component of the soil organic matter pool in temperate grasslands and forests. It contributes to the total water-holding capacity, ion exchange complex, and surface area of the soil environment.

Once deposited in soil, charcoal is highly stable, having mean residence times 30


Soils ain


Regarding impact of Pottery shards in the soil there were several questions. I had been searching for pottery shards in the agricultural fields and most often and I got to see some pottery shards in the field. Where ever agriculture was the main livelihood, high densities of populations existence, civilization at the helm and space was a constraint, innovations were adopted by humans, and such practices are sustainable even now.
For more photographs and relevant links see

The charcoal and pottery shards are the two most common by-products of human habitats. At least some charcoal / biochar along with ash was contributed by the people living in habitations in the past (see table in the above link). The availability of the quantity of such by-product, ingenious use, management and development are the aspects still to be discovered. If charcoal / pottery shards did not occur in certain areas in spite of human settlements existence, than there must be some reason yet to be discovered. But both charcoal and pottery existence as a result of human activities was beyond history, so there is no reason why these things are not seen.

The fired pottery made up of clay is most popular. Still the poor people in rural villages in parts of India cook in the clay pots. The pots used for drinking water collection is most common, even today millions of pots are produced and used all over India every year, the usage would be more especially during summers. The evaporation of the water from the fine pores of the pot cool the water inside the pot. The temperature would be at least 5 deg centigrade less than the surrounding air temp. The cooling effects would be very high under less relative humidity conditions. The roofs made up of clay tiles also provide cool shelter, and very much useful in the tropics where temperatures are very high during summers. For majority of the main festivals pots or pottery items are used. From Birth to death, for all important occasions pottery items are used.

Use of biochar (charcoal) to replenish soil carbon pools, restore soil fertility and sequester CO2

Submission by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
4th Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the
Convention (AWG-LCA 4), Poznan, 1-10 December 2008
Submission containing ideas and proposals on Paragraph 1 of the Bali Action Plan:
Use of biochar (charcoal) to replenish soil carbon pools, restore soil fertility and sequester CO2


Charcoal in Container Growing Media
Tom Miles, January 11, 2009

P Pine Grown in Vermiculite (Left) and Charcoal (Right) MediaP Pine Grown in Vermiculite (Left) and Charcoal (Right) Media

After visiting Richard Haard and Larry Williams in early 2007 I started discussing the use of charcoal with various nursery growers and researchers in the West. A commercial nursery in California became interested in substituting charcoal for vermiculite in a growing media - soilless substrate - for container grown tree seedlings.


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