Monday, January 22, 2007


Treeflights Go Bio-Char?

What the devil is Bio-Char? Well, it could be an angel (rather like me as I am made from a bit of carbon!).

Simply put, Bio-Char means buried charcoal.

Bio-char is a development of Terra Preta de Indio, -dark soil- found in the Amazon region. These dark soils are found in several countries in South America. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans.

These mysterious earths are abundantly rich and deep, containing very high Carbon & nutrient levels even after hundreds of years. The high nutrient levels mean that no fertilizers are needed for crops, which grow better and faster. Dark soils heat up and crop earlier. The implications are enormous.

This is renewable agriculture that also stores carbon!

Treeflights are considering all the options to ‘lock up’ carbon from timber and this could present an answer.

I would also encourage any Councils who are considering bio mass stoves for homes or communal heating with sustainable planting for fuel to look into this incentive too - I know atleast 3 Councils in the North West that may find this solution very interesting indeed... and one who has travelled extensively in South America and may well already have seen and heard of Bio-Char?

Make Good Choices - or en espanol "haga las elecciones buenas"

From Your Friend The Energy Angel


At 6:04 PM, Blogger Erich J. Knight said...

Time to Master the Carbon Cycle

Man has been controlling the carbon cycle , and there for the weather, since the invention of agriculture, all be it was as unintentional, as our current airliner contrails are in affecting global dimming. This unintentional warm stability in climate has over 10,000 years, allowed us to develop to the point that now we know what we did,............ and that now......... we are over doing it.

The prehistoric and historic records gives a logical thrust for soil carbon sequestration.
I wonder what the soil biome carbon concentration was REALLY like before the cutting and burning of the world's virgin forest, my guess is that now we see a severely diminished community, and that only very recent Ag practices like no-till and reforestation have started to help rebuild it. It makes implementing Terra Preta soil technology like an act of penitence, a returning of the misplaced carbon.

Energy, the carbon cycle and greenhouse gas management

On the Scale of CO2 remediation:

It is my understanding that atmospheric CO2 stands at 379 PPM, to stabilize the climate we need to reduce it to 350 PPM by the removal of 230 Billion tons.

The best estimates I've found are that the total loss of forest and soil carbon (combined
pre-industrial and industrial) has been about 200-240 billion tons. Of
that, the soils are estimated to account for about 1/3, and the vegetation
the other 2/3.

Since man controls 24 billion tons in his agriculture then it seems we have plenty to work with in sequestering our fossil fuel co2 emissions as charcoal.

As Dr. Lehmann at Cornell points out, "Closed-Loop Pyrolysis systems such as Dr. Danny Day's are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative". and 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! "

Terra Preta Soils Technology: Carbon Negative Bio fuels and 3X Fertility Too

This new soil technology speaks to so many different interests and disciplines that it has not been embraced fully by any. I'm sure you will see both the potential of this system and the convergence needed for it's implementation.

The integrated energy strategy offered by Charcoal based Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.

The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade in place:

Terra Preta soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy.
I thought, I first read about these soils in " Botany of Desire " or "Guns,Germs,&Steel" but I could not find reference to them. I finely found the reference in Charles Mann's "1491", but I did not realize their potential .

I have heard that National Geographic is preparing a big Terra Preta (TP) article.

Nature article: Putting the carbon back Black is the new green: (subscription needed)

Here's the Cornell page for an over view:

This Earth Science Forum thread on these soils contains further links, and has been viewed by 13,000 folks. ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):

The Georgia Inst. of Technology page:

There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist.

Terra Preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. These nanoscale structures provide safe haven to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while sequestering carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants.

Here is a great article that high lights this pyrolysis process , ( ) which could use existing infrastructure to provide Charcoal sustainable Agriculture , Syn-Fuels, and a variation of this process would also work as well for H2 , Charcoal-Fertilizer, while sequestering CO2 from Coal fired plants to build soils at large scales , be sure to read the "See an initial analysis NEW" link of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants.
Soil erosion, energy scarcity, excess greenhouse gas all answered through regenerative carbon management

All the Bio-Char Companies and equipment manufactures I've found:

Carbon Diversion

Eprida: Sustainable Solutions for Global Concerns

BEST Pyrolysis, Inc. | Slow Pyrolysis - Biomass - Clean Energy - Renewable Ene

Dynamotive Energy Systems | The Evolution of Energy

Ensyn - Environmentally Friendly Energy and Chemicals

Agri-Therm, developing bio oils from agricultural waste

Advanced BioRefinery Inc.

Technology Review: Turning Slash into Cash

International K&K Enterprise Others

The upcoming International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) conference to be held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. ( )

If pre-Columbian Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 20% of the Amazon basin it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale.

Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of EROEI for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.

We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.

I feel Terra Preta soil technology is the greatest of Ironies.
That is: an invention of pre-Columbian American culture, destroyed by western disease, may well be the savior of industrial western society.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Terra preta/ bio-char gardening also encourages the growth of bacteria, worms/nematodes and fungi.
Bacteria alone account for a huge amount of sequested carbon.

I have seen one estimate of phylum Nemata saying that if those in 1sq.m. of soil were stretched 'head to toe'they would stretch to Mars.
Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth.
the vast majority of species encountered are poorly understood biologically. There are nearly 20,000 described species classified in the phylum Nemata.
We know so little about soil fungi We have named about 10% of the life in the soil

We know so little about what lies under our feet.
Recently Japanese scientists discovered a bacteria that was making soil phosphorus bio-available to plants.

The S.A.Indians say Terra preta soil "grows".
I am inclined to believe them.

"Another important part of the study was an estimate of carbon content in bacteria. Carbon, of course, is a crucial element in numerous natural processes, so knowing the amount of it could contribute substantially to knowledge of carbon cycles.
Scientists assume that carbon in the bacteria that live in soil and subsurface takes up about one-half of their dry weight.
The team thus found that the total amount of bacterial carbon in the soil and subsurface to be yet another staggering number, 5 X 10**17 g or the weight of the United Kingdom.

Rather surprisingly, the group at Georgia found that the total carbon of bacteria is nearly equal to the total carbon found in plants.
The inclusion of this carbon in global models will greatly increase estimates of the amount of carbon stored in living organisms"

There is a confrence exploring the issue, open to all, soon in Australia. it is being orgaanised by the International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) April 29-May 2, 2007 Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia
For more details see the new terra preta web site here:

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Energy Angel said...

Erich - what can I say my friend? Your detailed and humbling knowledge of this subject is astonishing and may I thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to add your input. I will definitely check out the suggested links and I truly look forward to researching this aspect of bio fuels in earnest. I too find the irony incredible.

My heartfelt thanks & kindest regards

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Energy Angel said...

Hello Michael, Many thanks for your wonderfully detailed comment I really appreciate your informative response and I can assure you that I look forward to researching in more detail utilising the links and data that you very kindly sent to me. I believe that Erich and yourself are onto a winner and I envy your knowledge
Kindest regards


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