Presentation on theme: "Low Carbon Innovation Centre"— Presentation transcript:
1Low Carbon Innovation Centre Introduction to BiocharBioenergy Potential, Implications for Agriculture, StrategyBruce Tofield, Low Carbon Innovation Centre, UEATel:
2Intercepting the carbon cycle by burying carbon captured by plants Carbon flows in the natural carbon cycle far exceed manmade emissions. Biochar, applied to soil, can permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere.Theoretically, it might be possible to offset all manmade ghg emissions.
3Unlike compost or plant residues, biochar does not degrade in soils Biochar will remain essentially unchanged for hundreds or even thousands of years – carbon sequestration really is possibleCompost and other organic material in soils is valuable but mineralises (converts to CO2) in just a few years.
4Potential Global Importance “There is one way we could save ourselves, and that is through the massive burial of charcoal”James Lovelock
5Potential Global Importance "Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future. The biochar approach provides a uniquely powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner.”Tim Flannery
6Potential Global Importance “Biochar has the potential to sequester almost 400 billion tonnes of carbon by 2100 and to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by 37 parts per million.”Professor Tim Lenton, UEA
7Potential Global Importance ‘Slash and Burn’ to ‘Slash and Char’ in the developing world?
8A combination of some of man’s oldest technologies The productivity of Amazonian dark earth soils – created by early agriculturalists using charcoal – first stimulated interest in biochar as both a sequestering agent and as an agent to promote agricultural productivity
9In poor soils enhanced productivity can be substantial Char addedNormal soilPicture from Black is the new green, Nature, 442, , 2006
10The impact on global agriculture could be of huge importance “We have got to deal with increased demand for energy, increased demand for food, increased demand for water, and we've got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it”Professor John BeddingtonChief Scientific Advisor to HM Government andHead of the Government Office for Science,March 2009
11The impact on global agriculture could be of huge importance “Trials of agrichar - a product hailed as a saviour of Australia’s carbon-depleted soils and the environment - have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth when applied at the rate of 10 tonnes per hectare … For the wheat, agrichar alone was about as beneficial for yields as using nitrogen fertiliser only ... Soil biology improved, the need for added fertiliser reduced and water holding capacity was raised ... The trials also measured gases given off from the soils and found significantly lower emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide…”
12Different to CCSCCS will add approx 50 per cent to the cost of a coal plant – the captured CO2 must then be shipped/piped and injected as at the Krechba gas production plant in Algeria;£90million to fund detailed preparatory studies for two to four UK demonstration projects which will cost £billions? (UK Budget, April 2009)
13CCS longer term and essential Coal is responsible for 70 per cent of 185 Mt CO2 from electricity generation, i.e. 130 Mt CO2. CCS could in principle decarbonise 85% of these emissions – about 110 Mt. Essential by 2050 – nothing before 2020.
14Biochar vs CCSCCS is essential to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supplyCCS reduces CO2 emissions from fossil fuels it does not eliminate themBiochar removes CO2 emissions from the atmosphereIn the UK biochar might yield a few million tonnes CO2 saving with current biomass sources – CCS needs to aim for over 100 m tonnesUsing gasifier technology, biochar can be produced today – few barriers to entry – major bioenergy benefit for the RegionPotential major benefits for agriculture and soils in addition to carbon sequestration
15UK Bioenergy Strategy Biochar not mentioned Urgent action necessary if to mainstream
16Bioenergy 5 per cent of total UK energy by 2020? All present-day resources will be needed to meet 2020 renewable energy targets.Current technology is combustion for electricity or heat.Little or no biochar will be producedCHP gives biggest benefitAnnex B: UK Biomass Strategy, 2007
17Burning straw for electricity? Straw burning power stations generating electricity only may have no lower CO2 emissions than gas-powered CCGTCoalGasStrawGrid 2020Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner?Environment Agency, April 2009
18The Importance of getting it right “Biomass plants generating only electricity, a number of which are currently in development, cannot have a long-term future in the UK’s energy mix as they are not able to produce sufficiently low carbon energy.”“The infrastructure being developed in the UK now will form a major component of the country’s generating capacity in 2030.”Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner?Environment Agency, April 2009
19Feedstock technologies are long-term and uncertain Innovation according to DBERR,Renewable Energy Consultation2008
20The Importance of getting it right: Feedstock technologies “…given the complexity of the technical and economic challenges involved, in reality, the first commercial plants are unlikely to be widely deployed before 2020 … Both sets of technologies remain unproven at the fully commercial scale … and have significant technical and environmental barriers yet to overcome.”Sims et al, From 1st to 2nd generation biofuel technologies
21The Importance of getting it right: Liquid biofuels vs CHP “...the policy of using liquid biofuels directly for transportation may not be the best approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase energy security. Biofuels can be used far more efficiently in stationary facilities to generate heat or to co-generate heat and electricity than they can as liquid transportation fuels”Howarth et al (2009), Biofuels and the environment in the 21st century. In: Biofuels: Environmental Consequences and Interactions with Changing Land Use (eds. Howarth R.W., and Bringezu S).
22Gasification for CHP is a technology that is cost effective today
23The technology is not new! But today’s technology for CHP is efficient and cost effective
24Rural and urban CHP in E of England – with added biochar Rural and urban CHP in E of England – with added biochar? Economic and Technical Leadership!Up to 2m tonnes (?) biomass and biowaste available in the regionTwo-thirds of this is biowaste (?)Up to 100 UEA-size gasifiers (?)What yield of biochar possible?Properties of biochar from gasifier?Properties of biochar from biowaste?Major bioenergy benefit for the RegionPotential major benefits for agriculture and soils in addition to carbon sequestration – where to focus?
25Rural and urban CHP in E of England – with added biochar? Economic and Technical Leadership!
26Low Carbon Innovation Centre Thank youBruce Tofield, Low Carbon Innovation Centre, UEATel: