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Collison & Associates Limited Low Carbon Innovation Centre Introduction to Biochar Bioenergy Potential, Implications for Agriculture, Strategy Bruce Tofield,

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Presentation on theme: "Collison & Associates Limited Low Carbon Innovation Centre Introduction to Biochar Bioenergy Potential, Implications for Agriculture, Strategy Bruce Tofield,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Collison & Associates Limited Low Carbon Innovation Centre Introduction to Biochar Bioenergy Potential, Implications for Agriculture, Strategy Bruce Tofield, Low Carbon Innovation Centre, UEA Tel:

2 Collison & Associates Limited Intercepting 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.

3 Collison & Associates Limited Unlike compost or plant residues, biochar does not degrade in soils Compost and other organic material in soils is valuable but mineralises (converts to CO 2 ) in just a few years. Biochar will remain essentially unchanged for hundreds or even thousands of years – carbon sequestration really is possible

4 Collison & Associates Limited Potential Global Importance There is one way we could save ourselves, and that is through the massive burial of charcoal James Lovelock

5 Collison & Associates Limited Potential Global Importance "Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanitys 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

6 Collison & Associates Limited Potential 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

7 Collison & Associates Limited Potential Global Importance Slash and Burn to Slash and Char in the developing world?

8 Collison & Associates Limited A combination of some of mans 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

9 Collison & Associates Limited In poor soils enhanced productivity can be substantial Char addedNormal soil Picture from Black is the new green, Nature, 442, , 2006

10 Collison & Associates Limited The impact on global agriculture could be of huge importance increased demandfoodincreased demandwater climate change 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 Beddington Chief Scientific Advisor to HM Government andHead of the Government Office for Science, March 2009

11 Collison & Associates Limited The impact on global agriculture could be of huge importance have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth10 tonnes per hectare as beneficial for yields as using nitrogen fertiliser only need for added fertiliser reduced water holding capacity was raised significantly lower emissionsnitrous oxide Trials of agrichar - a product hailed as a saviour of Australias 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…

12 Collison & Associates Limited Different to CCS CCS will add approx 50 per cent to the cost of a coal plant – the captured CO 2 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)

13 Collison & Associates Limited CCS longer term and essential Coal 130 Mt CO2CCSdecarbonise 85% 110 Mtnothing before 2020 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.

14 Collison & Associates Limited Biochar vs CCS CCS is essential to decarbonise the UKs electricity supply CCS reduces CO 2 emissions from fossil fuels it does not eliminate them Biochar removes CO 2 emissions from the atmosphere In the UK biochar might yield a few million tonnes CO 2 saving with current biomass sources – CCS needs to aim for over 100 m tonnes Using gasifier technology, biochar can be produced today – few barriers to entry – major bioenergy benefit for the Region Potential major benefits for agriculture and soils in addition to carbon sequestration

15 Collison & Associates Limited UK Bioenergy Strategy Biochar not mentioned Urgent action necessary if to mainstream

16 Collison & Associates Limited Bioenergy 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 produced CHP gives biggest benefit Annex B: UK Biomass Strategy, 2007

17 Collison & Associates Limited Burning straw for electricity? GasStraw Coal Grid 2020 Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner? Environment Agency, April 2009 Straw burning power stations generating electricity only may have no lower CO 2 emissions than gas- powered CCGT

18 Collison & Associates Limited The 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 UKs 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 countrys generating capacity in Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner? Environment Agency, April 2009

19 Collison & Associates Limited Feedstock technologies are long- term and uncertain Innovation according to DBERR, Renewable Energy Consultation 2008

20 Collison & Associates Limited The 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 1 st to 2 nd generation biofuel technologies

21 Collison & Associates Limited The 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).

22 Collison & Associates Limited Gasification for CHP is a technology that is cost effective today

23 Collison & Associates Limited The technology is not new! But todays technology for CHP is efficient and cost effective

24 Collison & Associates Limited 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 region Two-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 Region Potential major benefits for agriculture and soils in addition to carbon sequestration – where to focus?

25 Collison & Associates Limited Rural and urban CHP in E of England – with added biochar? Economic and Technical Leadership!

26 Collison & Associates Limited Low Carbon Innovation Centre Thank you Bruce Tofield, Low Carbon Innovation Centre, UEA Tel:


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