Green research blooms

Celebrating Earth Day this month seems to bring out more green research and development news which all came out just last week.

According to the website Chemie.de, chemists from Virginia Tech have been developing a low-cost hydrogen producing system using plant sugars, water and a cocktail of enzymes. Improving the technology could eventually lead to production of sugar-powered vehicles, they said.

In California, the state’s public utilities commission agreed to fund the University of California’s new $600m green think tank, the California Institute for Climate Solutions (CICS), by adding surcharges to their customers monthly gas and electricity bills. Sources said the surcharge will probably cost just around 25c./month…probably.

At the American Chemical Society’s 235th national meeting, scientists reported the growing promises of charcoal derived from heated biomass for use as fertilizer. Dubbed “black gold agriculture,” the revolutionary farming technique of using biochar can reportedly reduce greenhouse gases by trapping them in charcoal-laced soil as well as cheaply improve poor soil quality. Also at that meeting, another group of scientists from Colorado State University said they have discovered a way of making bamboo fabric that has antibacterial properties and is resistant to uv radiation from the sun.

Speaking of bacteria, chemical company Evonik is participating in a research from Germany’s University of Freiburg where certain bacteria can absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and bind it via their metabolism. The new metabolic pathway not only has a potential in climate control but also in the field of chemical synthesis either to substitute chemical production processes with biotech processes or to develop new products using completely new methods, said Evonik.



2 Responses to Green research blooms

  1. Erich J. Knight 14 April, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    Biochar the best WIN, WIN, WIN Solution.
    I hope you become as passionate as I have to spreading the news of the multiple solutions Terra Preta (TP) soils provides.

    Below is my current TP posting of News & Links which I promiscuously post to anyone who has an iron in this fire, cut and paste it freely .

    Cheers,
    Erich

    Erich J. Knight
    Shenandoah Gardens
    1047 Dave Berry Rd.
    McGaheysville, VA. 22840
    (540) 289-9750
    shengar@aol.com

    My Current efforts are trying to contact folks doing Metagenomic research and putting the Terra Preta bug in their ears.

    This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 1/3 Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.

    UN Climate Change Conference: Biochar present at the Bali Conference
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/steinerbalinov2107

    SCIAM Article May 15 07;
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=5670236C-E7F2-99DF-3E2163B9FB144E40

    After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales. It just needs to be seen by ethical globally minded companies.

    The main hurtle now is to change the current perspective held that the soil carbon cycle is a wash, to one in which soil can be used as a massive and ubiquitous Carbon sink via Charcoal. Below are the first concrete steps in that direction;
    S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

    A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

    Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

    for the 2007 Farm Bill

    http://www.biochar-international.org/newinformationevents/newlegislation.html

    Bolstering Biomass and Biochar development: In the 2007 Farm Bill, Senator Salazar was able to include $500 million for biomass research and development and for competitive grants to develop the technologies and processes necessary for the commercial production of biofuels and bio-based products. Biomass is an organic material, usually referring to plant matter or animal waste. Using biomass for energy can reduce waste and air pollution. Biochar is a byproduct of producing energy from biomass. As a soil treatment, it enhances the ability of soil to capture and retain carbon dioxide.

    Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.

    Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Biomass by 2030by Ralph P. Overend, Ph.D. and Anelia Milbrandt
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory
    http://www.ases.org/climatechange/toc/07_biomass.pdf

    The organization 25×25 released it’s (first-ever, 55-page )”Action Plan” ; see; http://www.25×25.org/storage/25×25/documents/IP%20Documents/ActionPlanFinalWEB_04-19-07.pdf
    On page 29 , as one of four foci for recommended RD&D, the plan lists: “The development of biochar, animal agriculture residues and other non-fossil fuel based fertilizers, toward the end of integrating energy production with enhanced soil quality and carbon sequestration.”
    and on p 32, recommended as part of an expanded database aspect of infrastructure: “Information on the application of carbon as fertilizer and existing carbon credit trading systems.”

    .

    There are 24 billion tons of carbon controlled by man in his agriculture and waste stream, all that farm & cellulose waste which is now dumped to rot or digested or combusted and ultimately returned to the atmosphere as GHG should be returned to the Soil.

    Even with all the big corporations coming to the GHG negotiation table, like Exxon, Alcoa, .etc, we still need to keep watch as they try to influence how carbon management is legislated in the USA. Carbon must have a fair price, that fair price and the changes in the view of how the soil carbon cycle now can be used as a massive sink verses it now being viewed as a wash, will be of particular value to farmers and a global cool breath of fresh air for us all.

    Also Here is the Latest BIG Terra Preta Soil news;

    Biopact, a leading bioenergy web site, has announced the creation of a “Biochar Fund” to help poor farmers improve their quality of life without hurting the environment.

    http://biocharfund.com/

    Beyond Zero Emissions interviews Dr Lukas Van Zweitan senior research scientist of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). Who is working hand-on with soil research focusing on Bio Char ;

    ” ten-fold reductions in nitrous oxide soil emissions.”

    More Carbon for Soils More Carbon for Crops – Carbon Negative Farming with Bio Char | Zero Emissions Climate Change Global Warming Solution

    The Honolulu Advertiser: “The nation’s leading manufacturer of charcoal has licensed a University of Hawai’i process for turning green waste into barbecue briquets.”

    See: http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/antalkingsford

    ConocoPhillips Establishes $22.5 Million Pyrolysis Program at Iowa State

    http://www.conocophillips.com/newsroom/news_releases/2007news/04-10-2007.htm

    Glomalin, the recently discovered soil protien, may be the secret to to TP soils productivity;
    http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2003/030205.htm
    Mycorrhizae Inoculents; http://www.mycorrhizae.com/

    The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) conference held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. The papers from this conference are posted at their home page; http://www.biochar-international.org/home.html

    Here is my current Terra Preta posting/prapganda which condenses the most important stories and links;
    Terra Preta Soils Technology 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 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 to where it belongs.

    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 of carbon.

    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 stable charcoal in the soil.

    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 Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 1/3 Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions, and 3X FertilityToo

    This some what orphaned 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 or a Carbon tax in place.

    .Nature article, Aug 06: Putting the carbon back Black is the new green:
    http://bestenergies.com/downloads/naturemag_200604.pdf

    Here’s the Cornell page for an over view:
    http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/biochar/Biochar_home.htm

    University of Beyreuth TP Program, Germany http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=taxonomy/term/118

    This Earth Science Forum thread on these soils contains further links, and has been viewed by 70,000 self-selected folks. ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):
    http://forums.hypography.com/earth-science/3451-terra-preta.html

    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.

    The reason TP has elicited such interest on the Agricultural/horticultural side of it’s benefits is this one static:

    One gram of charcoal cooked to 650 C Has a surface area of 400 m2 (for soil microbes & fungus to live on), now for conversion fun:

    One ton of charcoal has a surface area of 400,000 Acres!! which is equal to 625 square miles!! Rockingham Co. VA. , where I live, is only 851 Sq. miles

    Now at a middle of the road application rate of 2 lbs/sq ft (which equals 1000 sqft/ton) or 43 tons/acre yields 26,000 Sq miles of surface area per Acre. VA is 39,594 Sq miles.

    What this suggest to me is a potential of sequestering virgin forest amounts of carbon just in the soil alone, without counting the forest on top.

    To take just one fairly representative example, in the classic Rothampstead experiments in England where arable land was allowed to revert to deciduous temperate woodland, soil organic carbon increased 300-400% from around 20 t/ha to 60-80 t/ha (or about 20-40 tons per acre) in less than a century (Jenkinson & Rayner 1977). The rapidity with which organic carbon can build up in soils is also indicated by examples of buried steppe soils formed during short-lived interstadial phases in Russia and Ukraine. Even though such warm, relatively moist phases usually lasted only a few hundred years, and started out from the skeletal loess desert/semi-desert soils of glacial conditions (with which they are inter-leaved), these buried steppe soils have all the rich organic content of a present-day chernozem soil that has had many thousands of years to build up its carbon (E. Zelikson, Russian Academy of Sciences, pers. comm., May 1994). http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/carbon1.html

    All the Biochar Companies and equipment manufactures I’ve found:

    Carbon Diversion
    http://www.carbondiversion.com/

    Eprida: Sustainable Solutions for Global Concerns
    http://www.eprida.com/home/index.php4

    BEST Pyrolysis, Inc. | Slow Pyrolysis – Biomass – Clean Energy – Renewable Ene
    http://www.bestenergies.com/companies/bestpyrolysis.html

    Dynamotive Energy Systems | The Evolution of Energy
    http://www.dynamotive.com/

    Ensyn – Environmentally Friendly Energy and Chemicals
    http://www.ensyn.com/who/ensyn.htm

    Agri-Therm, developing bio oils from agricultural waste
    http://www.agri-therm.com/

    Advanced BioRefinery Inc.
    http://www.advbiorefineryinc.ca/

    Technology Review: Turning Slash into Cash
    http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/17298/

    3R Environmental Technologies Ltd. (Edward Someus)
    WEB: http://www.terrenum.net/

    The company has Swedish origin and developing/designing medium and large scale carbonization units. The company is the licensor and technology provider to NviroClean Tech Ltd British American organization WEB: http://www.nvirocleantech.com and VERTUS Ltd.
    http://www.vertustechnologies.com

    Genesis Industries, licensee of Eprida technology, provides carbon-negative EPRIDA energy machines at the same cost as going direct to Eprida. Our technical support staff also provide information to obtain the best use of biochar produced by the machine. Recent research has shown that EPRIDA charcoal (biochar) increases plant productivity as it sequesters carbon in soil, thus reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    http://www.egenindustries.com/

    If pre-Columbian Kayopo Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 15% of the Amazon basin using “Slash & CHAR” verses “Slash & Burn”, 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 energy return over energy input (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.

    Erich J. Knight
    Shenandoah Gardens
    1047 Dave Berry Rd.
    McGaheysville, VA. 22840
    (540) 289-9750
    shengar@aol.com

  2. Rich Schell 15 April, 2008 at 5:18 pm #

    Thought your blog was a great discussion of where chemistry meets green. Check out my blog at http://www.schellacres.com for my thoughts on “green compliance”

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