Biochar at Community Power Corporation:
Community Power Corporation’s patented BioMax® gasification systems use woody biomass as feedstock (what goes into the gasifier) to generate heat and electricity. The woody biomass must pass through a gasifier where it is heated to over 800° C. Under normal circumstances, when wood gets very hot, it burns. However, when passing through a gasifier, it is deprived of oxygen. Oxygen is required to make a flame. When woody biomass is heated in an environment where there is very little oxygen, the wood releases a mixture of flammable gasses, called syngas. The syngas is sucked through a filtration system and used similarly to gasoline to power engines which turn a generator and make electricity. Learn more about BioMax® gasification.
Not all of the biomass in this scenario vaporizes/is converted into syngas. What’s leftover is the carbon skeleton of what was once the woody biomass (wood chips, walnut shells, etc.). This carbon-rich product is called biochar. Biochar has many uses and can be made from many different types of biomass making it a valuable byproduct of CPC’s BioMax® gasification systems.
The biochar produced from a BioMax® gasification system is of particularly high quality for a few reasons:
- Consistent feedstock: While the BioMax® systems as a whole are versatile and can use various feedstocks (biomass), once installed, that particular BioMax®unit will generally use the same feedstock for several years. The feedstock is also of a consistent size, moisture content, and composition. Other biochar producers use a myriad of biomass feedstocks and package it as the same biochar product when it can have widely varying properties due to various types of woody biomass being converted into biochar at the same time.
- Temperature and flow rate: The BioMax® gasification systems are fully automated and operate under very specific temperature ranges and flow rates 24/7. All of the feedstock (biomass) will flow through the gasifier at the same pace and be heated to the same temperature. Other biochar producers do not have the ability to produce biochar under such regular conditions. Even if feedstock is consistent, converting biomass to biochar at varying temperatures and time lengths can alter the biochar properties.
- Trusted analysis: All biochar sold by Community Power Corporation is certified by the International Biochar Initiative – the largest, most trusted biochar industry organization. Few biochar products on the market are made with IBI Certified biochar because they have the strictest standards for biochar quality. Visit the IBI website to learn more about the organization and biochar.
Currently available biochar products:
What is biomass?
A farmer grows walnut trees in California. He grows the trees to produce walnuts that he will sell to a walnut processor. The walnut processor will crack the walnuts and package them and sell them to food distributors who sell them to grocery stores.
The farmer in this scenario must maintain their walnut trees by trimming them. The farmer produces an agricultural residue when trimming the trees and amassing twigs and branches. The walnut processor also generates an agricultural residue when cracking walnuts to get to the walnut meat itself - all of the shells are leftover as waste. The agricultural residues of twigs, branches, and walnut shells in this scenario are all considered woody biomass.
Unfortunately, many farmers and processors are forced to either burn or leave piles of woody biomass to rot and decompose. When wood is burned or decomposes, it releases CO2 and methane back into the atmosphere. The burning and decomposition of carbon based agricultural residues is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions on the planet. Thus, the goal is to divert these agricultural residues into other industries instead of letting them go to waste and pollute the atmosphere.
The farmer and walnut processor can sell their agricultural residues to be used in other industries for making wood chips (from twigs and branches), mulch (walnut shells), livestock food (extra walnut meat), and more (woody biomass for companies like CPC).
If you think about it, there are virtually countless scenarios similar to the walnut farmer and processor where biomass can accumulate from agricultural practices. Think of any carbon based waste products: husks from corn, rice, or wheat, herbaceous waste from vegetables, lawn clippings, forest clearings, the list goes on and on.