The potential of green charcoal

About 2 billion people face problems with where there energy will come from.  Many of them don’t have access to alternative energy sources as of yet and so depend on finding and burning wood for their energy needs. All across Africa, Asia and Latin America that wood is becoming harder and harder to find.  The need for energy leads to deforestation, deforestation then highlights drought problems.  It can also lead to desertification of the landscape.  And burning of all of that lumber releases all of that CO2 into the atmosphere and adds to global climate change.

Luckily there is another source that people can turn to in order to produce their energy.  It is known as green charcoal.  Traditionally to make charcoal you would take wood and burn it with limited air.  This released a lot of harmful smoke and took wood in the first place.  In the making of green charcoal the thought process is similar, but the problematic bits are tweaked.  First off is the material being used.  Instead of wood all manner of biomass can be used.  This could be savannah grass or coffee husks, corn stems or wheat straw, even bamboo can be used.  Next instead of just burning it with dirt to limit the air the biomass is burnt in a closed system.  Now the released smoke can be captured and used for other purposes.

This process can provide energy that is needed in areas where trees are getting fewer and fewer.  As an added benefit the end product of this process is a substance called biochar.  It can be added into soils to make them richer and more fertile.  Also any of the carbon that would have been released from the burning of the biomass is sequestered in the ground instead of being released into the air and adding to global climate change.

Back in 2002 a company called Pro-Natura won some major awards with their equipment to produce biochar.  The latest version of that machine can produce 5 tons of biochar a day.  And to make it even better once it is preheated the process can make its own energy, except for what is needed to transfer the biomass.  This device is currently being used in parts of Africa with great effect.  The output can either be pressed into briquettes and used for domestic heat production or can be used as a soil amendment to improve farmlands.