The biochar program at SEC recently received some great news regarding Cal Fire grants that have been awarded under the Business and Workforce Development program. Three out of the four grants we helped develop and will play a significant role in were funded. These include 1) an emissions testing proposal for the conservation burn technique and the Ring of Fire kilns that we have been promoting throughout California for a number of years; 2) a feasibility analysis for a biomass to biochar facility that would be located in Sonoma County; and 3) a biochar marketing study focused on the SF Bay Area, looking specifically at compost facilities, dairies (co-composting biochar & manure, pollution & odor mitigation), and stormwater filtration applications.
The testing proposal was awarded to the San Luis Obispo Air Quality Management District, with major management and logistics tasks to be performed by Sonoma Ecology Center. The biomass will be supplied by the Usal Redwood Forest Company, the testing itself will be done both in the field and in the lab by the USFS Missoula Fire Science Lab in Montana, and a complete Life Cycle Analysis and GHG accounting will be done by Dr. James Amonette of Washington State University.
The feasibility analysis will focus on the large amount of surplus chips and logs produced by Atlas Tree, Inc. in their fuels reduction and urban tree care activities, and the feasibility of converting some or all of this material into biochar, renewable energy, and other merchantable products. We will be collaborating with Tom Miles Technical Consultants, a well-respected biomass energy expert who is also the Executive Director of the US Biochar Initiative, to assist with the analysis.
The Bay Area biochar marketing study was awarded to Earth Foundries, Inc., a startup created by Roger and DeDe Smullen in Santa Clara County focused on providing sustainable methods for processing low-value, surplus biomass into biochar and energy. This company was awarded a second grant to assist in the purchase of a Tigercat Carbonator, a large-scale, transportable biomass processor with a throughput of up to 15 tons of unchipped material per hour, converting about 10% to biochar.
Our biochar team at SEC will start working on these projects in mid-July, and we are very thankful for Cal Fire’s continued support of biochar-related projects and their recognition of its wood utilization and carbon sequestration potential.