I didn't see a speel on this topic yet so now we have one. I wrote this to a forum for bio-pellet maker's and thought that I would pass it along to you to read.
Hello, I am new to the forum and to pellet making altogether really. I am an open researcher of the net at the present time have become interested in many topics I come across. The downfall of the net, for some, is that there so much information, it can boggle the mind.
I ran across the videos put out by the web site on YouTube and decided to pose a question to the site administrator. They still have not gotten back to me, but I think from the posts on the forum you are a pretty busy group - he is likely looking into it.
The newest thing on the 'Save the World' front is Bio-char. I asked if the pellet machine would be able to convert bio-char into a pellet form. I do know that the bio-char can be hand pressed, or screw extruded into briquettes. This is done in many countries around the world. What I think would work the best is the small pellets that your group are making.
I will give a little bit of back ground for my idea. Researchers who have explored the rain forests of the Amazon have come across a soil type which is man-made. They call it 'Terra-Preta' or 'Dark Earth'. I have found out that the soil of the rain forest is not particularly suited to growing vegetation (this surprised me) and the ancient civilizations in the area would treat the soils. These plots of land they are finding today are estimated to be 100's of years old (in terms of last use) and are amazingly fertile as compared to other soils in the immediate area. They only run 4-5 feet in depth and cover the known growing plot area of the period. Todayâs natives actually hunt out these plots and sell the fertile soil as an income.
The keys to this fertile soil is a high carbon content and pottery chards. Both materials are very porous in nature. What happens is the nutrients that come to the treated soil gets trapped in the pores of the material and are held there, rather than being washed straight through the soil. These nutrients are then extracted from the material be the root systems of the plants as they grow. As the spaces in the material open up again they are refilled with newly arrived nutrients. This material has proven that it can remain in the soil for 100's of years - as is found in the 'Terra-Preta' plots.
By the way these plots are not isolated to the Amazon they are found around the World in different areas. The thing is that the way they are made - the technique was lost. These plots around the World are being used up and the farmers are running out of nutrient rich natural (organic) soil. Some feel that the burning of the fields in the way to go as it has been done that way for ages. Well, the soil is dying and it working. The soils are being depleted. Plant matter which is made of carbon, takes its building blocks from the soil and therefore the soil is lacking carbon after centuries of use. But, because we had one lazy, or work saving generation, who knows how long ago, we have lost the technique of how to care for the soils.
Tests run in Africa are showing an amazing 500+% increase in crop yields in the first year. They are still using un-organic fertilizers as that is what they thought they needed, but that can change now. Their soil is so bad in some areas that nothing would grow. If any farmer could get a 20% increase in annual yields they would be happy.
The reason that the use of chemicals came into large use was because of the depleted soils. If the chemicals did not wash away (trapped in the carbon for future use) there would be less need in the future. Ideally there would be none needed in the future.
So what are we doing? At present we grow plant material, burn it, and release the carbon into the atmosphere. I don't go for the global warming thing, but do feel it is not a good thing happening. The dirt on my car every day tells me that things are changing for the worse - I didn't see that as a child.
What we can do is grow the plant material, burn a portion of it to covert another portion of the material back into carbon, and put that carbon back into the soil. This cuts emissions to the air (from that aspect of society) to 50% of what it was. Pellets can play a big part in this.
My idea was to convert plant matter to char and the char to pellets. The pellets would be good as they are finding in test fields that the microbes in the soils like to grow in the larger pieces. 'It makes the soil happy' - they have a community of their own. You do not want too large of chunks as that makes the soil difficult to work with. Too small of piece (on surface soil) will be blown away on windy days. The windblown soil may not seem like a big thing, but the carbon has the nutrients now remember. Keep all you can on the fields instead of the forest. If you wish to recarbonize the forest soil, spread it through the forest in your spare time.
It should be said here that the carbon upon introduction to the soil will deplete the soil of nutrients at first. This is the carbon 'charging' itself. The pores of the carbon are filling and will have the nutrients there; it just looks like the nutrients are gone. This is why it is a good idea to pre-charge the carbon before introduction to the soil. Mix it with compost or manure for a couple of weeks and let the pores fill. The nutrients will then be added to the soil with the carbon. This where the pottery chars they find in 'Terra-Preta' come from. They are the holding vessels from the indoor urinals and toilets - charged and stinky they were broken in the fields.
This may not work as far as making pellets from bio-char goes. What about bio-char from pellets. This would be easy to test for you people. You have the machines and the wits to do it. The market is there if you want to sell the end material. Every back-yard composter, in every city will want this stuff.
I hope I wasn't too long winded on this. It is an important topic, especially if you are a rural resident. City dwellers with a green thumb can help, but the rural residents hold a majority of the bio-matter.
For more information Google 'bio-char' also 'making charcoal from wood' you can get into the worm castings and all that, but once the nutrients are in your soil the rest of the good things will come and live there without help.