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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 8:45 am 
Biochar is becoming known for being a powerful solution for many serious environmental problems

Gila WoodNet began working with Bill Knauss of Columbus, NM, a few years ago to develop practical systems for making biochar from waste woody biomass.

Biochar is simply pure carbon (charcoal) made by heating biomass enough to gasify and drive off the volatile compounds contained in the woody cells (think "boiling"). The gases, which we know better as smoke, can be used as energy, either directly as fuel in an engine, or burned for heat.

Biochar is virtually inert carbon, though it is filled with micropores that can store water, nutrients, and microbes. When it is loaded up with those things and added to the soil it can dramatically increase productivity for growing plants, even while using less water and fertilizer. And once in the soil, biochar will last for hundreds or thousands of years continuing to do its job.

Two years ago GWN and Restoration Technologies partnered with Sandia Labs, through the NM Small Business Assistance program (NMSBA will provide up to $20,000 in funding to have engineers from the National Labs and universities do research for private companies), to have locally produced biochar analyzed to determine its porosity and contaminant content. It was shown to be highly appropriate for use as a soil amendment.

Biochar can also be used for cleaning water (now think activated carbon filter) because of its high porosity and tiny electrical affinity for some things like heavy metals. During the initial Sandia work the question was asked if biochar could be used in cleaning contaminated mine wastewater (now think Gold King Mine in Colorado). So Restoration Technologies applied for a leveraged project, meaning five companies collaborate to request research (NMSBA funding expands to a maximum of $100,000 to pay for research) for the Sandia Labs folks to evaluate the capacity of local biochar to adsorb heavy metals and other pollutants. The project was presented to the review committee in ABQ three weeks ago and was approved for $90,000 in funding.

Biochar addresses environmental issues on five fronts:

-It is a higher value product that can be made from forest restoration residues, thereby improving the economics supporting restoring watersheds and reducing catastrophic fire danger;

-It can probably be used to help avoid the Gold King Mine type of catastrophe that is threatened by an estimate 500,000 abandoned mine sites in the U.S.;

-It can be used to improve the productivity of soils while reducing fertilizer use;

-It can reduce the need for irrigation water in arid agricultural regions (the biggest use of water in the Colorado River basin);

-Biochar can nearly permanently sequester three times its weight in atmospheric carbon dioxide, thus having one of the best practical potentials for geo-engineering a reversal of global warming.

The five businesses collaborating with Sandia Labs on this project are: Restoration Technologies, Gila Wood Products, and Gila Tree Thinners - all located in Grant County; Duran Bokich Enterprises in Elephant Butte; and Alan Kuhn Associates in Bernalillo County.

 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 7:46 am 
Very impressive!

 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:08 am 
Thanks for the kudos.

I would like to make a point that what we are doing (and have been doing for two decades here) goes unrecognized by the local official economic development entities as anything of significance.

Somehow, we need to change the culture of our community to leadership by the folks who have good ideas.

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