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Kiwi Company Claims World First for
A world-first invention was unveiled in Blenheim in New Zealand
this week with a multi-billion dollar earning potential and the
ability to impact on carbon capture on a global scale.
Carbonscape has developed and patented a process for
manufacturing charcoal using microwave energy - a vastly more
energy efficient process than what is currently used.
The company has begun batch-scale production but hopes to raise
capital to scale up to a fully-integrated continuous production.
Carbonscape says that its technology can address existing
biowaste streams and that it has been invited to its their
technology on pine waste on site in commercial forests.
The company is also fielding international approaches,
including a United States interest looking at using corn waste
as a raw material for charcoal production. Carbonscape's unit
traps the carbon fixed in waste plant material in the form of
charcoal, which can be returned to the soil as biochar.
The invention came about when scientist Professor Chris Turney
was attempting to cook dinner in a hurry and accidentally blew
up the family microwave. He realised he had created pure carbon,
and immediately saw its potential in the marketplace.
Carbonspace's prototype machine, dubbed "the black phantom" was
manufactured by a local design and engineering team, and can be
fitted into a 40-foot shipping container. This means that it can
be taken into remote places.
"It is also possible to use the technology on a large scale
either by combining several smaller plants or by scaling up to
one big unit," says Carbonscape director Nick Gerritsen. "It
could be set up on a forestry skid site with a generator," he
says. "This means that wood waste could be processed on-site
leaving the forest owner with only the finished charcoal to
transport out of the forest." Source: Carbon News 200
METHOD OF SEQUESTERING CARBON DIOXIDE
Inventor: TURNEY CHRISTIAN STEWART MACGR (NZ); TURNEY IAN
Applicant: CARBONSCAPE LTD (NZ); TURNEY CHRISTIAN STEWART MACGR
(NZ); TURNEY IAN STEWART (NZ)
Cited documents: JP2004148176 // JP2004239187 // US4118282
Abstract -- The invention provides a method for
sequestering carbon dioxide. The method comprises cutting
organic material into chips, carbonising the chips of organic
material by applying microwave energy and storing the resulting
charcoal in a carbon sink.
Carbonscape: The Potential for Fixing
( Author of Ice, Mud and Blood: Lessons from Climates
As with all great stories it began with a potato. Longer ago
than I care to admit, there was a time when I was a young and
foolish teenager. Left at home on one of the rare occasions my
parents went out, I got it into my thick skull to microwave a
potato. Having no idea what to do, the timer was set to a
shockingly high 40 minutes. The inevitable result was a dead
microwave and a glowing black lump where the potato had once
been. It was one of those painful experiences in life that one
tries to forget but years later it opened up a line of thought.
We need to get the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
down, and fast. Could microwaving plant material help? Using
patented technology, I’ve been working with a team to set up a
new company called Carbonscape which is doing just that.
As many readers will know, technology now exists to capture
carbon dioxide (CO2) direct from any major source that emits the
offending gas. The crucial point is that the carbon dioxide can
be captured and stored underground; an approach commonly
referred to Carbon Capture and Storage (or CCS). This does sound
rather wonderful but unfortunately there are still major
problems. There are very real concerns that CCS may not be the
environmental solution it’s cracked up to be: this technology
only deals with greenhouse gas emissions produced by large
single sources, such as power stations, while the captured gases
that are supposedly stored have the potential of escaping back
to the atmosphere. If this wasn’t enough, CCS won’t become
commercially available for at least another decade and can only
capture carbon dioxide being released in the future; it does
nothing to claw back the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.
Using photosynthesis, plants are remarkably efficient absorbers
of carbon dioxide. One alternative approach is to utilise
natural sinks for sequestering carbon. Forests are one
possibility. The potential of the terrestrial biosphere is
enormous. Consider the figures. Each year we emit 8 billion
tonnes of carbon. In contrast, 120 billion tonnes of carbon are
sucked out of the atmosphere each year by photosynthesis on
land. Unfortunately for us, all of this is pretty much returned
to the atmosphere through respiration and decomposition of plant
charcoalFortunately, however, we know from scientific studies
that charcoal can store carbon for thousands of years. Ancient
fires preserved in archaeological sites, including those found
with ancient human remains, show carbon can be stable for
thousands of years. This is because charcoal is highly resistant
to microbial breakdown. Once formed, the charcoal effectively
keeps the carbon out of the atmosphere and ocean for virtually
We’ve taken this idea a step further at Carbonscape. Developing
an industrial-scale unit, we’re converting wood waste and other
biomass into charcoal. Our proprietary industrial microwave
technology means that in spite of the energy used during
production, the carbon captured draws down significantly more
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it produces. Each
industrial-scale unit converts 40-50% of wood debris into
charcoal; one tonne of carbon dioxide can be fixed as charcoal
per day. By converting carbon in organic material to charcoal,
it can be then put into the ground where it does the most good.
At Carbonscape we hope we’re adding a new commercial reason for
reforestation. Once wood has been turned into charcoal, the
cleared area can be replanted, allowing us to repeat the process
when the plants have matured, effectively sucking yet more
carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A great example is the
USA: if the 200 million hectares of forest used for timber
production were turned to charcoal instead, each crop rotation
would help bring carbon dioxide levels down by some 10 parts per
million. And it’s not just potatoes or wood that can be turned
into charcoal: other organic material (even sewage) can be
turned into a permanent carbon sink.
The possibilities for fixing carbon are truly enormous.
Agron J 100:178-181 (2008)
The Charcoal Vision: A Win–Win–Win
Scenario for Simultaneously Producing Bioenergy,
Permanently Sequestering Carbon, while Improving Soil and
David A. Laird*
USDA, ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Dr.,
Ames, IA 50011
* Corresponding author ([email protected]).
Processing biomass through a distributed network of fast
pyrolyzers may be a sustainable platform for producing energy
from biomass. Fast pyrolyzers thermally transform biomass into
bio-oil, syngas, and charcoal. The syngas could provide the
energy needs of the pyrolyzer. Bio-oil is an energy raw material
(~17 MJ kg–1) that can be burned to generate heat or shipped to
a refinery for processing into transportation fuels. Charcoal
could also be used to generate energy; however, application of
the charcoal co-product to soils may be key to sustainability.
Application of charcoal to soils is hypothesized to increase
bioavailable water, build soil organic matter, enhance nutrient
cycling, lower bulk density, act as a liming agent, and reduce
leaching of pesticides and nutrients to surface and ground
water. The half-life of C in soil charcoal is in excess of 1000
yr. Hence, soil-applied charcoal will make both a lasting
contribution to soil quality and C in the charcoal will be
removed from the atmosphere and sequestered for millennia.
Assuming the United States can annually produce 1.1 x 109 Mg of
biomass from harvestable forest and crop lands, national
implementation of The Charcoal Vision would generate enough
bio-oil to displace 1.91 billion barrels of fossil fuel oil per
year or about 25% of the current U.S. annual oil consumption.
The combined C credit for fossil fuel displacement and permanent
sequestration, 363 Tg per year, is 10% of the average annual
U.S. emissions of CO2–C.