some time ago there was some quite heated discussion on the ASPO email list about whether or not biochar charcoal fertiliser and fuel systems would work in the rural community because of the vast distances in Australia’s farmland communities. It was proposed that it cost too much energy & money to get all the biomass to the biochar pyrolysis plant. Now it appears that BIGchar are thinking about how to expand the mobile biochar truck into a mobile biochar AND syngas production unit.
So if a farm has a few hundred tons of agriwaste the BIGchar might one day be providing a service on-site that will not only improve the soil permanently with each application of biochar (also locking up the Co2 that would otherwise escape back into the atmosphere), but also generate the farmer some fuel.
What I’d love to know is, how much agricultural and rural machinery can be retrofitted to run on syngas?
Anyway, this is the email/post the BIGchar guys contributed to a science forum I sometimes visit.
James here, one of the BiGchar technology developers. In short yes and that was exactly the discussion I was having with a fuel gas proiject developer yesterday.
A biomass to syngas unit could fit on a semitrailer. This would be sufficient to make roughly 500 kg of syngas per day. Tiny and inefficient by normal refinery standards, but more than enough to fuel a small fleet of vehicles. Syngas to liquid fuels is tougher, much more costly and would take as much room again. Biomass to bio-oil sounds easier, but bio-oils are require significant upgrading (mostly hydrogenation) to be used as transport fuels.
There is certainly scope to make an entire farm’s fuel/energy needs on site, with the ability to sell the surplus, BUT .. and and is a big BUT the cost of a 500 kg/day syngas unit at this time would be roughly $1M. This is a significant barrier to entry, made worse by the fact that that there are no demonstration units running anwhere yet. We are negotiating to have one installed in the next 12 months. Over time these will beome much cheaper … but you have to overcome the development timelines first.