Biochar Production

The Market Validation Program (Round 1)

Earth Systems is undertaking Proof-of-Concept work on biochar production from woody waste with substantial funding from the Victorian State Government. The study covers the technical and economic feasibility of a portable device, designed by Earth Systems, to produce biochar from willows and other woody weed waste associated with the operations of Victoria’s North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA), and the potential to reduce NECMA’s greenhouse gas emissions. The work has been carried out with funding from the Victorian Government’s Smart Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Market Validation Program (MVP) via the Department of Business and Innovation (DBI), following a Technology Requirement Specification (TRS) submission by NECMA (Note: DBI was formerly known as Department of Innovation, Industry, and Regional Development or DIIRD). The Smart SMEs MVP is a $28 million competitive grant that seeks to engage with both government and businesses to promote innovation.

The program aims to support SMEs to develop innovative products, processes, and services focused on meeting the technology needs of Victorian public sector entities.

Earth Systems was one of the SMEs selected to proceed through the second stage (Feasibility Study Report). The report, covering technical, economic, regulatory and environmental considerations for the proposed solution was completed and reviewed by independent industry experts selected by the DBI.  Following the review, an announcement was made on the 9th of September 2010, by former Minister Gavin Jennings (now Minister Louise Asher) that Earth Systems would proceed to the third stage (Proof-of-Concept) of the program. A total of $1.41 million has been allocated for this project to conduct the Proof-of-Concept work over the next 18 months.

The Project

The biochar manufacturing device conceived and evaluated in the feasibility study is intended for integration with existing field operations of NECMA and will minimise additional operating costs.  By transporting the device to the work site, the costs associated with bringing the biomass to a central processing location are avoided. The device is also intended to operate on large pieces of material,  in order to by-pass issues associated with on-site chipping large volumes of woody matter with tramp material (stones, metal etc).  By having primary heating and emission control (after-burner) operations supplied by bottled liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), complex manual solid fuel handling operations are avoided for a relatively small greenhouse emissions penalty. The Proof-of-Concept stage involves Earth Systems and the identified suppliers for the biochar manufacturing device carrying out larger scale trials, fabricating the full scale device, and performing working demonstrations of the technology solution proposed in the Feasibility Study Report.

The biochar prototype unit is already out in the field producing high quality biochar and charcoal (see below). Click here for more details on the transportable pyrolysis unit.

The Earth Systems and NECMA project team gratefully acknowledges the financial and other support of the Victorian Government Department of Business and Innovation through the Smart SMEs Market Validation Program.


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