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The Case for Burying Charcoal
Tyler Hamilton, Technology Review (MIT)
Research shows that pyrolysis is the most climate-friendly way to consume biomass.
Several states in this country and a number of Scandinavian countries are trying to supplant some coal-burning by burning biomass such as wood pellets and agricultural residue. Unlike coal, biomass is carbon-neutral, releasing only the carbon dioxide that the plants had absorbed in the first place.
But a new research paper published online in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy argues that the battle against global warming may be better served by instead heating the biomass in an oxygen-starved process called pyrolysis, extracting methane, hydrogen, and other byproducts for combustion, and burying the resulting carbon-rich char.
Even if this approach would mean burning more coal–which emits more carbon dioxide than other fossil-fuel sources–it would yield a net reduction in carbon emissions, according to the analysis by Malcolm Fowles, a professor of technology management at the Open University, in the United Kingdom.
(26 April 2007)
USDA Research Suggests the Amount of Corn Stover Available for Ethanol Production Must Be Reduced to Preserve Soil Quality
Green Car Congress
The US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) has undertaken a large-scale, five-year project to determine the amount of crop residues (e.g., corn stover, cover crop) that must remain on the land in order to maintain soil organic carbon (SOC) and sustain production.
The Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP), which began last year and runs through 2011, is conducting a series of experiments to estimate the amount of residue needed to maintain soil organic carbon and productivity. Focusing on factors including tillage and residue removal and conducted under several environments, these experiments will measure biomass production, grain yield, and change in soil organic carbon.
(25 April 2007)