Using Local Biomass Resources for Clean Energy Production

Attendees:  21

April 9, 2009

Speaker: Bernie Weingardt, retired Forest Service Ranger, headed the Dillon Ranger District between 1966 and 1989. He later became the Pacific Southwest Regional Forester.
Exploring ways to use beetle-kill wood (blue stain pine), Bernie Weingardt presented a program on biochar and slow pyrolysis. Mr. Weingardt headed the Dillon Ranger District between 1986 and 1989, later becoming the Pacific Southwest regional forester. He is interested in lessening the carbon footprint by reducing carbon emissions from logging, burning, and decaying waste in the beetle-killed trees. Research stations use data to study how much carbon can be captured and used. 

One of the options presented comes from an ancient technique, as can be seen in the historic coke ovens or charcoal kilns alongside some trails. Early history indicates charcoal was added to the soil to hold water and aid fertility.

The process much refined, pyrolysis and gasification focus on utilizing renewable bio-based resources while providing clean energy from local sources of biomass. The result is to use generated gas as a heat source for the pyrolysis itself; an additional portion of generated gas used to dry the incoming material, and the final energy output can be utilized as a fuel in a commercial process or electrical generation.

Benefits of slow pyrolysis include: a small carbon footprint, integrated heat and power applications, and a tool to manage CO2 emissions from biomass waste. Slow pyrolysis significantly reduces the hauling of biomass to landfills and produces char to sequester CO2 in soils. Adding carbon as bio-char into the soil as a soil amendment is a process beneficial to mine or road reclamation. Another example includes existing full-circle wineries that use all of the grape vines as biomass in grape horticulture and wine production.

In addition to a discussion on biomass usage, the Task Force agenda included a report on the progress of several task force projects, including the in-school education program.