Nearly all agricultural processing produces leftovers. Those products either require disposal, or preferably offer another potential revenue stream.
One coproduct attracting increasing attention is biochar, the combusted remains of biomass or other raw materials that have been gasified. Scientist Al Doering heads up AURI’s coproduct utilization program and has been working with biochar since 2007.
“There’s been increased interest in biochar because as use of gasification systems expand, we will have more of this material available,” Doering says.
AURI has conducted research testing the fertilizer value of biochar for corn production as well as working on identifying densification technologies that could help make the light, soot-like material easier to handle. Technologies that have been testing include pelleting and briquetting. That densification could be key to new applications including co-firing the char with coal.
“The energy content of the biochar varies depending upon the gasification system,” Doering adds. The biochar still contains carbon and roughly 6,000 Btu per pound.
Additional research is planned for finding applications for the char including potentially mixing it with poultry bedding to reduce ammonia.