The key is to move fast

There is a solution to all the CO2 being released to the atmosphere by rotting beetle killed pine in B.C.. See previous post. But as the report says "the key is to move fast". Efforts described in this report would  provide side benefits of helping agriculture and providing power not to mention employment in work starved lumber towns. B.C. could really make an impact compared to the puny effect of a carbon tax.

The situation isn’t hopeless. When British Columbia released its provincial energy plan last February, it announced that B.C. Hydro would consider proposals for harvesting trees infested with pine beetles for energy generation.

Vancouver-based Nexterra Energy, for example, has teamed up Pristine Power of Calgary to establish a network of small gasification power plants in B.C. that could turn infested wood into 200 megawatts of electricity. Rather than let the trees rot and release methane, which is 21 times more potent than CO2, the idea is to extract usable energy out of them that would displace dirtier electricity and clear the forest for new growth.

The key is to move fast, leaving less time for the dead trees to decay. Another, and arguably more effective, approach is to harvest the trees and convert them to char, or "biochar." Using a process called pyrolysis, the wood is essentially baked in the absence of oxygen and converted into a carbon-rich char.

This char contains about 60 per cent of the carbon in the original wood and, unlike wood, the char won’t decay – it remains chemically stable for hundreds of years, trapping the carbon permanently.

Another bonus is that char can be ground up and spread over topsoil to improve crop fertility and enhance nutrients and water retention in soil. Since the carbon is bound in the char, it is effectively sequestered in the soil.

Cornell University’s Johannes Lehmann, a leading expert on biochar studies, said it’s something the B.C. government might want to look at. "It could be that a good portion of the emissions (from the dead trees) can be avoided by conversion of the damaged biomass into biochar," he wrote in an email.

The beauty with char is that you can pack it and weigh it. You know how much carbon is locked into a kilogram of char, so calculating carbon credits is easy compared to alternatives, such as guessing how much CO2 a new forest will absorb.

Perhaps some clever entrepreneur will see the potential of selling bags of pine-beetle wood char as a way of boosting the performance of residential gardens. Source:

What this report doesn’t mention is the valuable products and fuels that can be produced through wood pyrolysis.

Washington, April 13 (ANI): Scientists have developed a new method that can rapidly produce low-cost biofuels from wood and grass.

Known as catalytic fast pyrolysis, the method has been developed by George Huber of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US.

By turning plant biomass such as wood and grasses into “green gasoline” using one simple step, the process would be much less expensive than conventional gasoline or ethanol made from corn.

Huber’s method is for making biofuels from cellulose, the non-edible portion of plant biomass and a major component of grasses and wood.

At 10 to 30 dollars per barrel of oil energy equivalent, cellulosic biomass is significantly cheaper than crude oil.


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