Biochar for horticultural and agricultural applications using high temperature torrefaction technology

Biochar for horticultural and agricultural applications using high temperature torrefaction technology

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Abstract

Biochar for horticultural and agricultural applications using high temperature torrefaction technology
Pradeep Ravi

Supervisors: Prof Dr. D.J.E.M Roekaerts, ir.Bart de Vries, Dr. Luis Cutz, Dr.Lorenzo Botto & Dr.Ralph Lindeboom

Biomass currently accounts for less than 10 percentage of the world’s renewable energy production. Currently the major global sustainability issue stems from the sourcing of virgin wood chips from dense forests for pellet production. An alternative is to use residual biomass from agriculture or forestry, which is produced in large volumes, to produce different products that range from biofuels to chemicals via thermochemical conversion technologies. Among thermochemical technologies, torrefaction is a promising route to produce solid biofuel known as biochar. With an increasing potential for biomass production coupled with an increased scrutiny on the use of biomass as a green fuel, the need for alternative clean applications for the biochar is critical.

The aim of this study is to investigate new and novel agricultural residues or other waste streams to produce biochar using high temperature (350 °C) torrefaction technology. The obtained biochar is evaluated experimentally to determine the best feedstocks out of the ones that are selected from a performance and cost point of view for horticultural applications.
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This research aims to provide a clear and useful analytical tool which will benefit the scientific community to select suitable biomass materials based on material properties and end applications. The efficacy for the various torrefied biomass feedstocks on the soil and its stability are tested. Overall, about 50 different biomass feedstocks were identified and evaluated based on past performances from literature. The top 10 best performing feedstocks were sourced and subjected to various physical and chemical characterization tests with a specific focus on soil remediation. The selected materials were torrefied in a fixed bed pilot reactor Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) and pH measurements. Ultimately the feedstocks were scored and ranked from best to worst performing biochar for soil remediation and sequestration-based applications. The results of this project indicate potential for biochar production from woody, grassy and other processed materials that could help to remove the dependence on evergreen forests and wood chips. The system proposed in this work could also yield negative emissions since the feedstocks are residual flows and the biochar is going to be used in the soil.