Making biochar in the snow. This Flame Cap Kiln is 14 ga (1.9mm) steel and it weighs less than 200 lbs. It's an inverted, truncated pyramid with a bottom base of 122 cm (4 ft), a top base of 152 cm (6 ft) and sides 66 cm (26") high. Capacity is 1.2 cubic meters. Cost $600 to make in Oregon, USA.
Well I finally did it. Got some kilns out in the woods to burn slash piles that are normally incinerated to ash. Thanks to Grayback Forestry and Sean Hendrix for inviting us to bring the kilns to see what they could do. Each kiln consumed about 6-8 burn piles and made close to a cubic yard of char. It rained steadily all morning, but we were still able to make char. We lit up at 9 am and quenched at 12:30. I was pleased to see it took less than 50 gallons of water to completely quench one kiln. Took a lunch break and dumped the kilns and loaded them back on the trailer. Went pretty smooth, really.
Some of the Forest Service fire people were there and they said that 7 piles corresponds to about 40 feet of roadside thinning. So if you could unload 20 kilns along 800 feet of roadside, you could treat all the slash and make 20 cubic yards of biochar in 6 hours of work. If the feedstock is well-staged and you don't have to pull apart piles and move it long distances, I think one worker (a young, strong one, not me!) could feed 4 kilns continuously. So a crew of 6 could do it. You'd need a flatbed to transport the kilns and 1000 gal water truck to quench.
The only part I have not figured out yet is how to gather up the biochar for bagging. I'd like to try a shredder vacuum, but I worry about wet char sludge clogging up the works. Otherwise, a loader with a scoop could pack it into totes for sale. You'd get a little forest duff in the bags, but that's a bonus extra!
Web album here: https://picasaweb.google.com/113563255252052826854/OregonKilnSlashPiles?authuser=0&feat=directlink
Here's an album of pictures from the first firing of the Oregon Kiln that took place at Willow Witt Ranch on Nov 27, 2015. Thanks to Suzanne and Lanita of Willow Witt Ranch and helper Micah. Thanks also to Vicklund & Son for fabricating the kilns and mounting the jib crane to the trailer. The Oregon Kiln was designed by Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates (wilsonbiochar.com). The Oregon Kiln is a Flame Cap Biochar Kiln intended for use with forest slash and other kinds of waste wood commonly found in the forested regions of Oregon and elsewhere.
I was impressed with the efficiency of the kiln. We had some big chunks - 4"x4" and even a little bigger that charred nicely. And it did not take all day. I showed up at 10 am and we lit the rick at about 11 am. Quenched at around 5 pm. So the burn was only 6 hours long. Compare to my 4 foot diameter, 4 foot tall tube kiln that took 11 hours to fill. Total volume is almost the same. The Oregon kiln dimensions are 4' square bottom base, 5' square top base and about 25" elevation (sides are 26" wide).
Here is a simple description of how the kiln works:
You have to think of the Flame Cap Kiln as a retort that is made of steel on the bottom and of a stable gas vortex (actually a collection of vortices) on the top. Both function to exclude air, hold in heat, and char the feedstock.
Next task is to design some better wind screens - I'm thinking of something modular that can be moved around the kiln as needed.
Earlier on this blog, I posted several ideas about terminology for the cone kiln pyrolysis method. I proposed the acronym TFOD - for Top-Fed Open Draft. While this is descriptive of the process of feeding and operating the kiln, it does not really explain the pyrolysis principle utilized. And it is JAUA - Just Another Ugly Acronym.
So, after some discussion with friends at the Biochar Journal, we have converged on the terminology Flame Cap or Flame Curtain Kiln. I like Flame Cap Kiln because it best describes what I see in my kilns. The flame sits on top of the feedstock like a cap. The cap of flame excludes oxygen while applying heat.
South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership and Wilson Biochar Associates Announce New Biochar Grant and White Paper on Biochar and Forests
Tiller, Oregon – October 6, 2015. South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership (SURCP) has received a grant award from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of $75,000 through the NRCS statewide Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program.
The grant award will support SURCP’s biochar project: “On-Farm Production and Use of Biochar for Composting with Manure.” The two-year project will work with farmers and ranchers to transform two problem waste sources -- woody debris and animal manure -- into compost that will improve farm soils. SURCP has contracted with Kelpie Wilson of Wilson Biochar Associates to manage and direct the program.
Together with UBET (Umpqua Biochar Education Team), SURCP’s committee of biochar volunteers, Wilson will conduct workshops at participating farms to show farmers how to make biochar from brush piles and use it to help reduce odors in barns and accelerate the conversion of manure to high-quality compost.
Kelpie Wilson said: “I am thrilled to be working with the UBET group. I have come to know them through their annual Biochar Expo event as individuals who are highly dedicated to discovering and implementing sustainable farming practices that can enhance our lives. The idea for this biochar farm project came from UBET.”
The project will work with at least eight small farms and ranches throughout southern Oregon in Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties. In addition to making biochar and compost, the project will also perform material quality tests on the biochar and the compost and conduct plant growth studies using the biochar-compost.
Backyard Biochar This site has descriptions of my experiments with Flame Cap Kilns. I also report on work by others.
US Biochar Initiative I am on the advisory board of the USBI. We are sponsoring the 5th North American Biochar Symposium in Corvallis, Oregon - August 22-25, 2016
Illinois Valley Forest Collaborative I've been involved with the group in my hometown for several years. We are working with the US Forest Service on hazardous fuels and small diameter timber sales. Biochar is a part of what we do.
Umpqua Biochar Education Team (UBET) I am working with UBET on a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA-NRCS. We are helping small farmers learn how to make biochar and use it to manage manure and make premium compost.