Redwood Forest Foundation
Biochar and Torrefaction
Community Forestry in Action
As reported in the fall, Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) and its partners have received partial funding for the
Biochar Demonstration Project
from the Dept. of Water Resources. Now RFFI and its partners must secure funding for the first year of plant operation. After that, the plant is projected to be able to pay for itself from the revenue generated by biochar sales. This community project explores alternate uses for unwanted young, crowded, tan oak-dominated stands within the Usal Redwood Forest. The project is a community-based effort to create environmentally, economically and socially beneficial alternatives to traditional herbicide use.
Biochar is created through a process called pyrolysis, where wood is heated in the absence of oxygen. The end product is a charcoal-like substance called Biochar - a useful amendment that can increase the nutrient exchange capacity of degraded soils, as well as reduce leaching, increase microbial activity, improve water drainage and infiltration, and adjust soil PH. Biochar consists mostly of the carbon that was originally stored in the wood. Once buried, this carbon can remain trapped for hundreds to thousands of years creating an effective carbon sink.
Partnerships with the UC Extension, North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council and the North Coast Integrated Regional Water Management Plan have integrated this small project into regional efforts that allow for information sharing and project replication throughout the North Coast. RFFI is expanding this collaborative approach to include the Forestry Department at Humboldt State University (HSU). The Humboldt county partners are working on a torrefaction plant that may have applicability for dealing with unwanted biomass.
Torrefaction is a thermal process to convert biomass into a coal-like material, which has better fuel characteristics than the original biomass. RFFI's biochar plant will be tested at HSU, and RFFI will consider the applicability of torrefaction to Usal based on the results of the HSU studies. Stay tuned for more news about these beneficial collaborative projects. It is one small piece of our emerging restoration-based economy in which removal of small-diameter brush and trees helps create healthier forest ecosystems, local jobs and movement towards a sustainable and equitable resource-based economy.
Read the article in our fall newsletter for a detailed review of the
Biochar Demonstration Project.