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Commercial Biochar Machine Options

 
Scott Raber
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I am all for the 55 gallon drum and improvised systems but am trying to find a biochar machine for sale. I saw one that looked great. I think it was in a documentary. It was in use at a permaculture operation in Japan (the one with all the concrete terracing?...). It made wood vinegar and turpentine and biochar and it was all shiny chrome and looked easy to use. I need to do more market research but I think it would be a swell idea to buy something like that and produce those products around Chicago here. Is this feasable? Does anyone know what machine I am talking about or what machine would be a good investment. Would this be a good business to start where I could also go around to sites and produce biochar ect on site? Is anyone doing this in the Chicago area? I am looking for businesses to fund my project to buy land and build a house.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Scott,

I believe the machine you are referring to is in a presentation by geoff lawton; Re-Greening a Mountain. (a teaser is available on youtube, but one has to see the full version on his website.) It was in a botanical garden in Hong Kong. Yes, they are available. If I have some time I will try to find the one's I have seen for sale. However, they are ridiculously expensive ($5 grand and up) to make charcoal. I will say this. Before you invest in a machine like that, try a pit method. My brother and I made about a cubic meter of char in an afternoon in a metal above ground fire pit that had far too many holes for airflow. I should not have worked. However, I kept dropping green branches on the fire as fast as it would catch. This kept the fire up top and heated the lower stock hot enough to gasify without burning. Worked far better than I though it could. I think you will be surprised with the results of simpler systems, although you won't be able to collect the byproducts. But the capital expenditure is far less.

Kilns for sale:

http://www.biochar.info/biochar.large-scale-biochar-production.cfml

http://biochar-us.org/manufacturers-retailers
 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Scott,

If you are truly interested in this as a business plan, look into the research that Washington State has done on turning cardboard bales into biochar: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/1207033.pdf pg 16. I think it warrants further study. With global shipping traffic coming to a virtual standstill now, there will soon be a back log of OCC or recycled cardboard as it is called in the industry piling up on the docks. Formerly, this was a big backhaul export to China. I know when I was running a business the ebb and flow of the price I received for my bales were directly tied to inbound traffic at the port. (The more goods coming into the country, the more empty containers that need to be filled to make it worth sending them back.) Right now, ship traffic, coming and going is dead. Recyclers will start charging business to haul away their recycle because they will have to drop it in a landfill with that market gone.

I was looking recently and starting to see places outside the US advertising their bales "free to pick up", so that trend has begun. A person could get all the feedstock they want for little to nothing, except the transport. There are several large kiln type that could adapt to the standard 60" bale. The limiting factor is the distribution. If you go down that road, put a sales presentation together on the "green" of recycle into char, and sell the idea to existing dirt yards. They could sell a premium value added product to their existing market base much easier than you could develop a market.

Another option would be to approach lumber mills. They generate a lot of waste, but do a good job of converting their waste stream to a cash stream; but it is still cheap stock. The other thing is pulp. With construction in this country and in China also down in the extreme, the pulp product they once loaded into containers and shipped to the Pacific Rim is not moving, so pulp prices have tanked. At the price level they are at, it might be cost effective to burn pulp from the mills or buy the pulp stock from the foresters at even lower prices. Of course that depends on your geographic location. I don't know how many mills are near the Chicago area.

The mobile option could work, but remember, transportation costs will add up quick, unless they provide the feedstock.
 
Scott Raber
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Thank you so much. This is all very helpful. I appreciate the leads to no nonsense pragmatic info and the advice from someone who has experience. I would like to pick your brain on this some more as you seem to have some insight. However I am calling it a day right now. I just can't read anymore today. Just wanted to let you know I will be getting back to you.
Did not have time to check if you linked to the exact one they had in the video which I am sort of infatuated with. But I do want to get into this as a business. I have the capitol and intend to finish a business plan for it this year. Maybe you have insight on that. Thanks. I will be in touch.
 
Scott Raber
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     I just sent an inquiry to New England Biochar. The metal Adam retorts he sells seem to be what I am looking for because they are mobile, apparently extract wood vinegar and tar, and meet United States standards. I looked through all the links and most of them had blank links or something or they did not sell machines themselves. The University of Washington research is fantastic. Of course you could research biochar until you are blue in the face but I just want to get a machine soon and not spend all my time fooling around in a yard. I found what seems like the machine I saw in the video on Alibaba, but I will be sending the farm in Japan an inquiry about their machine. It will depend on the price difference and efficiency assuming I get a lead on the Japanese model. The price on the machine I found on Alibaba is not clear, so I am sending an email to them too, but imagine the transport costs will be extreme. New England biochar has a teacher come set up the system so that will probably make me go with them.
     Any thoughts on funding an Adam retort? Could I do some kind of co-op with it? What would the market be for selling wood tar and wood vinegar to farms and such?
 
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