Biochar & Charcoal

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Zasso Nouka
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Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Sat Nov 21, 2015 9:12 pm

Thought I'd cover biochar made from rice husks and bamboo (竹炭) in this thread.

First off momigara kuntan made from rice husks. We get truck loads delivered to our our place by the surrounding rice farmers who are only to pleased to be getting rid of it. You'll need one of these little chimney affairs, available from all good home centres.

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Build a small pile of kindling and set light to it then set the chimney over the top of that.

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Once the kindling is burning well start building up the momigara around the base of the chimney

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And slowly mound the momigara up higher

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As the burn progresses it will gradually reach the surface

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At this point you can mound more momigara on top or if you have some weeds handy you can add those and turn them into biochar

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And cover them with more momigara

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Now about 45 - 60 minutes before sunset you'll want to put it all out, rake the pile out and thoroughly spray with a hose.

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Really do make sure you totally drench the pile or you'll come back tomorrow morning to a pile of white ash and all that effort will be wasted. This is normally where Mrs N appears with the tractor and spreads it out and turns the bio char into the ground

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In another post I'll cover making charcoal from bamboo
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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby gonbechan » Sat Nov 21, 2015 9:28 pm

Mrs N. so fly on the tractor.

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:36 pm

I hardly get a chance to drive it these days :sad:

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby gonbechan » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:33 pm

Every day now all you can smell is burning from the momigara.

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:04 pm

For me that's the smell of autumn, roasting momigara and take sumi is the smell of winter.

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:15 am

Making charcoal from bamboo is just as easy. There are two method, the first makes soft charcoal the breaks apart easily but you can make very large amounts, the second method is limited to the size of the vessel you use but makes a very hard type of charcoal.

For the first method all you need do is build up a large pile of bamboo.

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Then set fire to one end of it

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The fire will travel down the pile, once you have an area of glowing red coals it is time to put that part of the fire out

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But you want to leave part of the fire burning so it will continue to go down the rest of the pile of unburned bamboo and turn that into charcoal.

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This method can produce really large quantities and is only limited by the amount of bamboo you can pile up, it's the easiest and quickest method I've found so far but as mentioned before the biochar produce is a little soft. Not a problem if you are using it as a soil improver but less good for domestic applications.

Another method is to exclude oxygen during the burning process and for this we'll need a drum can (oil drum) that has been cleaned and had a ring of holes drilled in the bottom.

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The holes are to allow wood gas to escape during pyrolysis, the production of wood gas at this stage makes the process self sustaining once it gets up to temperature. With the drum can method you'll need something to enclose the drum can with, concrete blocks work well but anything non flammable and sturdy you have around will do.

So, raise the drum can up on a few blocks as you'll need to build a fire underneath it and surround the drum can with the concrete blocks or other material and pack it full of cut lengths of bamboo.

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And seal the drum can with a lid

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Then light your fire underneath the drum can.

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This will heat up the drum can until it reaches the correct temperature for pyrolysis to take off and by take off I mean it goes like a rocket. Once it hits the right temperature and wood gas is being produced inside the drum can that escapes through the holes drilled in the bottom and ignites when it hits the flames of the fire burning underneath. Giant flames shoot out the top of the enclosure like a rocket engine.

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At this point the fire below the drum can is no longer needed and the whole thing becomes self sustaining with the wood gas driving the process. Once production of wood gas ceases due to all the bamboo being turned to charcoal the fire goes out, at this point you can either pop the lid open (if you have a sturdy pair of gloves as obviously it's going to be pretty hot) and douse the inside with plenty of water or leave the whole lot to cool down but be aware that if some of the charcoal is burning inside the drum can it can burn the whole lot into ash so I prefer to put it out at this stage.

And here is a drum can full of nice hard charcoal.

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Out of the two methods the drum can one is the most spectacular method to watch.

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby gonbechan » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:17 am

I know this is an instructional post, but the pictures are absolutely gorgeous.

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:37 am

Thanks Gonbechan, mostly they were just taken with my keitai.

Making biochar down in our forest during the depths of winter is one of my favourite jobs, it gets lovely and warm down there and is a nice time to sit down, take it easy and reflect on life and stuff as the fire burns. One of the pluses of living in the countryside for me, maybe I should put that in Lazi's countryside thread :)

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby paradoxbox » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:12 am

Nice tutorial! Definitely something soothing about fire. Last night I built up a fire to burn off some of junk I cleared off my fields last week. It was freezing cold outside (at night) but around that fire it was warmer than inside the house!! Only thing missing was the marshmallows and roasting stick!

Your rocket-stove charcoal maker is pretty neat. I imagine that it's burning so hot it produces no smoke. Could be a nice way to try to incinerate less than dry bio-mass (The stuff I cleared is too woody to be immediately useful as fertilizer, would rather just burn it all and plant a clover, vetch and pea cover crop then turn it all under in spring)

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Re: Biochar & Charcoal

Postby Zasso Nouka » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:22 am

It produces some smoke at the beginning but once the drum can gets up to temp it is completely smokeless as that gets burnt off inside the enclosure. So long as you have plenty of woody material in there to supply wood gas then it should work fine but you could do it without if you don't mind keeping the fire going underneath. If you want to make biochar using fairly 'green' material just dig a trench and burn it in there covering lightly with soil when it's burning.

Biochar makes a great soil improver so if you do have any weedy biomass you want to get rid of turning it into biochar is somewhat better than just burning it to ash.


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