Sunday, November 29, 2015

Willow Witt Ranch Char Day

Here's an album of pictures from the first burn 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 ( 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.

Web Album:

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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Master Gardeners Biochar Website

Douglas County Master Gardeners' Discovery Garden at River Forks Park, Roseburg, Oregon has a website that documents biochar plots at the garden. Check it out here:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Adding Biochar to Duchess Plots

On November 18 UBET volunteers Mike, Steve, Scott and Don came out to the Duchess Sanctuary to apply additional biochar to the plots.

Weighing the biochar

Applying the biochar

Friday, November 20, 2015

Scot McKain's Wigwam kiln

Scott based this design on the wigwam burners used at timber mills for disposal of wood waste. Here is his report on lessons learned from his first demo:
  • The walls were 450-500 C. The steel was loosing structural strength towards the end. I will try to stiffen with rebar next time. 
  • The sloped walls were effective in reflecting radiation downward.
  • Not much air reaching the bottom so char was preserved. The sand seal on the bottom edge lost effectiveness as it dried. Will try bentonite. 
  • The side vents worked well. Tangental vents would be an improvement. I closed them when the char reached that level. 
  • I will try a top lit, batch burn next time. 
  • A floor is necessary to char from radiant heat. 
  • The char is good quality with little ash. Conversion efficiency seems quite good. 
  • I am going to build a small stainless model to test different style side vents. We can use it for demos later.
Scott McKain's Wigwam Kiln
Sealed bottom of the Wigwam Kiln
Sides of the Wigwam Kiln

Friday, November 13, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Save the Date for 2016 US Biochar Conference in Corvallis, Oregon

Biochar 2016: August 22-25, 2016

Experience the Synergy
Over the last several years, researchers have helped open up many promising avenues for biochar market development in North America. Likewise, many entrepreneurs and small business owners have made investments to develop commercial markets. With so much research being published on biochar (over 5000 publications in 2015 alone!), there is a need to bring together these two groups to share information, lessons learned, and to solicit ideas on the pathway forward for biochar commercial development. The US Biochar Initiative and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions aims to bring together stakeholders in the applied biochar research community and the private sector to further biochar market development.

Who should attend?
This event is designed for farmers, foresters, policy makers, biochar producers, industry professionals and entrepreneurs. Students and interested citizens will also benefit from this event.

Where will it be held?
Join us at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center on the beautiful Oregon State University Campus in Corvallis, OR.

For more information:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Are We Closer Now?

From:  Naomi Klein, “This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs. the Climate.” Simon & Schuster, NY, 2014:

"Remember Richard Branson, the billionaire, who offered a 25 million dollar Earth Prize? He received about 2500 entries. He picked the eleven most likely winners in 2011 at an energy conference in Calgary, Alberta. Four were machines that sucked carbon from the air; one related to changing livestock grazing to boost the soils’ carbon-sequestering potential. Three were from companies that use the biochar process to make charcoal to then add to soil to sequester carbon.

Branson did not award the prize because the ideas were not close enough to commercialization."

Contributed by Jim Long.