Monday, March 26, 2018

Smoke Into Biochar

Can we turn our forestry burn piles into biochar?
Can we add carbon to soils, where it belongs, as we remove it from the atmosphere?
Can we make this restoration activity pay for itself?
It's a big job, but somebody has got to do it. Please join us!
These are the questions that UBET will answer with the Drew Veg Biochar Project. We hope that you will help us find the answers by contributing time or money to support this innovative pilot project. About half of the work has been done, but we need to raise money to pay a contractor to pile some of the material and we need gas money for farmers who are donating tractors to help do the work. Please pitch in and we'll give you access to some biochar in return!

We need to raise $3,000 by April 30, 2017  Click Below to Donate Funds or send checks to UBET/SURCP, 34620 Tiller Trail Hwy, Tiller, OR 97484

We need commitments from at least ten workers who can work several full days making biochar in our kilns  Click Here to Volunteer Your Time

Drew Veg Biochar is the name of a fuel reduction project on the Umpqua National Forest, near the town of Drew, Oregon. The US Forest Service conducts many such projects on National Forests every year for the purpose of reducing fire hazard by removing dense stands of younger trees, mostly in plantations and areas that were previously logged. Some of the wood may be big enough to sell to sawmills, but much of it must be piled and burned onsite. This burning produces large amounts of smoke, and the numerous piles burn holes in the forest duff, sterilizing the soil.

We have a better idea and we want to prove it.
Below are some more details about the Drew Veg Biochar Project:
Half of the work is already done. We had enough money to pay for the logging and for yarding the material to an old spur road. We also got the small pine and fir trees cut into 4 foot lengths so we can feed them into our Flame Cap Kilns and turn them into biochar. But we do not have the money to hire a workforce to do the work. We estimate it would take a crew of six, trained forest workers about 2 weeks to do the job. We need strong workers to volunteer their time in return for biochar as payment.

So here is how we want to do this, and how you can help:

Donate funds to the project. In return, you will have a say in how the biochar gets used, including the option to pick up sacks of biochar at a location near Roseburg, Oregon and apply it on a field or forest of your own choice.

Volunteer to help with the work. The project will take about a week and will be scheduled sometime next fall, depending on the weather. Volunteers will get to take some biochar home with them, based on the number of hours they work.

Donate Funds – for each $20 you donate we will give you the option to designate the final use of one cubic foot of biochar. For each $200 you donate, you can tell us what to do with one cubic yard of biochar. Provide your email address and we will get in touch with you about where you want the biochar to be used: in the forest, at a nearby farm, or packaged for you to pick up and distribute yourself.

Please send checks to UBET/SURCP, 34620 Tiller Trail Hwy, Tiller, OR 97484 or use the PayPal link below:

 

Click Here to Volunteer Your Time 
– you will be sent to a ticket registration page. We’ll be in touch about the details as the time approaches.

The problem
In 2016, South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership completed the first phase of a stewardship contract on a 15-acre unit on the Umpqua National Forest called Drew Veg Biochar. This first phase involved working with a local contractor to thin approximately 800 trees per acre and forward the material to roads for processing into biochar. By June 2016, all the slash had been spread out on approximately ¼ mile of spur road to dry. It was also cut to 4-foot lengths for processing in the Oregon Kiln, a 5-foot wide Flame Cap Kiln manufactured by the Umpqua Biochar Education Team (UBET, a committee of SURCP) and Umpqua Community College.

In September 2016, UBET members visited the site to assess our next steps. With no money remaining in the budget for the biochar production phase, all the work must be done by volunteers. In assessing our resources, we realized that we did not have enough volunteer labor to finish the job in a timely manner, and started to look at alternatives for getting the job done. Fall rains also arrived very early, precluding any further work being done on the project in 2016.

A hybrid approach
Using the resources available, we are proposing a hybrid approach that would use both kilns and the Conservation Burn method to process material into biochar. The Conservation Burn method will require about two more days of work from a contractor to build the burn piles using a mini-excavator. We estimate that this will cost about $2,000. Below is a timeline list of the operations needed to complete the conversion of the material to biochar:

2017-April-May: Hire a contractor to make piles on the road prism. UBET will provide guidance in how to construct the piles, sorting material by size where possible so that each pile has all the same size material (eg: piling small branches together in one pile and larger logs together in another pile). Consistent sizes within a pile will maximize biochar yield.

2017-September: Cover piles with plastic, using volunteer labor.

2017-October – December: Identify a burn window of 3 to 5 days of good weather. Mobilize volunteers and Forest Service resources to burn piles and quench to save the biochar. UBET will also bring biochar kilns and make biochar with the kilns for improved conversion efficiency and as an experiment to compare different methods.

2018-Spring: UBET volunteers will schedule several days during good weather to gather up the biochar and load into bags for transport to distribution points. We will secure the services of a local farmer to provide a tractor for scooping up biochar in exchange for biochar product.

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