Agri-char as Part of Coal / Biomass to Synthetic Natural Gas

Subtitle: Big Oil, Old King Coal, and Now, Big Farm

The energy bill, recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, defeats a goal for survival of life as we know if on the planet, a goal which climate scientists now explain with a set of simple numbers — “2 and 445? and “25 to 40? — 2 degrees Celsius, 445 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and a 25-to-40-percent reduction in global-warming gases — a formula, some say, to save the planet from the most severe consequences of climate changes.

A previously noted goal is to alter the trend in rising carbon emissions and stabilize at 450 ppm in the near future. A further goal would be to reverse the trend with a target of returning to 350 ppm.

Rising temperatures and disappearing ice indicate a climate system in disequilibrium. The trend of increased carbon emissions is a a trajectory, thus more telling than a peak number like 450 ppm is an observed slowing in the rise. Given the decreasing ability of the oceans and the Earth’s vegetation to absorb CO2 plus increasing deforestation, it would be truly miraculous to see a slowing. Some climate scientists express an even greater hope, i.e., an observed reversal in the trend.

With industrial growth in developing countries continuing to occur and the unbridled consumption carbon neutral technologies2 from the conversion of biomass to Syngas and char to methane, “If we intend to be environmentally responsible, then we need to initiate an agrichar program.”

I recently spoke with an Iowa State graduate student, Andy Larson, who told me that preliminary studies there indicate that a range of about 11 miles is the maximum for economic biomass delivery to an integrated biofuel facility (a 350 square mile area). Beyond that range, the biomass would be converted to CO2-negative Agri-char, would be mixed with manure and would be spread on the cropland.

Farmers are paid to grow the biomass and are given Agri-char in return. The funds to pay the farmers come from the tax on coal. But since this is not a traditional tax, the money does not go into government coffers. It goes into a segregated fund to support the Agri-char program. The Agri-char feedstock is grown on grasslands or depleted cropland (such as the 36 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program). The Agri-char feedstock does not compete with food/feed production because it is not grown on cropland.

Agri-char enhances the cropland fertility while reducing the amount of fertilizer and irrigation required. The biomass for the Agri-char feedstock are woody weeds (like switch grass and poplar) and serve to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion of the marginal land on which they are grown. Woody weeds require no irrigation, no fertilizer and no pesticides.

As soon as the IPCC released its preliminary report, which recommended technologies and practices to mitigate emissions from agriculture, Biopact heralded their BECS advocacy. Bio Energy with Carbon Storage is a “low-tech” initiative that AG readers know as agri-char.

So, the AG reader sees adoption of an Agri-char program as permission to continue polluting the atmosphere from the combustion of coal. Specifically, the AG reader seems in favor of CBTG (Coal / Biomass To synthetic natural Gas). “I personally prefer a pure biomass solution, but that may not be feasible.”

What is unknown to this blog is a reliable analysis if one were to implement an Agri-char program to offset CO2 emissions from combustion of 22.5 Quads worth of synthetic natural gas, i.e., we reach peak natural gas and must produce synthetics natural gas by means of catalytic coal methanation.

Note: U.S. consumption of Natural Gas currently equates to 22.5 quadrillion BTU.

No doubt such offsets with Agri-char would qualify for carbon credits. So, in a sense a company could pay itself for hauling away the trash, since disposal is done in an environmentally responsible manner. Disposal would include paying farmers to make use of the char and, in a neatly drawn cycle, the same farmers are supplying biomass grown with the help of such augmentation. The farmers are using equipment running on SNG and everybody is happy but those climate change alarmists.
Similar Posts: Agri-Char IPCC Recommended Technologies and Practices to mitigate Emissions from Agriculture Green Public Relations Integrated Biofuel Production - Part 3 One if by Oil and Two if by Coal

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