After months of hard work and anticipation, Team ARTi (Advanced Renewable Technology International) shipped its first, newly built biochar reactor to Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve Ltd. on Sept. 10.
Haliburton Forest is a privately owned forest located on 80,000 acres of hardwood forests, lakes, rivers and extensive wetlands in the Haliburton Highlands of central Ontario located about three hours north of Toronto, Canada.
According to Peter Schleifenbaum, who is the president of Haliburton Forest, the reserve has very poor, sandy, shallow soils of igneous origin. Past experiments conducted by the University of Toronto, he says, indicated that biochar application would have positive effects on the forest’s soil quality.
“Applying biochar here will significantly increase the yields of our forests and make them healthier,” he said. “We’re also going to expand our research applications, and in the future, we’re hoping to enter the commercial biochar market.”
The biochar reactor arrived safely at the reserve on Sept. 15, and Team ARTi members Bernardo del Campo, Matthew Kieffer and Juan Proano visited Haliburton (Sept. 19–21) to train its staff on how to operate the reactor.
They also had to make onsite adjustments to enable it to process wet plant biomass feedstocks efficiently. Haliburton produces wood chips, wood powder and wood shavings as byproducts from its logging industry, and it aims to use these waste materials to make biochar.
Freshly produced, wet biomass requires more energy and time to dry before it can be used for pyrolysis – a thermochemical process that uses extreme heat in the absence oxygen to turn biomass into bio-oil, non-condensable gases and most importantly, biochar.
However, del Campo, Kieffer and Proano modified the reactor to dry the biomass using waste heat from its operations. They also plan to make further adjustments in the future that will bring out the reactor’s full potential and allow it to seamlessly produce biochar from materials with higher moisture content levels.
“We have a machine that, with a few tweaks, can be tuned to fit our customer’s needs and expectations,” del Campo said.