PACIFIC PYROLYSIS: PARTICIPATING IN THE AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH AGENDA WHILE PURSUING COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIOCHAR PRODUCTION

With the great interest in biochar’s use for carbon sequestration and as a soil amendment, the demand for research biochar from specific feedstocks has grown significantly. Based on the New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast, Australia, Pacific Pyrolysis (PacPyro) is collaborating with research institutions and projects to supply a source of slow pyrolysis biochar from multiple feedstocks and at the same time designing and building slow pyrolysis units.

Tailoring the Product to Research Projects

For more than ten years, BEST Energies Australia and PacPyro (formed to commercialize the BEST Energies technology) have worked on slow pyrolysis process development, engineering, and control systems to produce renewable energy and biochar, while reducing waste. Over the course of this development, they have designed, built, and operated a series of prototypes. The pilot facility based in Somersby, NSW, is currently producing tons of biochar for research programs and on-farm demonstrations out of multiple feedstocks such as municipal green waste, wood waste, bagasse (sugar cane trash), nut shells and husks, crop residue, animal bedding and manures, paper sludge, bio-solids (waste water sludge), and  industrial organic waste. The material produced at the Somersby plant has been used in field trials since 2006 as part of an on-going research collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). A range of experimental programs have tested the performance characteristics of the product in different soil types, climates, crops and land management practices. Trials of various kinds have been established across Australia and international trials have been conducted in New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United States. Research collaborators on these trials include: CSIRO (the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia), NSW Department of Industry and Investment, University of NSW, Sydney University, Cornell University and more. The trials highlight many different uses for biochar such as:

  • A large 2,000 square meter biochar trial currently underway in NSW at the “Koombahla” property. This three year project, supported by Holbrook Landcare, is looking at the influence of two different types of biochars—made from poultry manure and green waste—on canola crops.
  • A study on biochar’s influence on the flux of N20 and CO2 from ferrosol, published in the Australian Journal of Soil Research. PacPyro produced biochars from green waste, paper mill waste, poultry litter, and bio-solids , and Adriana Downie of PacPyro participated in the research.1
  • AgricharTM (PacPyro has copyrighted the term AgricharTM for their product) was used in a study on the effect of banded biochar on wheat production in south-western Australia  demonstrating the potential of biochar to increase crop yields at lower rates of fertilizer use.2

In addition to research-oriented trials, biochar donated to the Diggers Organic Gardening Club for use at the Herronswood Gardens and to the Lismore Community Gardens have shown good anecdotal results as reported by the local community.

Commercializing Agrichar and Slow Pyrolysis

To get this technology to market, PacPyro is currently working with a number of parties towards the design and build of commercial pyrolysis plants. These parties include local government bodies, private sector organizations, and transnational firms. The company hopes that the implementation of these projects will distribute their product to a wide marketplace—focusing on premium soil and potting mixes and horticultural applications.

For more information on Pacific Pyrolysis, please see: http://pacificpyrolysis.com.

PacPyro Slow Pyrolysis Diagram, courtesy of PacPyro.

Pilot facility to produce research grade biochar, courtesy of PacPyro.

Herronswood Gardens Biochar Demonstration Garden uses biochar donated by PacPyro for local community trials, courtesy of Herronswood Garden group.

1 Influence of biochars on flux of N2O and CO2 from Ferrosol. , Van Zwieten, L., Kimber S., Morris S., Downie A., Berger E., Rust J., and Scheer C. , Australian Journal of Soil Research, Volume 48, p.555-568, (2010)

2 Effect of banded biochar on dryland wheat production and fertiliser use in south-western Australia: an agronomic and economic perspective, Blackwell, P., Krull E., Butler G., Herbert A., and Solaiman Z. , Australian Journal of Soil Research, Volume 48, p.531-545, (2010)