Conference Sessions

These session descriptions will help you decide how to allocate your time at the 2012 US Biochar Conference.

2012 US Biochar Conference Sessions

Introduction of Conference and First Plenary Session

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 08:15 to 08:30

This presentation by USBI’s leader will summarize the current state of biochar development and use in the US and highlight options for effective action in the months and years ahead.

Presented by: 

State of the Biochar Industry

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 08:30 to 09:30

These presentations by recognized industry leaders and experts will provide further insights and details about the current state of biochar development and use globally. These presenters will challenge conference participants to focus on ways to accelerate effective commercialization of sustainable biochar production capacity and ways to intensify use of biochar in agriculture.

Sustainable Business Models

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

These three presentations will explore real-world experience in making and using biochar successfully from an economic and business perspective: in Hawaii using simple in-the-ground technology; in New England and elsewhere using a batch-process retort; and globally using modest-scale continuous-flow pyrolysis technology. Based on their personal experiences in recent years, each speaker will provide models of sustainable biochar business approaches that hopefully point conference attendees towards their own successes in the future.

Tropical Soils Trials in Africa and India

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

These four presentations will focus on real-world experience in using biochar to improve the poor soils too-often found in the tropics. Success in improving agricultural yields will be documented, with special attention to the impacts on small farmers.

Biochar Science: Pyrolysis

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

These four scientific presentations focus on relationships between feedstock characteristics and pyrolysis. Drawing on a range of academic and field research results in both the US and China, these experts summarize their own technical conclusions.

Special Presentations by Chinese Delegation

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

This session includes four up-to-date presentations on biochar developments in China. One paper is focused on experience with mobile fluidized bed fast pyrolysis technology, along with pre-drying of feedstocks to about 100 degrees C. Trials have been conducted at feed rates of one-half-ton/hour. A second presentation explores national plans to use various agricultural residues as fertilizer, feed, fuel, industrial raw materials, and growth media. A third presenter looks at using biochar to achieve sustainable agricultural production. To date they have used a small-scale cost-effective carbonization device to achieve carbonization in situ, reducing transport costs by 70%. The paper presents results from applying biochar to crop production in Liaoning province over several years, with noticeable effects on crop production promotion and reductions in harmful dust and labor input. Finally, the fourth presentation summarizes lessons learned over two years on commercialization of biochar-based fertilizer production (capacity 10,000 tons per year) in Zhejiang province with several long-term field experimental sites were set up to test the agricultural response of plants to different doses and types of biochar, and to determine the potential revenues that can be generated from the sale of biochar as a soil amendment. Due to high costs at market introduction and strong competition from other fertilizers, sales volume was slow to start. Field experiments showed long-term biochar application has many benefits (preservation of soil nutrients, improvement of soil structure, etc.). Therefore, in order to popularize use of biochar in the market, it is imperative to find ways to reduce costs at the initial stage while educating people on the long-term value of applying biochar.

Keynote Address - Building a Successful Biochar Business in California: Challenges and Opportunities

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 11:30 to 12:15

McPeak draws on her extensive government and leadership experience as California’s Secretary for Business and Transportation and as Chair of the Bay Area Council to examine ways in which biochar production can become a successful, sustainable commercial business venture, here in California and elsewhere. What kinds of comprehensive practical strategies are needed so that agricultural and other markets be created, production technology units be sited, and sufficient investment capital be attracted?

Presented by: 

Farm Out - Valley End Farm

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 12:30 to 14:30

Farm & tour notes:  largest certified organic vegetable CSA in county, located adjacent to Sonoma State University and the communities of Rohnert Park, Penngrove, and Santa Rosa.  Farm sells wholesale vegetables and free range eggs.  Farm tour can include: row crops, new hedgerow planting, greenhouse, farm store.  Has restroom in farm store.  Has large oak tree near greenhouse which can provide some shade. 

What will be covered:  potential biochar use, candidate site for biochar operation and use, biochar use and acceptability issues with USDA organic certification, application of biochar in adobe clay soils, recent hedgerow installation and history of environmental enhancement projects provided by USDA cost-share funding under NRCS EQIP (environmental quality incentive program).

Sharon Grossi, owner/farmer
6300 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa, CA

Presented by: 

Mid-Sized Biochar Production Technologies

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

These four presenters will each provide information on a specific mid-sized biochar production technology. Attendees will be able to compare and contrast their operational characteristics and key features, their respective ability to handle different biomass feedstocks, their comparative production of biochar and thermal energy, and their current stage of commercial availability.

Urban Agriculture

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

Biochar use in urban settings will be covered in this panel. Two of these four presentations will focus on techniques and challenges of using biochar on urban green roofs. Another joint presentation will address impacts of using biochar in landscape design features. The final paper will examine experience in using biochar creatively in urban settings in Germany.

Biochar Science

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

Here we have five papers addressing different aspects of biochar from widely varied scientific perspectives, ranging from experience in Alaska’s subarctic regions to details on water-holding capacity and particle size.

Biochar Use and Temperate Agriculture

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 15:00 to 16:15

These three academic presentations (two from Iowa, one from Austria) focus on results and issues associated with using biochar in large-scale agricultural settings. Detailed experiences will be profiled and next steps in desired research identified.

Improving Soil Systems

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 15:00 to 16:15

Here we anticipate receiving a wealth of interesting hands-on information based on extensive real-world experience in making and using biochar in specific ways. One presenter will summarize his results with vermichar, the another his lessons from working with permamatrix. The third presenter is focused on impacts in sub-arctic soils.

Farm Out - Tara Firma Farm

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 15:00 to 17:00

Farm & tour notes: vegetable, eggs, poultry, pork CSA. What will be covered: farm model, high-density rotational grazing, grassland management for enhanced pasture health, public outreach and education, institute. This farm’s beef cattle are used in the rotational grazing, allowing Terra Firma to be one of the country’s largest meat CSA’s. Combining use of biochar with high-density rotational grazing enhances the ability to sequester carbon at this location.

Tara Smith, owner
3796 I Street Ext., Petaluma, CA 94952

Presented by: 

Reclamation Using Biochar: Mines and Industrial Sites

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 15:00 to 16:15

In this panel, conference participants will learn about comparative experiences in using biochar for varying types of waste reclamation. Three papers focus on different aspects of mine reclamation, summarizing various challenges encountered and successes achieved. Another presenter shares his insights on ways to remove mercury from contaminated waste materials.

Carbon and Energy Policy Issues

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 08:30 to 09:45

This high-level panel will provide conference participants with added insights into biochar’s role in the ever-evolving climate and energy debate. We will learn about opportunities to advance effective climate and energy policy goals, and ways to deal with the frustrations inherent in ongoing policy development in this complex and controversial arena of action.

Non-Agricultural Uses of Biochar

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:00

In this session, presenters turn their attention to biochar’s uses in effective waste remediation. outside of agriculture. One paper deals with approaches to using biochar to clean up heavy metals and pesticides, while another is focused on adsorption of herbicides and explosives. The third panelist turns his attention to remediation of contaminated water by use of specially formulated biochar.

Large Production Technology

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:00

These three presentations will highlight new developments in the evolution of large-scale biochar production technologies. One paper will focus on options and choices, comparing different systems now available commercially or soon to reach that level. Another presentation will follow a similar path, providing criteria by which project developers can choose the right technology consistent with their feedstock availability and user/market needs. The third panelist will focus on the operations and advantages/disadvantages of gasifier technology.

Biochar Production Economics

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:00

In this panel we focus on economics, costs, and efficiency of biochar production. One such perspective draws on the experience of a single facility: a bio-refinery. Another paper views biochar economics at a statewide level, in Colorado. And the third presentation takes a regional view, from the southern US.

Special Chars and Feedstocks

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:00

These several presentations offer conference attendees details on a range of biochar issues, from use of novel and unusual feedstocks to production of “designer” char and to use of biochar in unique ways in soils and in providing improved sanitation.

Special Soil Effects I

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 11:15 to 12:15

Here conference attendees can learn about specific impacts of using biochar in soils with widely differing characteristics. One paper deals with its use in depleted Hawaiian soils. A second presentation addresses soil microbial communities, and the third is focused on water-soluble components.

National and Regional Perspectives on Biochar Use

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 11:15 to 12:15

This panel offers an unusual opportunity to learn about biochar production and use in several very different settings. One presentation offers insights into potential advantages of using biochar in Laos and Thailand, especially to address the massive methane emissions that otherwise are occurring from inundation of extensive hydropower projects’ reservoirs. Experiences in Alberta and Haiti provide further insights into biochar’s relationships with both energy development and agricultural poverty.

Small Biochar Production Technologies

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 11:15 to 12:15

This is yet another panel on biochar production, focused this time on the many smaller-scale technologies already in use or now being developed worldwide. Presenters focus on costs, flexibility, operating efficiency, and ease of use in developing countries.

Char Characterization

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 11:15 to 12:15

Here participants have an opportunity to learn directly from experts in the field of biochar characterization. What are the latest in analytical tools and techniques?

Farm Out - Green String Farm

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 12:30 to 14:30

Farm & tour notes: vegetable farm, free range eggs, green string institute featuring permaculture and beyond.  Farm is located on corner of Old Adobe Road and Stage Gulch Road just outside of Petaluma Community on flanks of Sonoma Mountain, Hutchinson Creek.  Farm originally developed by Bob Cannard and Fred Cline (Cline Vineyards). Farm has large barn (shade), good place with chairs for discussion after brief walking tour.   

What will be covered:  farm & institute concept, strategy and impetus on building soil, candidate site for biochar field trials, future demos and workshops. RCD staff attending- Jason Sweeney, watershed coordinator.

Misja Nuyttens, farm manager
3571 Old Adobe Road, Petaluma, CA 94954

Biochar Impacts on Nitrogen

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

These three papers present that latest science on relationships between biochar and nitrogen. One relates soil structure characteristics to the extent of anticipated GHG emissions. Another deals with dissolved ammonia and nitrates. And the third presents results of recent research on nutrient retention and nitrous oxide emissions.

Special Soil Effects II

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

Here we present further information and details on the specific impacts of using biochar in soils with widely differing characteristics. One paper deals with microbial cell-cell communication, another with microbial communities. The third presentation is on nutrient conservation in biomass feedstocks.

Biochar 101

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

The “Biochar 101” session will encompass a concise presentation on the basics of biochar:  an explanation of what it is, what it does, and the current developing exploration, research and debate over what it might be able to do in the years ahead. For researchers, advocates and policy makers who are just being introduced to the topic, we  will cover the most important characteristics of biochar and of the industry growing around it. While conference attendees are spending three days exploring these topics in depth, this session is designed for those who want to get to the heart of the  matter in a single afternoon session. During Biochar 101 Peter Hirst will give an overview of biochar, emphasizing its most important characteristics and their implications. Alex Dolginow will expand on these themes using actual examples and actions from Sonoma County. Time will be allotted for deeper exploration of these issues through discussion and questions.

Biochar and Forestry

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 13:15 to 14:30

These two presentations offer varied perspectives on ways to make biochar from forest woody wastes and issues associated with forestry protection from the growing fire dangers emerging from global climate change. Details are presented based on experience in California’s forests and in the forests of the Rocky Mountains region.

Sustainability Guidelines, Standards and Practices (Review Meeting)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 13:30 to 14:30

This is an unusual conference session, turning attendees’ attention for the first time to the new USBI guidelines for sustainability using biochar. Why were these new biochar sustainability protocols needed? What led to their development? What choices were made in setting these standards of practice? How will this process be extended internationally? Participants will have an opportunity to interact with these industry practice leaders in exploring where this sustainability effort goes next.

Financing Biochar Enterprises

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 15:00 to 17:00

As with any new industry, finding startup or growth capital can be daunting and is often as much of an educational campaign as a challenging numbers game. This special session will provide tips and information on financing strategies from some well-known companies in the biochar industry, interacting with a special panel of experts representing both traditional financing sources (such as angel investors and investment banking) and emerging alternatives (such as direct public offerings, crowd funding, and slow money). The session will consist of short presentations followed by what we anticipate to be a very lively, interactive discussion among the experts and participants from the audience.

Farm Out - Gaps Crown Vineyard

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 15:00 to 17:00

Farm & tour notes: 140 acre vineyard located near SSU, east of university along Copeland Creek. Vineyard produces premium wine grapes managed by Atlas Vineyard management. 140 acres planted in 37 vineyard blocks- Sonoma Coast Appellation, pinot noir varietal.       

What will be covered:  vineyard production, local soil type and potential issues of using biochar in field trials, recent restoration project.  Vineyard management has partnered with Sotoyome RCD and PRBO/STRAW in conducting creek restoration project involving local students in education program.  Restoration project included installation of native plants and removal of non-native invasives for water quality and fisheries enhancements.  Winery will likely bring a few bottles to pour a taste for participants in field.  RCD to supply water and glasses.  Some shade located along creek.  May be a portalet on site, no other facilities.

Atlas Vineyard Mgmt. reps will give overview of vineyard, welcome and brief remarks on their vineyard management and environmental stewardship and enhancement work.  Kevin Cullinen, Sotoyome RCD will describe restoration work. John Parodi, STRAW, will describe restoration/educational program and the breadth of restoration work conducted on other reach of Copeland Creek and throughout the watershed. RCD Director Ron Rolleri, will also likely attend this field trip.   

 DIRECTIONS From Sonoma State University:

Take a left on East Cotati Ave traveling eastward and then turn right on Petaluma Hill Rd. Continue on Petaluma Hill Rd and turn left at the first stop light onto Roberts Ranch Rd.   Continue on Roberts Ranch Rd for approximately 1.3 miles until it turns into Pressley Rd (just after Lichau Rd) and then turn right into the driveway at 6900 Pressley Rd. There will be a beige-colored gate that will be open.

Presented by: 

New GHG Offset Quantification Methodology

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 15:00 to 16:00

This is another unusual conference session, designed to address important new work on GHG emissions being supported by funding from the Blue Moon Foundation. The presenters will introduce conference attendees to this complicated and combined analytical and policy process, providing insight and guidance into how stakeholders can get engaged.

Poster Presentations

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 16:00 to 17:00

Poster presentations at Sonoma Mountain Village.

Keynote Address - Soil, Carbon, and Survival

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 19:00 to 19:45

For the past 10,000 years, humans have been eroding topsoil, literally undermining the survival of future generations. Recently we sent this process into overdrive with oil-fueled farm machinery, agrochemicals, and growth-based economics. As we burned fossil fuels, billions of tons of carbon stored in Earth’s crust made their way to the atmosphere, further compromising our descendants’ chances. We may be able to rescue the biosphere and our progeny from peril if we return carbon to the soil while changing our society’s economic operating system. But this needs to happen rapidly and on a global scale.

Presented by: 

The Road Ahead

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 08:15 to 09:30

This session offers three challenging perspectives on what lies ahead for carbon, energy, environment and biochar, each presented by an experienced leader in this field. One speaker addresses whether it is feasible to achieve a carbon-negative economy...and how to do so. Another presenter looks specifically at likely barriers to biochar development. And the third presents a comprehensive assessment of biochar through the SWOT analytical technique: its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Biochar Specialty Uses

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

These three presenters will provide conference attendees with different perspectives on several unique uses of biochar. One paper looks at experience in using “compost tea” to enhance the properties of biochar as a soil amendment. A second presenter describes his experiences in the poultry industry, specifically to reduce pathogens in manure. And the third speaker is focused on results of biochar application in the Berlin Botanical Garden.

Special Issues in Biochar Use

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

This session offers another opportunity to learn of many different approaches to biochar use in an international perspective. One paper deals with use of compost tea in the UK. A second presentation covers experience with controlling soil and water contamination from poultry manure in India. The third speaker is focused on impacts from using biochar in a botanical garden in Berlin, Germany.

Biochar Use in Specialized Agricultural Settings

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

As its title suggests, these presenters each provide information on their research activities using biochar in different agricultural venues. One has worked in California vineyards, another with sugar beets. A third panelist addresses sand plain species, and the fourth speciality crop production. Participants will be able to compare and contrast the details of biochar application and use in the differing settings.

World Enterprise Perspectives

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:15

Here two recognized leaders of the global biochar community share with conference attendees their views on ways to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. One speaker involved himself in the Virgin Earth challenge brings listeners up to date on that unique effort: what has been done to date, what lies ahead? The other looks specifically at ways to market biochar successfully in two very different and challenging arenas: in tropical agriculture and in the urbanized UK.

Comments and Next Steps

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 11:30 to 12:10

Farewell and “where do we go from here?” and Next Steps for Biochar in the US

Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 13:00 to 14:00

The Paleoclimate Record shows, Agricultural-Geo-Engineering is responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. The unintended consequence, the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized these consequences and has developed a more comprehensive wisdom. Wise land management, Afforestation and the Thermal Conversion of Biomass can build back our Soil Carbon.

Pyrolysis, Gasification and Hydro-Thermal Carbonization are known biofuel technologies, What is new are the concomitant benefits of biochars for Soil Carbon Sequestration; building soil biodiversity & nitrogen efficiency, for in situ remediation of toxic agents, and, as a feed supplement cutting the carbon foot print of livestock. Modern systems are closed-loop with no significant emissions. The general life cycle analysis is: every 1 ton of biomass yields 1/3 ton Biochar equal to 1 ton CO2 equivalent, plus biofuels equal to 1MWh exported electricity, so each energy cycle is 1/3 carbon negative.

Cutting edge, third generation companies, aiming for drop-in fuels, report that 1 ton of biomass yields 75 gallons of bio-gasoline and 1/3 Ton Biochar. Another pathway is production of Ammonia and Biochar from biomass, making Agriculture Fossil Free Fertilizer, In combination; Farmers can be Fossil Carbon Free utilizing less than 3% of their fields.



Presented by: 

The Biochar Association

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 13:30 to 14:30

Post Conference Meeting for The Biochar Association

2012 US Biochar Conference Sponsors