Big Box Biochar Demonstration, November 8, 2019
Location: Providence Canyon, Utah
Background: On Friday, November 8th, the Utah Biomass Resources Group (UBRG) held a big box biochar kiln demonstration in Providence Canyon, south of Logan, Utah. Thirty attendees watched as piles of juniper were stacked into the dumpster-sized kiln and lit from the top. This technique creates a flame-cap which appears to burn cleaner than burning piles of slash. This is because uncombusted materials are consumed as they rise through the “cap” of flames that forms on top of the kiln. Attendees were able to see from start to finish how biochar is created in this large kiln. While the air quality was not appropriate for burning on the day of the burn, Utah Smoke Management Officer, Paul Corrigan, was in attendance and permitted the burn to proceed calling it a “study day”. USU air quality researchers were on site to measure air quality impacts; preliminary findings indicated the burn did not negatively impact air quality. While the slash burned, USU Extension Assistant Professor, Darren McAvoy gave a short presentation about the history of biochar as well as the process of creating and quenching it. These details can be found in our recent fact sheet (https://forestry.usu.edu/files/utah-forest-facts/hazardous-fuels-reduction-using-flame-cap-biochar-kilns.pdf). Those who attended were also able to take home some of the biochar that was made.
Typically, the UBRG uses 5’x5’ kilns for making biochar, which takes about four hours to burn down a full load of slash. The kiln used at this demonstration is approximately 17 times larger in volume than the 5-foot kilns, measuring 16 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, and 6 feet tall, and can process more biomass than the 5’x5’ kilns. The UBRG hopes to use this kiln more and increase the efficiency of the burn process overall. Scaling-up this approach with the larger kiln allows for disposal of more excess forest fuels, reducing the amount of pile burning, reducing fire hazards, and sequestering more carbon. McAvoy said they already learned a lot from the previous day when they used the big kiln for the first time. In a new design for another big box kiln they would make the sides shorter so that you can see inside of it and modify it to make the kiln easier to tip over so that the biochar can be dumped out once it has been quenched. Overall the launch of this kiln was successful and the UBRG is excited to increase the pace and scale of hazardous fuel reduction using big box kilns.
This demonstration was held in partnership with the Logan Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, with support from a Utah Public Lands Initiative Grant, provided by the Utah State Legislature.
Partners: USU Forestry Extension, Southeast Area of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, Logan Ranger District, Heber-Kamas Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah Biomass Resources Group.