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Balz Baur, MS of Environmental Science, ETH Zurich, BASNA

How To Invert Climate – Change

Company BASNA, in its mission to protect the environment, produces Energy and Biochar from biomass. With this new concept they are claiming to have more effect on the environmental protection than any other energy project based on CHP

Western Serbia has huge wood biomass potential. It is there where company BASNA has utilized this natural gift to harmonize with nature, using the most efficient methods to transform wood into Biochar, which is in increasing demand, says BASNA owner Balz Baur.

It is this unique concept of producing Biochar and at the same time renewable energy that sets BASNA apart from other companies in the field. Their product is not intended for burning but has far more widespread applications – such as soil improver in agricultural land, and increasingly in livestock feed. That way it can contribute not only to reduce the greenhouse effect but has the potential to contribute to solving many other challenges we face as a civilization.

You claim to have a greater impact on reducing the Greenhouse effect than conventional biomass cogeneration plants. How so?

Our technology is no better than anyone else’s, especially when it comes to converting from heat to electricity. You must look at our concept as a whole to understand what differentiates BASNA from others.

So “producing charcoal” does the trick?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. During the production of charcoal, many hazardous gases emerge from the biomass. Most of these gases have an even higher impact on global warming than CO2. In traditional coal kilns, these gases are released into the atmosphere. We carry out cogeneration from these gases, with an efficiency of around 20 per cent.

50 per cent of the energy content is stored in the charcoal, while we have a total exploitation rate of 70 per cent on the biomass energy content year round. This is far better than any biomass CHP.

But when you burn the charcoal you are back to only 20% efficiency?

That depends on how the charcoal is used, and this is precisely where our concept stands out among other renewable energy projects. Our high-temperature charcoal is crystalline. The intended use of our charcoal is not to burn it, but to apply it in agriculture (= Biochar). All Biochar will eventually end up in the ground and will not decay for centuries.

During the growth of a tree, CO2 is assimilated from the atmosphere and O2 is released. Later we convert the tree into charcoal. There the C-atom from the CO2 becomes embedded in a stable carbon-grid. By applying charcoal in agriculture, you isolate CO2 from the air and place it in the ground, whereby it acts as a carbon sink. And you can simultaneously exploit the gases’ heat energy during the carbonisation process.

I always say: “By heating your swimming pool in wintertime, you are actually doing more good for the environment than if you weren’t heating it”.

The farmer gets more and longer lasting fertile manure, as well as carbon sequestration and humus restoring effects, for free

Why should we apply charcoal in agriculture?

As an additive to livestock fodder! Recent studies show that applying Biochar in animal husbandry has almost countless positive effects.

The fact is that charcoal has the capacity to absorb toxins from the body and toxins in animal fodder are well known (mycotoxins. bacterial toxins and environmental pollutants like pesticides and heavy metals).

Even more interesting is the observation of increased fodder efficiency. In a piglet farm in Germany, for instance, instead of 2.8kg of fodder per kilo of weight gain, only 2.2kg were needed. The piglets also finished 14 days earlier than the control group. We are repeating this trial in Serbia right now.

The most interesting fact to me is that the use of preventative and acute antibiotics can thereby be avoided. Moreover, the hygienic conditions (due to reduced diarrhoea), animal health and tendency towards aggressive behaviour have clearly improved.

Similar observations were made in cattle husbandry, where meat quality and milk production also improved. And, as an extra bonus, after feeding Biochar to your animal, you will find the charcoal in the manure is charged with plant available nutrients. The farmer gets more and longer lasting fertile manure, as well as carbon sequestration and humus restoring effects, for free.

In the end, the farmer can increase profitability due to lower feeding costs, lower veterinary costs and more fertile land, with reduced expenses on fertilisers and irrigation. Everybody is happy, including the animal. And that’s how you get electricity and heat energy, extract CO2 from the atmosphere and place carbon in the ground!

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