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World-First Charcoal Technology Breakthrough


New Zealand Company Makes World-First Charcoal Technology Breakthrough

BLENHEIM, NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand company Carbonscape™ announced today that it had developed a patented world-first industrial microwave charcoal technology to capture significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help reduce the impact of global warming.

The company has begun initial batch scale production at its South Island, New Zealand pilot site this month.

New Zealand Forestry Minister Jim Anderton, who officially opened the Marlborough plant today, says: “Carbonscape™ appears to be a huge breakthrough in charcoal development, and we applaud this Kiwi initiative. It supports the Government’s contention that ratifying Kyoto was not just environmentally smart but leads to lucrative international business opportunities.”

Methods to capture carbon gases (commonly known as sequestration) have until now proved complex, highly expensive and environmentally risky. Carbonscape’s solution focuses on using woodwaste to trap the carbon as charcoal, effectively and safely locking the greenhouse gas away for thousands of years.

“We believe the potential world market for this technology is vast. No-one has tried producing charcoal before using the technology we’ve developed. Traditional methods are inefficient, polluting and expensive,” comments Carbonscape™ director Nick Gerritsen.

Carbonscape™ has patented and developed an efficient and fast method of forming charcoal from existing organic wastes. Not only does the charcoal directly trap the carbon fixed by plant material but it can also be returned to the soil in the form of biochar to improve plant productivity, potentially enhancing the fixation of millions of tonnes of carbon by living matter.

Gerritsen says: “Carbonscape™ lets the environment fix carbon dioxide the way nature intended. Trees turn the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into wood. We can turn the wood into charcoal which is virtually pure carbon in an inert form. Buried in the ground it can be used to help reduce the magnitude of future climate change.

“The science has been independently tested by the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and we are already in batch scale production in Marlborough,” he comments.

Gerritsen says charcoal (as biochar) has also been shown to improve soil fertility, cut soil emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, reduce nitrate and phosphate leaching, increase nitrogen fixation and help soil organisms to extract more carbon from the atmosphere.

“The potential for carbon credits from forestry and agriculture worldwide is huge. Carbonscape™ helps solve the problem of the 13 million tonnes of pine tree waste that are dumped around New Zealand every year. And in the USA, the State of Iowa, for example, generates approximately 22 million tonnes of corn husk waste per year,” says Gerritsen.

Carbonscape™ is also working to produce other high value products such as activated charcoal.

Carbonscape™ has been formed by a group of directors who have impressive renewable energy and sustainable business credentials. They are: knowledge broker and technology start-up expert, Nick Gerritsen; renewable energy developer Vicki Buck; Professor Chris Turney of the University of Exeter and author of Ice, Mud and Blood: Lessons from Climates Past; climate change entrepreneur; businessman Hamish Macfarlane and angel investor Tim Langley.

The New Zealand Government announced last year it was investing $10 million into research, development and commercialisation of charcoal technology and has funded two professorships at Massey University to the research and development of charcoal technology.

“Researchers have had difficulty in being able to access consistent quantities of charcoal to research. So we hope this breakthrough can also help solve their supply problem,” comments Gerritsen.


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