is a Swiss Company headquartered in Cacak, producing charcoal (Biochar) and heat energy from wooden biomass. The company claims that the way it converts and applies its biomass is far more beneficial for the environment than any other technology. By using pyrolysis to produce wood charcoal, they can influence the production process and give charcoal the desired characteristics, depending on the purpose. On the one hand, they can produce barbecue charcoal of top quality for professional kitchens and home barbecues, whereas, on the other hand, they can produce wood charcoal which meets the strict criteria for the European Biochar Certificate (EBC) and which is very clean and free of forbidden toxins, and which is used as organic soil fertilizer or as a very important ingredient in animal feed.
We discussed this technology and implementation of Biochar with the owners of Basna
, Vesna and Balz Baur
. The interview with Vesna and Balz Baur is the eight in line of the conversations with companies-members of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, through which the SSCC promotes the operations of Swiss companies in Serbia and highlights the values and good business practices of this country and these companies. eKapija: You are claiming to have more impact on reduction of the Greenhouse effect as a conventional cogeneration plant fueled by biomass.
VB: In fact yes. But we too, we put our pants on one leg at a time, which means our technology is no better than anyone else`s. Especially concerning the conversion from heat to electricity. You have to look at our project as a whole to better understand what differentiates BASNA from others in this space. eKapija: So you say "producing charcoal" does the trick?
BB: Unfortunately, it is not that simple. There are several aspects that need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, you need to know, that during the production of charcoal many gases emerge from the biomass, such as Carbon-monoxide, Hydrogen, Methane and many other more complicated molecules like derivatives from tars. Most of these gases are hazardous and have an even higher impact on global warming than CO2. In traditional coal kilns these gases are released into the atmosphere unfiltered.
We take advantage of the fact that these gases are burnable and so we use them as an energy source and reduce them to CO2 and H2O. So this is the first environmental friendly aspect in our production process, since there is no Methane etc. escaping into the atmosphere. eKapija: But aren’t there cleaner methods to produce charcoal than traditional kilns?
VB: Of course you are right, but you will also be amazed how many kilns still work the old-fashioned way, here in Serbia and all around the world. South America and Africa make around 50% of all charcoal imports to the EU. The production method is often old fashioned and I can only guess as to their commitment and accountability towards the environment ant sustainable wood management.
But let me get back to my first point. When you are producing charcoal, about half of the energy content of the raw biomass will be stored in the charcoal itself and the other half can energetically be exploited from the gases. What we are doing is a cogeneration (heat & electricity) from the gas` energy. So at this stage we have an efficiency of 50% from the energy stored in the charcoal plus the conventional heat/electricity of, let’s say, no more than 20%. So, in total you have an exploitation rate of 70% on the original biomass` energy content all year around. This is far better than any CHP fueled with biomass. eKapija: But when you burn the charcoal you are back to your 20% efficiency, which is not outstanding.
BB: This is depending on how the charcoal is used and this is exactly where our concept stands out amongst other renewable energy projects. The charcoal we produce is pyrolized (= process making charcoal) at a very high temperature, and we get a very crystalline structure. The intended use of our charcoal is not to burn it, but to apply it in agriculture. The charcoal we produce is called Biochar. All Biochar will eventually end up in the ground and – thanks to its crystalline structure – will not decompose for many centuries. In other words, during the growth of a tree for example, it`s assimilating CO2 from the atmosphere. Later we are converting the tree into charcoal. The C-atom from the CO2 gets embedded into the carbon-grid in the charcoal and it ends up in a very stable form. So applying charcoal in agriculture you sequester CO2 from the air and put it into the ground. It acts like a carbon sink in a very natural way. And at the same time, you can exploit the gases` heat energy during the carbonization process.
I always say: "Heating your swimming pool in wintertime, you are actually doing more good for the environment, then if you weren’t heating it".