Jul 12, 2013 at 02:45 PM

TerraLogix Group Pyrolysis: ‘Nasty to Nice’ Part I

By Terralogix Group

Alec MacLeod is COO of TerraLogix Group, LLC.  The Annapolis, MD firm is a manufacturer and facilitator of Waste to Energy technology using a process known as  pyrolysis.  All four partners in the firm are tireless advocates for the technology’s use as a global sanitation solution.  We will share Alec’s recently updated white paper ‘Nasty to Nice’ here on the Terralogix Blog  in three installments.    

“Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future. The biochar approach provides a uniquely powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner. ” Prof. Tim Flannery, 2007 Australian of the Year

Biochar and carbon sequestration
Biochar and carbon sequestration


The TerraLogix Group, LLC (TerraLogix) has created a system to convert some of the most biologically problematic waste streams to energy and valuable products, and to foster a potential agricultural revolution, greatly reduce nutrient inputs to aquatic systems, and sequester current- day carbon while doing so. 

Biochard Fuel from Bio-Waste ‘Nasty to Nice’ Part I

The system is based upon pyrolysis, or anaerobic combustion, of bio-wastes, including manure, municipal sludge, paper mill sludge, and any other biologically produced waste material. The pyrolysis reaction produces energy and fuels for electricity generation, as well as biochar, a potent soil catalyst and a form of permanent carbon storage once incorporated into soils.

What follows are descriptions of the pyrolysis process and its products, the TerraLogix pyrolysis and electrical generation system, and the anticipated outcome following deployment of the TerraLogix system. We have also included a discussion of biochar’s effect in soils when used as an amendment.

Pyrolysis Process and Products

Pyrolysis is a self-maintaining, exothermic process, using heat and gasses produced by the reacting biomass itself to sustain the pyrolysis reactions. It is also a carbon-negative process, taking up and sequestering carbon captured from the present-day atmosphere during the growth of plants for food and fuel.

Biomass Plant
Biomass Plant

Pyrolysis is fueled by various forms of biomass, including animal manure, sewage sludge, plant wastes, wood, etcetera. The pyrolysis process is (by definition) conducted in the absence of gaseous oxygen, turning biologically-produced wastes into a carbon matrix, plus usable fuels including liquid “bio-oils,” plus syngas (synthesis gas), plus heat. The ratio of biochar to bio-oil production is regulated by the heat of the process – low (relatively) temperature or slow pyrolysis yields more biochar, higher temperatures (or fast pyrolysis) yield more syngas.

Pyrolysis offers a useful and potentially profitable means of disposal of otherwise difficult and highly polluting animal byproducts, including municipal sludge and wastes from Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs). Other biochar fuels, or feedstocks, can be any form of bio- waste, including field residues (e.g. grass seed crop residues routinely burned in Oregon’s Willamette Valley), dead animals (diseased and otherwise deceased chickens from large poultry operations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore), or forestry and sawmill byproducts and wastes.

It is important to note that pyrolysis of animal wastes, including sewage sludge, destroys pathogens as well as most pharmaceuticals during the high temperature pyrolysis process.

Syngas: Syngas (also known as synthesis gas) is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide (a flammable gas), methane, some CO2 and low percentages of other constituents. It has approximately half the energy content of natural gas, and can either be refined to concentrate energy content or be further processed to generate industrial gases, fertilizers, chemicals, fuels and other products. In the TerraLogix system, syngas is used as a fuel for generation of electricity.

Biochard Fuel from Bio-Waste ‘Nasty to Nice’ Part I
Bio-oil from pyrolysis of biologically derived materials

Bio-oil: The bio-oil from pyrolysis of biologically derived materials is composed of a blend of hydrocarbons and aromatics. It has less energy density than does fossil diesel, but can be used directly as a fuel in applications similar to those using heating oil or by turbine generators. The use reduces emissions of CO2, SO2, chlorite and sulfur. It is competitive in cost compared to natural gas and diesel, is easy to store and to transport, and is a valuable source of chemicals to replace petrochemicals in the manufacture of plastics and other products.

Heat: A large amount of heat is released during pyrolysis. This heat is used to generate electricity using steam turbines and/or heat engines. Excess heat can also be used to heat buildings including, for instance, buildings housing such Confined Animal Feed Operations as poultry farm buildings. A particularly creative use of post-generator heat is to heat year-round lagoons for the culture of oil-producing algae, such that not only is no heat released into any receiving waters or the atmosphere, but the energy is captured by plant growth for conversion to fuels as well as additional biomass to be cycled back through the pyrolizer.

Terra Pretta, soil amended with biochar for generations in Amazonia
An example of Terra Pretta, soil amended with biochar for generations in Amazonia.

An example of Terra Pretta, soil amended with biochar for generations in Amazonia.

Biochar: The abbreviated and paraphrased Wikipedia definition of Biochar is as follows:

“Biochar is a form of charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass, and is comprised of a stable solid rich in carbon content…”

In part two of our Nasty to Nice series learn about Biochar and its place in the Soil Improvement cycle.

Read Part III

Listen to No Boundaries Radio Hour featuring TerraLogix CEO Kurt Karsten and Alec LacLeod.



Posted in Renewable Energy Sources, Waste to Energy Plants.