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Biochar may reduce impact of Alberta oil sands

April 17, 2013 Written by The Calgary Journal
April 17, 2013, Calgary, AB – The federal government and the Alberta government through its research arm – Alberta Innovates Technology Futures – have granted $1.35 million to Lakeland College for biochar research.


The grant money was used to allow the Vermillion, Alberta college to buy two mobile pyrolysis units.

Anthony Anyia, the scientist who oversees the biomass pyrolysis program at AITF, told The Calgary Journal that the mobile units allow researchers to travel directly to forestry and agricultural waste production sites in Alberta, removing the high cost of moving the waste materials to a centralized location for treatment.

Anyia said a commercial greenhouse is expected to open in Whitecourt, Alberta in 2014 that will use biochar produced from wood waste at the local pulp mill.

Biochar is also being investigated in Alberta and elsewhere for its carbon sequestration potential. Research states that the carbon in biochar resists degradation and once the material is buried in the soil, the carbon will stay sequestered for increased periods, making it carbon negative.

According to Anyia, biochar is also being considered for use in green roofs as it is significantly lighter than most soils, holds water well and supports retention of soil nutrients.

She said she hopes that biochar may be an effective treatment for oil sands and tailings ponds.

Anyia said that biochar has the potential capacity to absorb toxins from the water in tailings in the same general fashion as an activated carbon filtration system.

The product is also is expected to be less expensive than activated carbon and can be more easily sourced if made from locally available forestry waste, she added.

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