Proposed biochar plant a good fit for Haliburton, says U of T professor
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | Dec. 1, 2016|
A proposed biochar facility on Kennaway Road in Dysart spurred strong public reaction last month, but Sean Thomas, a professor from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry says Haliburton could greatly benefit from the production of biochar.
“There are legitimate concerns … a facility like this produces a lot of the same emissions that comes from a wood fire,” he said. “But the plant is being very carefully looked at by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and I think [biochar] fits really well with Haliburton as an environmentally conscious community.”
Thomas has been performing ecological research at the Forest since 1999, some of which includes the effects of biochar on the soil.
After years of research, Thomas says Haliburton’s ecological landscape is strongly affected by pollution coming from northeastern United States and southern Ontario.
“It turns out that the Haliburton Highlands receives some of the highest nitrogen deposition from those pollution sources,” he said. “Biochar is supercharged organic matter and holds minerals and nutrients and water, and if there contaminants in the soil it will also help take it out.”
Manager of Haliburton Forest, Malcolm Cockwell, and project manager Nina Shock led a public presentation last month, and explained how the production of biochar will use the waste or low quality timber collected from The Forest’s saw mill.
Using pyrolysis (high temperature burning without oxygen), these products will be converted to biochar.
“What isn’t directly used in this manner is safely combusted in a contained chamber and then emitted through a monitored system,” Cockwell told The Highlander, adding they will also be selling the biochar to several companies where it will be used in various applications, including the displacement of non-renewable products like carbon black and coal.
Part of the property the plant is proposed for is already zoned for general industrial uses, meaning a biochar plant would be permitted.
Shock told residents that the proposed plant still has to satisfy the requirements of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) or the project will not proceed.
That process can take up to six months, she added.
Several residents had concerns about emissions.
Shock said the plant will resemble a burning wood stove and the emissions produced are regulated by the approvals granted by MOECC.
The plant would create two full-time jobs and produce about four tonnes of feedstock daily.
Another public meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5 at the township office.
“We are keen to share information about our project and always will be,” Cockwell said.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.