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The Adams County Record of Council, Idaho

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A technology that is hundreds of years old has now been updated with a modified process in gasification plants. Instead of completely burning the fuel, as in the waste or wood burning process, wood is only partially burned in an oxygen-starved atmosphere. This reduces the wood fiber to a product called char or biochar, a form of charcoal. (The same process is used with coal to create "coke.")

Char can be used to add nutrients and significant water retention to soil. This is very valuable in dry climates. A small company at Cascade is now producing char and has more demand for it than the plant can produce. There is a facility in Lemhi County that is almost ready to go into char production.

A grant was recently awarded to Washington State University, with the University of Idaho participating to a lesser degree, to facilitate methods to process char to more refined states. Experimenting with various lignin-containing plants, including straw, they have developed the process to the level of making low-grade diesel fuel. The goal is to refine it further to make better diesel, gasoline, and even plastics.

According to Rick Brenneman of the Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership, because these schools are nearby, our area could "become a real focal point nationwide for this, and this gasification plant that they're talking about for Adams County could be a real coup. The opportunity to use the landfill in partnership with other entities to bring that up to what is required, I think is a tremendous step forward."

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Original Publication Date: January 18, 2012

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