The Eprida Cycle
Flash Animation

2004 Conference at
University of Georgia
Energy & Agricultural
Carbon Utilization

Proceedings on CD

Research Findings
Technical Website

Detailed Overview

Eprida offers a revolutionary new sustainable energy technology that will allow us to remove CO2 from the air by putting carbon into the topsoil where it is needed.

The process creates hydrogen rich bio-fuels and a restorative high-carbon fertilizer from biomass alone, or a combination of coal and biomass, while removing net carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Eprida process is based on the synergy among three key insights:

First, recent discoveries have revealed an ancient soil management technique from the Amazon basin. For thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived, civilizations there had buried charcoal in tropical soils to make them productive. Those terra preta, or “black earth,” soils still remain bountiful five hundred years later. The charcoal acts like a coral reef for soil organisms and fungi, creating a rich micro ecosystem where organic carbon is bound to minerals to form rich soil.

To make charcoal, wood is heated with limited oxygen, traditionally in a slow burning heap. With modern technology low temperature charcoal can instead be made by a hybrid pyrolysis process whereby biomass such as wood chips or agricultural waste is heated in a sealed vessel. Once started, this process actually gives off heat while it drives off steam and hydrogen, which can be captured, purified and used for energy. Hydrogen can be used to make transitional fuels such as GTL biodiesel today, or used directly in a fuel cell to make electricity or power vehicles in the future. Making a combination of less energy and charcoal from biomass is the second key ECOSS breakthrough.

Just burying charcoal in the soil is beneficial. Japanese studies have found that adding up to 10% charcoal increases fertility in most soils, but adding even more charcoal won’t hurt and if nitrogen is added to the charcoal it produces an even more effective fertilizer. Most fertilizer is currently produced by using natural gas to extract nitrogen from the air to make ammonia, but this releases one molecule of CO2 for each molecule of ammonia produced. Conventional urea based fertilizers, made from this ammonia, also tend to leach out and wash off into waterways, where they become a serious pollutant causing algae bloom and ultimately dangerously acidifying the oceans.

The third breakthrough in creating the Eprida ECOSS process came with the discovery that if ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), are all combined in the presence of charcoal they will form a solid, ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HCO3) fertilizer inside the pores of the charcoal. About 30% of the hydrogen derived from the biomass will make enough ammonia to combine with all of the charcoal from the same biomass to scrub CO2 flue gases from a power plant, converting all of the ingredients into a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer on charcoal.

The overall process can put almost all of the carbon that was removed from the air by the biomass back into the soil in a stable form, effectively removing net CO2 from the air. When used with biomass and coal, the process will scrub about 60% of the CO2 out of the flue gases from the coal, as well as all of the SOX and NOX, turning these compounds, which would otherwise contribute to acid rain if released into the air, into valuable constituents in the high-carbon fertilizer.

Once buried in the ground, the key to ECOSS carbon sequestration is the action of Arbuscular Mychoryzal Fungi. AM Fungi are found on the roots of almost all plants where they bring moisture and nutrients through tiny hair-like tubes called hyphae. The hyphae extend out from the root and can reach into tiny pores in the charcoal where dissolved nutrients and moisture are drawn by a static electric charge. The fragile hyphae exude a glue called glomalin to form a protective sheath around them. This binds together tiny particles of minerals with bits of dead organic matter that would otherwise quickly decompose and return to the air as CO2. The hyphae only live for a few weeks, but the glomalin lasts for 40 years, while aggregates made of many layers of glomalin and particles can last for hundreds of years. Aggregates give soil its tilth and account for 80% of the carbon found in soils. Increasing aggregate formation is the key to long-term carbon sequestration in soils.

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