Economic and Lifecycle Analysis of Coal Char and Bio Char as Soil Additives

Faculty Lead(s): Roger Coupal

Description: Wyoming thermal coal production has dropped by over 53% since its peak in 2008 and national utility demand has dropped 58%. Efforts are accelerating to develop ‘clean coal’ technologies that convert Wyoming coal into non-fuel and energy products in a sustainable way. A chemical and pyrolytic process has been developed at UW to create activated carbon at low costs.

Coal char is related to the longer studied line of research and development on biochar, a similar product.  Biochar is produced from the conversion of plant material to activated carbon using pyrolysis. Both biochar and now coal char have been or potentially can be used in building materials, agricultural soil additives, and other technical uses.

This study will evaluate the use of coal char as an agricultural soil additive. The objectives of the study are to:

  1. Assess the level of water and nitrogen needed with the soil additives to meet reference plot output levels.
  2. Estimate the market distance required to make coal char and biochar costs equivalent at the farmgate using a stochastic whole farm linear programming model.
  3. Assess the productivity increases using the soil additives with reference plot level inputs of water and nitrogen
  4. Estimate and compare both economics and carbon footprint as an output increasing additive and an input use and cost reduction additive.

The student will become familiar with risk analysis of the agricultural production system, and how the science around the two categories of char affect input use and outputs. They will also become familiar with stochastic life-cycle analysis techniques and farm-level linear programming.

Economic and Lifecycle Analysis of Coal Char and Bio Char as Soil Additives

Find us on Instagram (Link opens a new window)Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)Find us on LinkedIn (Link opens a new window)Find us on YouTube (Link opens a new window)