Woodcache PBC

Woody Biomass Burial: A Buddy Story


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My buddy Ray and I spent the weekend on his land in Southern Colorado putting lots of ideas into practice.

We want Woody Biomass Burial (WBB) to scale, to become common practice, to be obvious, to be understandable, and to keep a gigaton of CO2 out of the environment each year. We couldn’t have done it on our own, so in addition to thanking our agents and producers, it’s worth talking about all of the buddies we couldn’t do this without.

Our Buddy Ning at the University of Maryland, who set the whole idea of Wood Biomass Burial in motion by publishing a seminal paper more than a decade ago. He also led some research proving the idea is viable.

Our buddy Branden, a landscaping specialist, who brought his backhoe out and dug 10 pits, each nine feet deep. He filled in one of the pits for free, after we placed wood and a sensor in it!

Our buddy Rich, a biologist and data scientist, gave us advice how to set up treatment and control pits in order to measure the significance of our experiments.

Our Ongoing Experiments

We hope that any and all scientists will look at the data we produce in order to better predict the decomposition rate of wood buried under optimal conditions.

In the latest update to their greenhouse gas estimation guidelines, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that we assume 8.8% of the wood will decompose every 100 years. But we think we can get it below 3% by continuously refining the design of the wood vault.

Ray and I put about a square yard of wood in eight of the pits. The wood varied by species (pine or cedar) and by diameter (thick was more than 9 inch diameter, thin was less than 9 inches diameter). We had to climb down ladders to arrange the wood neatly, and we probably couldn’t have gotten out if the other person on the surface was holding a grudge and removed the ladder.

Good thing we are buddies.

Our buddy Jesse from Global Technology Connection Inc., who designed and built the suite of sensors we buried in each pit.

He used off-the-shelf components this time and concentrated on architecture. The sensors measure:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane
  • Oxygen
  • Moisture
  • Humidity
  • Temperature, and
  • Light

Each of these factors affects, or is affected by, wood decomposition.

The sensors are connected to the surface through cable to a box that transmits data over a mobile network to a database in Atlanta. All of this is powered by a boat battery and a solar panel.

Jesse will now shift focus towards designing a sensor suite for production, intended to last, and be managed, for at least 100 years. We hope the infrastructure he designs will be used widely throughout the industry for centuries to come.

Our buddies Priyanka and Taylor will build and publish a user interface for the data coming from the pits, so that the public can see exactly what is happening in there. We’ll also be accepting input about what experiments to run going forward. For example, we plan to simulate a heavy rainstorm and a forest fire at various points in the coming year to understand their effect on decomposition.

Paul and his buddies at Barr engineering designed an evapotranspiration “capping” system, 6 feet thick and consisting of natural materials only. We hope we can implement it in production. Buddies from the state of Colorado, Huerfano County, and the NRCS were equally helpful.

Ray and I filled one hole completely using shovels, and quickly realized two old guys would never fill the other eight in the two days remaining. Ray will rent a small backhoe from our buddies at Home Depot and finish the job in a couple of weeks when he passes through.

The buddies are all in on Woody Biomass Burial!

Our goal is to construct and cap our first production pit by year end and sequester about 500 net tons of CO2. Our buddies Marianne and Leo at puro.earth will audit, list, market and sell the credits on their exchange. At that point we will have proven every step in the WBB process, and be ready to scale.

(Cue the orchestra. This acceptance speech has gone way too long!)

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