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Any new small charcoal retorts out there?

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We seem to concur that it is hard to see where the prices charged for small retorts comes from. Has anyone successfully built a decent one? If so was there a significant cost saving or are the prices justified?

 

How many burns would you get out of a retort before it would need replacing? Is there a business case at all (even break even)?

 

The thoughts of anyone who has given it a go would be very much appreciated.

 

I'm inclined to ignore the prices of the current retorts on the market because at the prices being charged, it's not even an option!

 

My definition of a decent retort is one that is;

 

  • affordable
  • a profitable asset
  • reliable
  • fairly easily & readily fixable
  • user friendly
  • as non polluting/ efficient in the burn as possible
  • mobile (or can be fairly simply re-located)

I haven't found anybody achieving that, yet.

But there is hope! :thumbup:

cheers, steve

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My definition of a decent retort is one that is;

 

  • affordable
  • a profitable asset
  • reliable
  • fairly easily & readily fixable
  • user friendly
  • as non polluting/ efficient in the burn as possible
  • mobile (or can be fairly simply re-located)

 

I think that's a pretty good specification.

 

I must admit, I was originally looking for a retort, to buy or build, but having failed to find one and with my primary purpose being biochar I ended up with the pit (flame curtain) method. It ticks all the boxes above except for being as efficient as possible, produces high yields quickly and actually if fed with suitably dry branch wood it will produce some reasonable quality lump charcoal in the burn, which I screen out.

 

Alec

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I think that's a pretty good specification.

 

I must admit, I was originally looking for a retort, to buy or build, but having failed to find one and with my primary purpose being biochar I ended up with the pit (flame curtain) method. It ticks all the boxes above except for being as efficient as possible, produces high yields quickly and actually if fed with suitably dry branch wood it will produce some reasonable quality lump charcoal in the burn, which I screen out.

 

Alec

 

Hi Alec

 

I do recall your suggesting pit burning in another thread. I did consider doing that but I'm struggling with sending wood burning fumes into our atmosphere..... although equally, I do drive a diesel car and eat meat. :001_huh:

My heads a mess with being greener than thou whilst not really being greener than the average person. I dunno. Maybe I think too much???

cheers, steve

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I think that's a pretty good specification.

 

I must admit, I was originally looking for a retort, to buy or build, but having failed to find one and with my primary purpose being biochar I ended up with the pit (flame curtain) method. It ticks all the boxes above except for being as efficient as possible, produces high yields quickly and actually if fed with suitably dry branch wood it will produce some reasonable quality lump charcoal in the burn, which I screen out.

 

Alec

 

Forgive my ignorance but what's the difference between biochar and charcoal? Can biochar be used as bbq fuel?

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Forgive my ignorance but what's the difference between biochar and charcoal? Can biochar be used as bbq fuel?

 

No difference but biochar is often smaller and quenched to extinguish it.

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Forgive my ignorance but what's the difference between biochar and charcoal? Can biochar be used as bbq fuel?

 

It's my understanding that charcoal cooks steaks on your barbie and biochar is much smaller in size and is used to mix into soil to do something to plants that I should probably know about. Something about carbon, photosynthesis, the atmosphere and saving the polar bears.

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It's my understanding that charcoal cooks steaks on your barbie and biochar is much smaller in size and is used to mix into soil to do something to plants that I should probably know about. Something about carbon, photosynthesis, the atmosphere and saving the polar bears.

 

I haven't spotted any polar bears turning up yet, but if I do I'll put a picture up :biggrin:

 

As per openspaceman's comment, there is no difference except typically size of the bits. With biochar, because you are not burning it, you can also get away with less thoroughly charred material (brown ends) as the bacteria consume the tars and oils.

 

What it does, is have a very high surface area which is active to trap various molecules passing by, but able to give them up again to a plant. The most interesting one for me is water, as it takes up excess to stop waterlogging and then keeps more water available to alleviate drought, reducing the need for irrigation. Other very useful ones are water soluble fertilizers such as nitrates, phosphates etc. where trapping them stops them from leaching, increasing soil fertility and reducing the risk of leaching into watercourses (we are right by a river from which drinking water is abstracted).

 

It does also happen to trap carbon from forming CO2 but the impact of that is likely to be negligible compared with the effects of other gases such as methane.

 

Alec

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I'm inclined to ignore the prices of the current retorts on the market because at the prices being charged, it's not even an option!

 

My definition of a decent retort is one that is;

 

  • affordable
  • a profitable asset
  • reliable
  • fairly easily & readily fixable
  • user friendly
  • as non polluting/ efficient in the burn as possible
  • mobile (or can be fairly simply re-located)

I haven't found anybody achieving that, yet.

But there is hope! :thumbup:

cheers, steve

 

That's just the spec I need.

I recall (possibly incorrectly) that TVI had an early Exeter and was getting around £150 a burn from a £15k asset so the first 100 burns were 'on the house' which ignores the not considerable amount of labour and materials. Hardly scientific but this suggests about 200 burns to break even. Problem was after around 50 burns his exeter was returned for major surgery.

 

An update from any one using an Exeter or Hookway (or from the manufacturers) would be interesting. There does seem to be a demand for the spec SteveA has outlined but it does need to stack up on its own. Using grants to mask a loss maker can't be right.

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I haven't spotted any polar bears turning up yet, but if I do I'll put a picture up :biggrin:

 

As per openspaceman's comment, there is no difference except typically size of the bits. With biochar, because you are not burning it, you can also get away with less thoroughly charred material (brown ends) as the bacteria consume the tars and oils.

 

What it does, is have a very high surface area which is active to trap various molecules passing by, but able to give them up again to a plant. The most interesting one for me is water, as it takes up excess to stop waterlogging and then keeps more water available to alleviate drought, reducing the need for irrigation. Other very useful ones are water soluble fertilizers such as nitrates, phosphates etc. where trapping them stops them from leaching, increasing soil fertility and reducing the risk of leaching into watercourses (we are right by a river from which drinking water is abstracted).

 

It does also happen to trap carbon from forming CO2 but the impact of that is likely to be negligible compared with the effects of other gases such as methane.

 

Alec

 

You're a clever sod Alec :biggrin:

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Forgive my ignorance but what's the difference between biochar and charcoal? Can biochar be used as bbq fuel?

 

The way I see it:

A wood burning kiln is used for producing charcoal (at this stage there is no biochar).

There is, however char!.... charcoals are bigger lumps of char!, they just haven't fallen apart or turned to a finer dust.

Crushing lumps of charcoal into tiny bits, turns charcoal into char!

 

Biochar is what is produced by activating the char!....

The 'bio' part of the word means poo, urine or generally (nitrogen).

 

The surface area of char! is MASSIVE and for its size can lock in/ or carry a huge amount of bio.

 

In our case we're planning on activating our char by sprinkling it on the floor of our chicken coops & probably also within a humanure toilet (via our very own liquid gold/ urine).

 

This biochar! will be added to our raised beds and compost.... at up to approx 10%

 

That's just the spec I need.

I recall (possibly incorrectly) that TVI had an early Exeter and was getting around £150 a burn from a £15k asset so the first 100 burns were 'on the house' which ignores the not considerable amount of labour and materials. Hardly scientific but this suggests about 200 burns to break even. Problem was after around 50 burns his exeter was returned for major surgery.

 

An update from any one using an Exeter or Hookway (or from the manufacturers) would be interesting. There does seem to be a demand for the spec SteveA has outlined but it does need to stack up on its own. Using grants to mask a loss maker can't be right.

 

The Village Idiots arbtalk thread, here http://arbtalk.co.uk/forum/large-equipment/72283-mobile-retorts.html has a lot of very useful info in it (make a cuppa tea and take notes as you go cuz it's about 16 pages at the last count).

 

Be prepared to be a-gasped by the technical info presented by Openspaceman! :thumbup:

cheers, steve

Edited by SteveA

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