Sharing our installations, case studies and knowledge.

Student Biochar Project

One of the main issues with the development of the biochar market in North America is the awareness of the general public on the benefits of biochar. The attached link is a class project that can be executed in academic institutions to help students understand the value of biochar and its characteristics. IRSI believes that by exposing younger generations to the benefits of biochar, pyrolysis and similar technologies/processes we will be taking a significant step towards shifting the paradigm in the western world for waste management and agricultural practices.

Student Biochar Project



Climate Leadership Plan

Climate Leadership Plan is a plan set forth by the Alberta government to combat pollution and climate change. The government’s plan was released in November 2015 following public consultations and a report by the Climate Change Advisory Panel. Contained in the plan are key areas that will be focused on including; carbon pricing, coal & electricity, emissions from the oil sands, methane emissions, financial support for renewable, gas emitters regulations, and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act (CCEMA).

Increasing price of carbon is a governmental disincentive for industry to step away from carbon intensive practices. This is aimed at encouraging innovation to produce solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Coal will be phased out by 2030 and replaced with renewable alternatives. The oil sands will have a limit put on the amount of emissions that can generate per year; currently there is no limit. This, similar to the increased carbon price, will be a disincentive for the oil sands to use carbon intensive practices and will hopefully drive them towards innovative practices that reduce emissions. An overall reduction methane emissions from oil and gas of 45% by 2025 is the aim for methane reduction.

Financial support for renewables as well as the CCEMA plan will drive forward change that will set the foundations for future generations’ energy network.

The Ulysses system nicely fits into a number of these categories and can be a significant contributor to a new energy paradigm. The Ulysses will generate thousands of carbon offsets per year that can be sold into the carbon market. In order to properly phase out coal by 2030 an alternative for baseline power requirements is needed and the Ulysses system can be a part of this by producing electrical and thermal energy through the pyrolysis process. Methane emissions are produced during the natural decomposition of material in landfills and by adding biochar (the end product of the Ulysses system) to the alternate daily cover on landfills methane will be absorbed and removed from the atmosphere.

Financial support for municipalities, landfills, and waste haulers to purchase and implement the Ulysses system throughout Alberta would be a tremendous step towards developing this technology as a viable contributor to the government of Alberta’s goals. Finally, the main tenants of the CCEMA plan revolve around emission offsets, improving processes, emissions performance credits, or fund credits paid into the CCEMF. The Ulysses can play a part in these areas by providing improved processes for utilizing waste and sequestering carbon and other greenhouse gases, by providing offsets for the carbon market and by receiving support from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund for sites throughout Alberta utilizing a Ulysses system.

There is no immediate solution, but IRSI and the Ulysses system are keen to take the first steps towards improving our world for future generations! Come be a part of the of the solution!

Alberta Biochar Initiative’s Workshop: Commercialization of Biochar

ABI Workshop Attendees Reduced

On Wednesday, April 27th, the IRSI staff attended the Alberta Biochar Initiative’s workshop on the commercialization of biochar hosted at the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures’ building in Edmonton. The event had a terrific turnout of approximately 60 attendees representing academia, government, industry, and researchers. Topics covered everything from the different applications for biochar to the types of technology available for the production of biochar. In terms of identifying a direct path to the commercialization of biochar I believe that the audience was split between two camps. One side was of the opinion that further research was needed and the production of biochar should be done with specific characteristics in small volumes. The other perspective was that large volumes of homogeneous, consistent biochar was needed and that once available the applications would be realized. Although no consensus was reached on the clearest path to commercialization the dialogue was fruitful and the networking opportunities will undoubtedly lead to positive developments. IRSI will continue to forge ahead with the demonstration of the Ulysses pyrolysis system in Drayton Valley and hopefully will be a contributor to the expansion of the biochar markets in both Canada and the United States.

IRSI would like to thank the ABI and AITF staff that put on the event and look forward to the next workshop.

Exciting Things in Drayton Valley!

IRSI is excited to be teaming up with Drayton Valley’s Bio Mile & Clean Energy Technology Centre to begin our demonstration period. We will be operating the Ulysses pyrolysis system for six to eight months in Drayton Valley. Working with a collection of stakeholders in the town, IRSI will be demonstrating the first ever continuous feed pyrolysis system of this size! Alberta Innovates Technology Futures will be on site preforming performance validation testing on the entire system. The feedstock or fuel for the Ulysses system will be sourced from the local Weyerhaeuser sawmill and will be clean, chipped wood waste, which is ideal for high-grade biochar production. During the demonstration period testing will also be completed by AITF on the feedstock and biochar by-product.

IRSI’s goal for the demonstration period has always been to confirm the economic and operational viability of the Ulysses system. We are extremely fortunate to have found a receptive community and collection of businesses in Drayton Valley that are willing to take part in this exciting opportunity. The Drayton Valley Bio Mile offers an ideal environment for the operation of the Ulysses pyrolysis system and the production of high-grade biochar. The biomass that will be run through the Ulysses system currently has no market and therefore is a concern for the sawmill, the final biochar product has a burgeoning market throughout North America (as discussed in previous posts), the potential for combined heat and power as well as carbon offsets has huge potential for businesses within Drayton Valley, and the further development of the Bio Mile and the work being done by the CETC is a cornerstone of IRSI’s demonstration project. IRSI hopes to showcase the Ulysses system as a viable option for dealing with large volumes of woody biomass and sees huge potential for the town of Drayton Valley to establish themselves as a hub for high grade biochar production in Canada.

The stakeholders involved in this project include: Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, Albert Innovates Bio Solutions, Industrial Research Assistance Program, Bio Mile & Clean Energy Technology Centre, Valley Power, The Town of Drayton Valley, Mojo Trucking, as well as a number of other parties interested in the Ulysses technology, possible applications, and the biochar by-product.

Stay tuned for updates!

Early Days of Oil Production

In the second half of the 19th century crude oil was extracted from the ground for the first time using an oil drill in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The first widely demanded commercial application for crude oil was kerosene. This kerosene burned longer and brighter than the traditional whale oil for lighting. Petroleum or crude oil was also used early on as a medical application for a variety of ailments. Initially the volume of petroleum required for medical applications was extremely limited and therefore did not require large production volumes. However with the advent of kerosene lighting this changed dramatically and demand for kerosene drove the technological advances that lead to the drills capable of producing large quantities of petroleum or crude oil. As more volume of petroleum was extracted from the ground new and diverse applications for crude oil followed. Today crude oil is the base material for everything from gasoline to plastic telephones to pharmaceuticals to fertilizers; our world is essentially based on petroleum products and their derivatives. Through the robust development of technology and a continued drive to maximize profit by oil producers new uses for the product were continually being developed. Petroleum products have a high concentration of carbon and can be refined and distilled into a wide variety of products with a wide range of applications. Crude oil’s primary component is carbon and the variety of materials produced from crude oil are consistent and reliable, however the crude oil itself is not consistent. Biochar shares these qualities with crude oil.

Biochar is primarily carbon based and has a wide range of characteristics. Not all biochar is created equal and neither is crude oil. Similar to crude oil in the 19th century, biochar in the 21st century is on the cusp of recognition as a widely useful and diverse component for a litany of commercial applications. Biochar can be used, much like crude oil, in everything from fertilizers to food additives to energy sources to graphene production. The distinct difference between biochar and crude oil is that biochar can be produced sustainably and can provide renewable energy through the course of its production. With global warming, population growth, and a slowing global economy all putting pressure on current paradigms in economic, societal and environmental systems it is paramount that humanity finds new solutions to age old problems. Biochar is at the forefront of this shift and just like crude oil in the late 19th century, biochar needs to begin to be produced in large, commercial volumes to expand the already stellar list of applications for it. IRSI’s Ulysses system is the first continuous feed system that has the capacity to produce large commercial volumes of biochar. It is the firm conviction of the IRSI team that as these large volumes of biochar become available in the market place new and innovative uses for it will follow.

To quote John D. Rockefeller “if you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” This embodies a societal directive as much as an individual prerogative. Biochar is a new path that can lead to great success for future generations. IRSI will continue to lead the way in the development of new paths for business, environment, technology, and innovation. Join us and be a part of a new paradigm shift!

Alberta CARE Conference

IRSI would like to thank the Alberta CARE organization for the opportunity to present at their conference in Lethbridge, Alberta on February 25th of last week. The conference was informative and allowed for a terrific setting for networking and discussions around recycling programs throughout Alberta. Alberta CARE has a large number of members including; municipalities, consultants, industry members, aboriginal groups, and vendors. IRSI is proud to be involved with Alberta CARE and believes that their goals of coordinating community level recycling programs, facilitating the establishment of partnerships for the implementation of recycling and waste management strategies, promoting recycling as part of the day-to-day lifestyle of Albertans, and promoting awareness of new recycling initiatives are fundamental to the successful revamping of the waste management industry and practices in Alberta.

IRSI is excited to continue involvement with Alberta Care and looks forward to incorporating the Ulysses system into new and burgeoning waste management practices and initiatives! For more information please visit the Alberta CARE website attached below.