C6 Forest to Farm, the local nonprofit that wants to test equipment to process logging slash at temperatures high enough to eliminate emissions, is working on the terms of an air-quality permit with the state Department of Ecology.
Ecology sent a draft permit to C6 in June. The agency is trying to develop a monitoring plan to ensure the pyrolizer consistently operates at a high-enough temperature to destroy all volatile organic compounds, said Ryan Vicente, an environmental engineer with Ecology. The small, portable pyrolizer C6 plans to use typically runs at a lower temperature, he said.
“We’re pretty ready to issue the permit once we have a handle on the temperatures and duration,” Vicente said.
Because there are few comparable projects in Washington, Ecology doesn’t have specific guidelines for the process, C6 Treasurer Gina McCoy said. C6 claims that the net effect of the process — to pyrolyze logging slash that would otherwise be burned — will reduce pollutants.
Biochar is added to soil to help retain moisture. The state Department of Natural Resources has saved piles of logging slash from a forest restoration project at Virginia Ridge to be processed as biochar. The woody material will be chipped before pyrolysis.
In, 2019, the state Legislature adopted a “joint memorial” that supports biochar research. The memorial points to several potential markets for biochar, including as an agricultural soil amendment, for animal feed, a landscaping material, and for pollution remediation.
Biochar provides a potential economic use for woody biomass that can help offset the cost of forest fuel reduction projects, it says.
Amended county permit
C6 has amended its application for a temporary-use permit (TUP) from Okanogan County to use power from a temporary powerline rather than a generator, C6 Executive Director Tom McCoy said. When C6 applied for the permit last year, the Okanogan County Electric Co-operative said a line crew and materials for a temporary pole and powerline wouldn’t be available. The co-op can now provide that service, he said.
Using temporary power — the pole will be at the county’s gravel pit on the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road, where C6 plans to set up the pyrolizer — should help address concerns about noise and emissions from the generator, Tom McCoy said.
While the current permits are for a one-year pilot project, if it’s successful, C6 hopes to create an industrial facility in the Methow. Forest restoration often involves removal of small trees that can spread a wildfire. Turning these trees into a soil amendment, instead of burning them to eliminate the slash piles, would be a double benefit, C6 says.
C6’s biochar project won backing from the Methow’s three state legislators, who successfully lobbied for $160,000 in the state budget to support it.
The amended TUP application also changes the dates of operation for the pilot project to July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.
Okanogan County Planning determined that the project, as described in the previous application, wouldn’t have a significant effect on the environment.
The public can comment in writing on the revised TUP through Wednesday (June 30). To comment or for more information, contact Rocky Robbins in the Okanogan County Planning Department at (509) 422-7117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.