Biomass Gasification for Agricultural Energy Sources and Soil Enrichment

EPA Grant Number: SU834319
Title: Biomass Gasification for Agricultural Energy Sources and Soil Enrichment
Investigators: Domermuth, David , Ferrell, Jeremy , Law, Daniel Allen , Martin, John H. , Raichle, Brian W. , Uchal, Michael J. , Urban, Eric J.
Current Investigators: Domermuth, David , Doll, Susan , Flynt, Asher , Gonzales, Eva , Hobbs, Zach , Houser, James , Kinsey, Heather , Labowitz, Ethan , Law, Daniel Allen , Madritch, Mike , Martin, John H. , Raichle, Brian W. , Uchal, Michael J. , Urban, Eric J. , Williams, Landon
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $9,991
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


Small-scale farmers are dependent on petro-industry products and inefficient biomass uses to warm greenhouses in winter and to fertilize crops. This use of fossil fuels contributes to air and ground water pollution. Greenhouses can be warmed, and soil can be enriched economically and without contributing to climate change. A gasification system that converts biomass into usable gas and biochar can produce fuel to warm greenhouses and provide an organic soil amendment at a low cost to the user.


A gasification system tied into agricultural production demonstrates a closed loop process. Agricultural byproduct, such as woodchips or grasses, are processed and dried; then the byproduct is heated to release gases. The gases are scrubbed and used to run an internal combustion engine (ICE). The ICE generates electricity for lighting, processing, and other end uses. Heat is then transferred from the gasifier and generator to warm the greenhouse. Biochar, which contains carbon, is applied to the soil in order to absorb, store, and release soil nutrients. This can potentially increase agricultural yield, which in turn provides more byproducts, which are then dried and fed into the gasifier, thus completing the energy loop and demonstrating a carbon neutral system.

Expected Results:

This system has economic, social, and environmental advantages. Extending the growing season can increase farmers’ income and strengthen local food supplies and economies. The system also reduces environmental degradation caused by petro-chemicals. At the farm level, less pollution would be released into the environment. On the large scale, growing and consuming local commodities could reduce transportation and related pollution. All these factors would help to improve the quality of life locally and beyond.

With the assistance of local community members, students, faculty and staff, the team will construct different biomass gasification systems that can be quickly modified in order to produce different amounts of heat, electricity, and biochar. The research will be evaluated based on the gasification systems’ ability to produce electricity, usable heat, and carbon rich biochar in desired ratios.

Supplemental Keywords:

Syngas, Producer Gas, Wood Gas, Wood Gasification, Sustainable Agriculture, Radiant Heating, Solar Thermal, Hydrogen, Carbon Sequestration, Renewable, Greenhouse,, RFA, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Atmosphere

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Biomass Gasification for Agricultural Energy Sources and Soil Enrichment  | 2011 Progress Report