Invitation to project 540 site work-shop-days

Over the next 3 months you are invited to some laid back workshops-cum-workdays in the historic and scenic Terania Creek valley, just 3km from the world heritage Nightcap national Park,

The focus of our project is to prepare the small farmers and village level biochar practioners of the world for the coming collapse of the "The World As Advertised". We're doing this by designing a series of biochar kilns as heating units for our essential needs, like hot spa baths, washing, and clothes drying.
The charcoal produced from these kilns makes "Biochar", which is a key initiative in taking responsibility to provide fertile local soils for local food production, that can flourish with limited inputs, and be "fertile to the seventh generation". This sequesters atmospheric C as a spin-off, accurately quantifiable to the kg. This can only currently be done using biochar inoculation and sequestration.

There is an apparent inevitability that economic collapse will spread, and that with Peakoil, and surges in the violent activity of climate changes, we will have no choice but to "powerdown" from the the slow motion train-wreck that has only just begun.

We believe not only that "Small is Possible", but is essential and can be beautiful. It is clear that moving feed-stock and char to and from central large processors will become increasingly cost-ineffective, and that the only long-term solution for human habitation will be a huge drawdown of C as char, from many small local kilns, concomitant especially with a massive simplification of western lifestyle,.

We propose nothing less than designing a well-orchestrated world meme, to build a multitude of low tech, but very efficient pyrolisers for, a myriad of uses and especially user-producers of biochar, in as many cultures as we can.
If you'd like to come and camp, and help lay the foundations, literally, for a real planetary healing solution, as well get a genuine Carbon - Negative Hot Bath. Please apply by email or phone to Geoff at 0266886166. 9am to 6pm.

We have a limited availability of a shack and a hut for families with small children, if camping is too harsh/wet.

We propose fortnightly mini-camps of about 2 days each for March, April and May, beginning the full moon Wednesday on March 11th. Set your mental calendar with the moon: new moons and full moons.

On Feb wed 25th is Tibetan New Year, or Lhosar, which will be celebrated as an intensive work fortnight, and then the 540 seed camp culminating on the full moon. All welcome.

Project 540: Biochar Kiln Designs for Small Farms

The Project 540 Biochar Kiln Group, a biochar work group of volunteers at The Rainforest Information Centre in NSW, Australia were recently awarded funding towards a small-scale/village, non-polluting biochar kiln project by APE-UK, Artists for Planet Earth, From sales of world music CDs, with tracks donated by musicians, APE-UK selected the project from many hundreds of applications, and awarded the group £5,000.

The project team is focusing on the low tech, low cost end of the spectrum. Geoff Moxham, Production Team Coordinator said: “I'm guessing that small local units are going to be needed, will be built everywhere, anyway, and we might as well get the emissions (especially CH4) under control as soon as possible, or we'll just make things worse.” Reiterating the size of the unit, he stated “I thought I was a little fish, but now I think I'm a krill...”

The overall project is to run for 8 months, and will produce public domain/creative commons working designs, and support material, including a low cost biochar kiln Wiki on how to build a kiln, which is in testing now. At the same time, the group is constructing, testing and refining at least one full-size ~1m^3 prototype best-practice kiln, including monitoring and control systems. The constraints will be construction at the village-tech level of skills, in light steel, firebrick, and concrete. The resulting kiln will then be an ongoing test site, open for the community to access and copy.

?Plans to build the kiln include making the most of second hand and donated materials, and voluntary labour. The group has been given the enthusiastic support of one of the first intentional communities, and the use of land for a kiln site, farmland adjacent to the site, and farm machinery. This way the grant money can be used to maximise the quality of kiln materials, buy the local test gear, and pay for organic and other test and certification costs that cannot be covered from the local community. A connection exists already to the Wollongbar Department of Primary Industries Biochar research facility, and Lukas Van Swieten has offered the use of their 'pyrograms' for establishing and cataloguing char signatures.

We have been brainstorming and refining our design, and building low-fired clay models, for the advantage of 3D visualisation. Many of the design elements are from kilns by Euan Craig, and Dennis Monks, and also from the Design Elements essay at the link below.

We have decided upon the generic name of Phoenix, for the entire small kiln series... what else rises from the ashes?... why charcoal... for one, and perhaps convivial human planetary life for another?

At the present time we will probably add the 540 prefix to a range of kiln designs, now looking likely to be at least 3.

The 540 Phoenix Series :

540 Phoenix-1. A micro kiln for small heating, cooking and party warming.
Excellent experimenter's batching kiln for characterising char feed
stock and varying kiln parameters, for efficiency testing, batching,
and loading and unloading access issues. Pyrolysis chamber approx 8 -15 litres.

The prototype of this kiln was demonstrated at the Lismore North Coast National Show in October 2008. “The kiln was fired successfully on the last day, and almost all the charring went well, with much less start-up fuel than I have ever used, and clear, shimmering exit gases.”

The kiln was just 5 courses of bricks high, on a 1/4" steel base plate, size: 2' x4', a floor of plastic bricks, with 3/4" kiln shelves for a lid. It has several inverted drums inside (Folke Guenther's inspiration), as well as several dedicated pyrolisis tins with fitted lids and small gas outlets. These are various recycled vessels, including pressure cookers, stainless steel stockpots, biscuit tins, a toyota emission-control activated carbon fume condenser, and some nestling tin cans. I am working on making it fork-liftable.? The inverted drums were arranged in a firing sequence that started small, and worked towards large, by using internal baffles of bricks or kiln shelf. There were 6 side-stoke holes, and the setting was surrounded completely with dessicated fuel, mainly wood scraps, shavings, cardboard and paper. A spark arrestor was fitted. Firing time was only 80 minutes which surprised me, and there was no torrefied leftovers, which also surprised me.?We did this for the public to get the concept, without the mystery. Also to show the importance of directing all smoke to a combustion zone, and its nature as a fuel gas, and large risk as a GHG. It was just a wake up display. The grant application was an afterthought of John's and we had just 36 hours to make the submission. Just goes to show what a good idea will pull.?

540 Phoenix-2. A medium size kiln with water heating for a bath, and an option for multi-chamber continuous firing. A precursor to a Naborigama style climbing kiln using 20 litre drums. About 20 - 60 litres.

The two preliminary test kilns are under construction and refinement, but the shed and kiln floor is still being built for the large kiln. As we are battling a very wet summer season, shelter comes first, but most materials are now on site, fortunately. We have been brainstorming and refining our design, and building low-fired clay models, for the 3D visualisation-impaired. Many of the design elements are from kilns by Euan Craig, and Dennis Monks, and also the Design Elements essay at the link below.

540 Phoenix-3. A community and farm-size batch kiln, with woodgas
outlets, extensive pyrometric analysis ports, Tuyere air inputs,
venturi draught extraction and venturi chimney stack, under-kiln floor
stoking and exhaust channels, bourrey-box pre-heaters and small
charcoal-powered afterburner for start-up smoke destruction.

At the purely "We Wish!" stage is the Phoenix-6:
It will have up to 6 kilns in a ring, venting by two way baffle to each other, or also centrally, into the main venturi chimney stack. Off gases enter the central large base through tapering tangential channels, hand-formed in stainless fibrecrete, which rise slightly. This gives a rising vortex flow of great efficiency, that can be used for draught applications for other kilns in the ring.?Each chamber can be fired alone, fired as pairs, triads, or sequentially fired. An adjacent kiln with a small charcoal load can be used as the afterburner, like a bourrey-box, to burn the smokey start-up gases from the first fully loaded kiln. Once draught is started, some of the hot gas output can be diverted to the warm-up cycle of the next wood loaded kiln in the ring. Stoking moves in a circular version of the community sized linear climbing kiln, the Naborigama. (probably the world's most efficient, traditional concatenated pottery kiln.)

In addition the draught produced by the venturi stack can be used to draw cool air into the hot chamber that has previously finished, cooling it quickly, and pre-heated air used as intake air, with a concomitant rises in efficiency.

In my mind's eye the 540-P6 certainly looks like a phoenix nest... and these are breeder reactors after all! They make their own kiln hardware in each cycle. ... more kilns.... more char... like yeast, but smarter.

As a secondary aim the project will inevitably look at the uses of the waste process heat. Primarily this will be for drying feed-stock. Some suggestions for community uses are for drying clothes in the wet season, hot water for laundry, hot-tub and sauna.

Time allowing, there is the possibility of extending the kiln design to be a "breeder kiln", by co-firing green kiln bricks, saggars and other kiln furniture. Using local clay, this would allow self-replication and repair indefinitely, and provide shards, or even terracotta night-soil vessels, for terrapreta experiments.
The project is also working on using LETS (Local Exchange Trading System), “payment in kind”, and direct barter, in addition to traditional currency, for the biochar to look at how alternative currency systems can work with biochar sales, and potentially mimic some economies in developing countries.

The Project 540 vehicle fleet includes a "fry-brid" 100% chip-oil powered tow-car, which has already been used to collect and transport stainless steel pyrolysis vessels, and transport displays. Not a solution, just a stop-gap alternative for now.

Says Geoff “As my learning curve steepens, I keep re-assessing my throwaway line ‘It's not rocket science... the Amazonians didn't have rockets’. In the full irony the world brings to your door, my project colleague now is Dr Paul Taylor... a rocket scientist!”

The project overseer is RIC founder John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre (who received an OAM in 1995 for services to conservation and the environment) and the research, design and production team co-ordinator is Geoff Moxham, BSc Industrial Arts, Technology, UNSW. Other participants currently include research physicist ex-Harvard and Smithsonian, Dr. Paul Taylor (UNSW), Peter Gibson, Chris Phoenix, Greg Hall, Patrick Anderson and blacksmith Adam Jung.

If you'd like to come and camp, and help lay the foundations, literally, for a real planetary healing solution, as well get a genuine Carbon-Negative Hot Bath. Please apply by email or phone to Geoff , 9am to 0266886166?For more information see:

Details of the design elements at: