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Monday, 6 February 2017

Singapore Workshop Report

The following report is Co/ Prof. Ng Wei Cheng at NUS...

The 2nd Renewable Energy and Biochar workshop, organized by the CREATE E2S2 program, was successfully held at the CREATE Tower of the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 19 January 2017. The workshop featuring five distinguished academic speakers in the area of renewable energy and biochar (Prof Ruzhu Wang, Prof Yong Sik Ok, Prof Chi-Hwa Wang, Prof Yanjun Dai and Prof Tianshu Ge) attracted about 40 participants with quite a number of biochar industry players. The industry panel discussion session in the workshop has also served as a good platform to promote dialogue between researchers in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and industry for potential collaborative opportunities.
In the workshop, Prof Ok from the Korea Biochar Research Center (KBRC), Kangwon National University talked about the research trend in biochar in a presentation titled “SMART biochar technology? A shifting paradigm towards advanced materials and energy/environment research”. He shared how the initial research on using biochar for soil improvement and carbon dioxide sequestration, has expanded and found new applications in engineering, health care and life sciences. The increasing number of research publications over the past few years shows that the biochar topic is getting more popular. While biochar in general is accepted as being harmless to the environment, he cautioned that the source of the feedstock for the production of biochar may give rise to PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) and should be tested for toxicity. Last but not least, he also showcased his biochar related research work in a diverse spectrum of applications, as well as his industry collaborative projects with some of the biggest companies in Korea.

Apart from biochar experts in the academia, the workshop has attracted a number of active biochar or charcoal manufacturers in Southeast Asia. For instance, Mr Bryan Lee, a charcoal manufacturer from Sepatang, Malaysia shared a little with us on his charcoal manufacturing facility and the fields in which his charcoal is being utilized in. Mr Balathandautham Tam from Moringa Village also shared his coconut plantation planning in Palembang, Indonesia that involves the setting up of coconut oil production and conversion of coconut shells to charcoal. Besides Indonesia, he also has some plans for plantation in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. 

More interestingly, big multi-national companies such as Sembcorp Industries Ltd, a leading energy, water, marine and urban development group, has also shown deep interest in biochar development in the region. Additionally, the workshop has also drawn the attention of an investment group that is interested in our integrated technology that handles both wet and dry waste, and yet capable of producing biochar. Last but not least, Mr Trevor Richards from the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) also shared a little about IBI and the upcoming plan of a 3-day practical biochar workshop in Thailand toward the end of February 2017, covering both production and applications.

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