Van Walt Equipment used in important biofuel research

November 20, 2012

We take great pride in our equipment and never more so than when it is helping deliver important scientific research. Recently the BBC News featured the work of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), who last year purchased a Percussion Drilling Liner Sampler Set, in an article: Measuring bioenergy crops’ carbon footprint credentials’

The equipment is for research into bioenergy crops and their carbon footprint credentials. The team has set out to measure how much atmospheric carbon crops are able to lock into the soil and the team plan to use the findings to help policymakers, in the future, make informed decisions about the role bioenergy can play in delivering a low carbon UK energy mix.

At a site in Lincolnshire key bioenergy crops are growing side-by-side, which allows the researchers to compare their effects on soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from the soil.

One of the experiments involves exposing the crops to a “carbon tracer” that the researchers can then track as it moves from the air, through the plants and into the soil. This data demonstrates how the crops introduce carbon into the soil and how stable it is once the carbon is in the ground.

The second experiment, which involves the Van Walt equipment, is the collection of metre-deep soil samples. This is unusual because most soil science is normally done to about 30cm, the depth of the root systems of most arable crops whereas energy crops, which tend to be in the ground for 20-25 years and have deeper roots so deeper soil samples are required. But on a practical front, coring to a metre can be challenging and hard work – but not if you use a percussion drilling system like the one supplied by Van Walt.

To extract the metre-long soil sample, the team use one of our percussion drills and liner sampler sets to capture an undisturbed profile. These profiles are easy to retrieve, store and transport to a laboratory for analysis.

This project has a three year timescale and will involve the team travelling throughout the UK to take metre deep soil samples to enable a much better understanding of the overall effect on soil carbon so they can develop a model to show how growing bioenergy crops might affect an area of land’s soil carbon characteristics which will be universally available if other people plan to plant bioenergy crops.

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