Role of Biochar in Carbon Sequestration, and Soil Amendment
Soil forms the basis of our food production system; it recycles waste products, stores water between rains, and acts as a vast storage centre for carbon (soil contains 3.3X carbon than the atmosphere and 4.5X than plants, and animals on earth), water, and plant nutrients. Healthy soil is important not only for maintaining soil productivity but also sustaining many other important ecosystem services. However, ages of intensive farming have irreversibly altered natural nutrient cycling within soils - causing many cultivated soils to lose up to 70% of their original organic carbon. Biochar is intended for agricultural use, a type of charcoal with unique properties that is created to be adsorbent (its highly porous structure can act like a slow-release 'sponge' for water and useful soil nutrients), and/or soil amendment. This is important for effective carbon sequestration (to reverse global warming), improved soil fertility/health, and enhanced agricultural yields, which remains the key factor driving the global biochar market.
Biochar - Pyrogenic Carbon from Biomass, Predominantly Intended for Application to Soil
Biochar is made with agriculture in mind. It is a carbon-rich solid that is derived from biomass (organic matter from plants) that is heated at high temperatures in a limited oxygen environment. It is specifically pyrolyzed (charred) to support the improvement of soil. It is a stable solid substance that is rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for as long as thousands of years. Moreover, biochar plays a vital role in increasing soil fertility (of acidic soil types), increasing soil productivity, and providing protection against some soil-borne diseases. Biochar benefits fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms as well. The scope of growth for the biochar market is broad over the foreseeable future.
Biochar is Soil Solution for Carbon Capture
Offsetting carbon with biochar - up to 12% of the world's human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be sustainably offset by producing biochar from plants, and other organic material, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications. Biochar has the potential to sequester (rather than simply store) carbon into the biosphere. This makes soil an important source of GHG as well as a potential sink if appropriately managed. Carbon sequestration, the process of storing carbon in soil organic matter and consecutively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has become critical. The potential of utilising biochar to sequester carbon in the soil is gaining attention to develop climate-smart agricultural practices, thereby providing a string impetus to the global biochar market growth.
Biochar Decelerates Carbon Cycle
The conversion of biomass to biochar is the biological way of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which will not be sufficient to reduce GHG emissions and meet the global two-degree aim of the climate policy. In addition, it will be necessary to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. The conversion of biomass (from plants, or waste streams) to biochar is an ecologically attractive way of binding CO2 and storing it permanently below the ground. Biochar offers a strong link between the three Rio Conventions as it simultaneously addresses the climate change, soil degradation/desertification, and biodiversity.
During the process of pyrolysis, the organic compounds within the biomass are thermochemically split. Alongside biochar, individual products left by the process are water, heat, and a flammable gas mixture of H2, CO, CO2, CH4, and other hydrocarbons. These by-products are, however, not wasted; burning the pyrolysis gases covers the energy required for the production of biochar. Moreover, the heat produced can be fed into district heating networks to be used for the drying of raw materials, electricity generation through an exhaust gas turbine. It is widely used for scrubbing mercury from power plant emissions and can also be used in construction and building materials (for enhanced strength, and endurance), which makes it an efficient carbon sink. Biochar holds notable potential to create more effective carbon sinks in urban areas when added to city soils, which points to a potential influx of opportunities that would emerge in the biochar market.
Recycling of Waste Materials, Energy Recovery, and CO2 Compensation
Biochar can be made from almost any type of dry biomass, including waste materials. Biochar production thus could be an enormous opportunity for closed-loop type resource management with numerous valuable benefits. The ratio of biochar to biofuel depends on the process; burning the materials faster produces more oil, and synthetic gas, while a slower burn time creates more biochar. The gases, and oil generated during the pyrolysis process can be used for energy purposes, which could replace the combustion of fossil fuels. Further, the oil, and gas created can be used as an input to create more biochar, which means that the process is self-sustaining. The producer of high-quality biochar can receive (and sell) CO2 certificates. Farmers cannot earn carbon credits by adding biochar to their soil but they may run a biochar plant. If the heat can be used for heating, drying, or even cooling something, and if appropriate cheap biomass (wood, or biogas substrate) is available as an input material, it might become a new profitable agri business for famers. Biochar production has a growing role to play in business industry as it benefits the companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals.
Carbon Credits for Biochar Production
Given its potential contribution to GHG emission reductions, biochar-to-soil projects could be eligible as carbon credit trading investments. The carbon credits could be generated by applying biochar to soils, which may reduce the need to use conventional fertilizers, thereby contributing towards carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide emission reductions. This carbon seems to remain sequestered in biochar for centuries, and thus, sustainable biochar production could be a powerful tool in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. Its potential ability to address a variety of global challenges is indisputably large and can have a tremendously positive effect on the planet both in reversing climate change and providing sustainable products, and services the world needs. The demand for biochar production is thus expected to be on the rise.
Major Biochar Producing Companies in Global Market
Agrinova, Tolero Energy LLC, Phoenix Energy, BC Biocarbon LTD, Bella Biochar Corporation, BioChar Now, Biochar Solutions, Inc., Carbofex, CenUSA Bioenergy, Clean Maine Carbon, Circular Carbon Ltd., Cool Planet, LLC, Green State Biochar, NOVOCARBO GMBH, and Wakefield Biochar are some of the prominent companies in the global biochar market.