What is biochar?
Biochar is a high-carbon, fine-grained residue that is mainly used in agriculture to enhance soil fertility and water retention capacity and then improve plant growth and farming productivity.
It can also be used in animal feed, cement, building materials, advanced composites and nano technologies.
Biochar has a high carbon content of up to 90 % and binds carbon material reliably, long-term and without negative side effects.
It is characterized by highly interesting physical and chemical properties and has a positive effect on biochemical processes.
What is Carbon Removal / Carbon Capture?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and sequestration is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) before it enters the atmosphere, transporting it, and storing it (carbon sequestration) for centuries or millennia. Usually, the CO2 is captured from large point sources, such as a chemical plant or biomass power plant, and then stored in an underground geological formation. The aim is to prevent the release of CO2 from heavy industry with the intent of mitigating the effects of climate change. CO2 has been injected into geological formations for several decades for enhanced oil recovery and after separation from natural gas, but this has been criticised for producing more emissions when the gas or oil is burned.
Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) and CCS are sometimes discussed collectively as carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS). This is because CCS is a relatively expensive process yielding a product which is often too cheap. Hence, carbon capture makes economically more sense where the carbon price is high enough, such as in much of Europe, or when combined with a utilization process where the cheap CO2 can be used to produce high-value chemicals to offset the high costs of capture operations.
CO2 can be captured directly from an industrial source, such as a cement kiln, using a variety of technologies, including : - absorption, - adsorption, - chemical looping, - membrane gas separation or gas hydration.
As of 2022, about one thousandth of global CO2 emissions are captured by CCS, and most projects are for fossil gas processing.
BIOCHAR, A HIGH QUALITY PRODUCT
High quality biochar has a great variety of characteristics and effects; it acts like a sponge, retaining water and nutrients. These qualities enable biochar to be used in many applications, such as:
• Soil improvement
The quality and therefore the application areas depend on the input material. Low-quality biochar can be used as filling material in production or as a building material additive in asphalt or concrete.
Either way – waste can be used again in a sustainable way to close the loop, demonstrating a true Circular Economy.
Apart from the above-mentioned, CO2 Sink Certificates can be used either as a yield model or to benefit the CSR goals of one's company.
The key questions are:
Is there enough biomass around to have signiﬁcant impact on the atmospheric CO2 levels?
Is there enough soil area for biochar dispersal?
Results appear positive. Some studies suggest, up to 50 percent of the biomass carbon can be retained using the biochar sequestration method, and estimates of up to 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions could be offset with biochar production.
Biochar Fields of application
Depending on the processing stage, biochar can be used in a wide range of applications, such as:
Natural soil conditioner (promotes nutrient & water content as well as humus build-up)
Natural feed additive (in the form of feed carbon; improves animal health)
Additive in the biogas process (improves the gas yield)
Natural stable bedding (improves the stable climate & reduces material costs)
Natural additive for composting (binds nutrients & reduces greenhouse gases)
Filling material additive in production
Building material additive (e.g. asphalt and concrete)
CARBON SEQUESTRATION AND CARBON SINKS
A carbon sink is a reservoir that stores more carbon than it releases, over an indeﬁnite period of time. The main natural carbon sinks are plants, the ocean and soil. However, carbon sinks can be made artiﬁcially, for example, by capturing CO2 and storing it in the ground or ocean bed. Carbon sequestration is this process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, long-term. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The aim is to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change.
CARBON GEOLOGICAL SEQUESTRATION
This is where biochar comes in. If biomass is not converted to biochar it naturally degrades, contributing to greenhouse gases. Instead, biochar may be added to soils with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass otherwise naturally degrading into greenhouse gases. Furthermore, when natural ecosystems are converted to agricultural land, most carbon in the soil is lost to the atmosphere, as soil microbes decompose. If biochar is returned to agricultural land it can increase the soil's carbon content permanently and would establish a carbon sink for atmospheric CO2.
DOES IT REALLY WORK?
Studies of the unusual fertility of soil in the Amazon suggests that indigenous populations thousands of years ago produced a kind of biochar, through their particular method of burning biomass. 'Slash-and-burn' methods use open ﬁres to reduce biomass to ash, whereas 'slash-and-char' uses low-intensity smouldering ﬁres covered with dirt and straw, for example, which partially exclude oxygen. Slash and char, rather than releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, sequesters carbon for thousands of years. While subsea and rock sequestration are currently very new technologies: high tech and high risk, soil sequestration is more down to earth. Making minor changes to agricultural methods could make the world of difference. While more research is needed into how the sequestration varies by biochar type and soil type, evidence suggests it can be very successful in very low carbon soils.
FROM AGRICULTURAL WASTE TO VALUE –
DELIVERING SUSTAINABILITY AND
A CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Transforming organic waste streams into biochar, while removing carbon and creating renewable energy through a true Circular Economy is our business.
During the carbon removal process, the majority of the carbon is actually sequestered, resulting biochar, thereby inhibiting the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, for centuries. Furthermore, as our systems operates at temperatures of up to 750°C, organic-based pollutants (such as solvents and microplastics) are practically eliminated and mineral pollutants are filtered, to ensure they cannot re-enter the environment.
ADVANTAGES OF USE IN AGRICULTURE
Some of the advantages of biochar in the agricultural sector are the following:
• waste volume reduction
• enhances soil fertility
• improves plant growth
• provides crop nutrition
• is a form of renewable energy
• is a low-cost amendment
WHY USE BIOCHAR IN BUILDING?
Buildings are typically constructed from man-made materials, in which processes, emissions and wastes are often harmful to the environment. Nearly 60% of waste in the UK comes from the construction industry. However, biochar is a 100% natural material which can improve living conditions in buildings; and can biodegrade when demolished, actually improving soil conditions. Furthermore, biochar captures and stores CO2, so buildings made with biochar have the potential to act as 'carbon sinks.'
A carbon sink is a natural reservoir that stores more carbon than it releases, over an indeﬁnite period of time. The main natural carbon sinks are plants, the ocean and soil, but carbon sinks can be made artiﬁcially, for example, by capturing CO2 and storing it in the ground or ocean bed. One idea is that buildings could become carbon sinks.
APPLICATIONS IN BUILDING
- Plaster: Biochar can be mixed with sand and clay to make plaster.
- Render: Biochar can be mixed with lime and cement plasters and used as an exterior coating.
- Concrete: Biochar may be considered as a component in concrete admixture.
- Bricks: Biochar lightweight bricks are currently being trialled, using cement, lime or mud as a binder.
- Insulation: Applied at a thickness of up to 20 cm, it can be a substitute for Styrofoam. In Japan, charcoal bags are used as insulation in cavity spaces, such as under ﬂoors and in ceilings.
- Road surfaces : Biochar is demonstrating promising results in use in hot-mix asphalt (replacing carbon black and carbon ﬁbre) with evidence of good resistance to rutting, moisture, and cracking. It can also be used to purify urban road run-off.
- Development of lightweight biochar–concrete panels and tile adhesives.
About Biochar Hellas
We are developing Sustainable Carbon Removal projects, that are utilising the most Certified Carbon Removal Technology to produce Certified High Quality Biochar with the consequent creation of significant Carbon Removal Rights CORCS and sellable Renewable Energy. Carbon Removal is the most drastic method humans have to try to solve the environmental problem.