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Biochar

Hand holding Biochar
Biochar offers compelling climate, agronomic, and environmental benefits.

What is Biochar? 

Biochar is a solid form of carbon, mainly used to enhance sustainable soil management adding value to agriculture practices and the environment. By that, biochar differs from charcoal as its primary use is as a soil amendment and not for fuel. Further, charcoal is made traditionally from wood, while biochar can be produced from a wide range of biomass.  

Biochar is obtained from the thermal decomposition of organic material, biomass, in a low- or non-oxygen environment. Biomass residues from land-use practices – for instance sawdust or the shells and husks of cocoa, rice and coffee – are commonly used. Via the process of pyrolysis, the biomass carbon component is locked into a stable form, enabling long-term carbon sequestration. Through this process atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed by plants and stored in the form of biomass is converted into a stable material that degrades extremely slowly under natural conditions. That means, that the carbon can remain over decades to centuries stored in the biochar when applied to soils and, therefore, it represents a carbon removal sink. It removes carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. 

Why is Biochar so useful and beneficial? 

Biochar offers a multitude of further potential uses beyond mere carbon removal. For example, biochar combined with compost and used as soil additive: 

  • regulates soil humidity 
  • improves the nutrient cycle and crop yields 
  • enables the reduction of fertilizer use 
  • enhances living soils and healthy crops 

Biochar can also be used for alternative and innovative end uses such as in  

  • building materials 
  • animal feed 
  • cement 
  • and asphalt 

Another benefit: As the production of biochar produces energy surplus, this additional energy can be utilized as a replacement for fossil fuels. This further adds to the reduction of GHG emissions within the product value chain. 

Biochar carbon removal credits can be traded in the voluntary carbon market and thus provide financial benefits. Andrea Vera, biochar expert at FORLIANCE, explains: “Put simply, biochar production makes sure that biomass waste is simply not waste anymore: It can provide additional revenues within the biochar industry. By having a VCS carbon methodology for high value biochar products, we can unlock financial opportunities in the voluntary carbon market – in the form of certified carbon credits – and scale up the biochar sector.” 

FORLIANCE has developed a comprehensive biochar greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting methodology 

FORLIANCE has been selected by Verra to develop the respective methodology within its Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program, the world’s leading voluntary GHG program.  Together with the consortium partners BiocharWorks and SouthPole, and methodology developer Matt Delaney, the team will develop a standardized carbon accounting methodology for biochar scheduled to be completed by Q4 2021. 

FORLIANCE wants to create additional revenue streams from carbon finance along the biochar industry, reduce technology costs, and expand biochar production contributing to climate protection. Moreover, clients have the option to invest in carbon removal technology or neutralize their GHG emission with carbon removal credits to achieve their Net-Zero targets. 

After all, the climate goal is to remove and store CO2 permanently – and to turn former “waste” into a useful and sustainable resource.   

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Uschi Dellian
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