Carbon credits for biochar production

01 July 2020 - Published by Paula Nijman
To meet the global 'two degree aim' of the climate policy it will not be enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 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 highly attractive way of binding CO2 and storing it permanently below ground.

To limit the planet's average global temperature to below a 2°C rise from pre-industrial levels is necessary to avoid a critical threshold above which the planet could experience irreversible catastrophic impacts. To achieve this it will not be enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it will be necessary to remove excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. 

The conversion of biomass to biochar is the biological way of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Its economical feasibility now has got a boost by a new carbon credits scheme offered by the Swiss company First Climate in co-operation with BIOMACON, a German company of biochar plants, which converts different kinds of biomass to biochar and heat by pyrolysis.

The producer of high quality biochar can receive (and sell) CO2 certificates. This can finally lower the prices of biochar and increase its market and application in agriculture and elsewhere. In this case, 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 as an input material (wood, biogas substrate) is available, it might become a new business for the famer.

An interesting example is the Micro Ferme du Ponceret in Belgium where the heat and the biochar are being used for greenhouse gardening. Another plant was built in the Norwegian municipality of Sandnes, where different types of municipal biomass waste are being fed in the course of the year.