Biochar carbon removal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Biochar carbon removal (BCR) (also called Pyrogenic carbon capture and storage) is a negative emissions technology. It involves the production of biochar through pyrolysis of residual biomass and the subsequent application of the biochar in soils or durable materials (e.g. cement, tar). The carbon dioxide sequestered by the plants used for the biochar production is therewith stored for several hundreds of years, which creates carbon sinks.


A man working biochar into soil in a greenhouse
Biochar applied to the soil in research trials in Namibia

The term refers to the practice of producing biochar from sustainably sourced biomass and ensuring that it is stored for a long period of time. The concept makes use of the photosynthesis process, through which plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth. This carbon dioxide is stabilised within the biochar during the production process and can subsequently be stored for several hundreds or thousands of years.

Biochar Carbon Removal falls into the category of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.[1] It is considered to be a rapidly implemented and capital-efficient negative emissions technology ideal for smaller scale installations such as farmers, and also to help rural diversification in developing countries.[2][3][4][5] This is, amongst others, reflected in the guidance documents of the Science Based Targets initiative.[6][7]

Scientifically, this process is often referred to as Pyrogenic Carbon Capture and Storage (PyCCS).[8][9] The term Biochar Carbon Removal (BCR) was first introduced by the European Biochar Industry Consortium (EBI) in 2023[10] and has since been adopted by various institutions and experts.

Beyond carbon sequestration, biochar application has various other potential benefits, such as increased yield and root biomass, water use efficiency and microbial activity.[11]

Biochar production[edit]

Biochar is produced through the pyrolysis process. Biomass (e.g. residual plant material from landscaping or agricultural processes) is reduced to smaller pieces is heated to between 350 °C and 900 °C under oxygen-deficient conditions. This results in solid biochar and by-products (bio-oil, pyrogas).[12][9] In order to maximise the carbon storage potential, typically those biochar technologies are used that minimise combustion and avoid the loss of pyrogas into the atmosphere.[8]

In low-oxygen conditions, the thermal-chemical conversion of organic materials (including biomass) produces both volatiles, termed pyrolytic gases (pyrogases), as well as solid carbonaceous co-products, termed biochar. While the pyrogases mostly condense into liquid bio-oil, which may be used as an energy source, biochar has been proposed as a tool for sequestering carbon in soil.[13]

The global biochar market is expected to reach USD 368.85 million by 2028.[14]

Internationally there are several voluntary standards that regulate the biochar production process and product quality. These include the following (non-exhaustive list):

  • European Biochar Certificate (EBC) and World Biochar Certificate (WBC) developed by the Ithaka Institute[15]

Carbon removal potential[edit]

Global scope[edit]

Three main carbonaceous products are generated during pyrolysis, which can be stored subsequently in different ways to produce negative emissions: a solid biochar for various applications, a pyrolytic liquid (bio-oil) pumped into depleted fossil oil repositories, and permanent-pyrogas (dominated by the combustible gases CO, H2 and CH4) that may be transferred as CO2 to geological storage after combustion.[1]

In 2022/2023, Biochar Carbon Removal accounted for 87-92% of all delivered carbon removals.[16]

The potential extent of carbon removal with biochar is the subject of ongoing research. Using current waste from the farming and forestry industry worldwide, an estimated 6% of global emissions, equivalent to 3 billion tonnes of CO2, could be removed annually over a 100 year time frame.[17] More broadly, the potential is quantified to be between 0.3 and 4.9 billion tonnes of CO2 per year (GtCO2 yr−1).[18]


There is evidence that biochar, produced at pyrolysis temperature over 600 °C, resembles inertinite and thus highly stable.[19][20]

The level to which carbon dioxide is fixed and stored, depends both on the biochar production process and the subsequent application. If produced under certain conditions, 97% of the total organic carbon in biochar is highly refractory carbon, i.e. carbon that has near infinite stability. This implies that biochar can have a very high permanence in terms of carbon dioxide storage.[21]


There are several applications that are considered to store CO2 for long periods of time:

  • Soil application: Once mixed into soil, biochar, which is less susceptible to remineralisation into CO2 and CH4 than non-pyrogenic biomass,[22] fragments into micro- and nano-particles which can be transported to deeper soil horizons, groundwater, or other compartments that further protect it from degradation. Multiple studies have demonstrated that pyrogenic carbon is stable over centennial timescales.[13][23] The impact on soil fertility is context dependent, but largely positive.[13] It is estimated that biochar soil application could sequester 2.5 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 annually.[14]
  • Additive for construction material
  • Additive in asphalts
  • Additive in plastics, paper and textiles

Biochar-based carbon credits[edit]

Biochar Carbon Removal is increasingly seen as a promising negative emissions technology suitable for offsetting and carbon markets.

Market size[edit]

Trade in BCR credits is still limited to a small number of suppliers and credit off-takers. In 2022, out of 592,969 carbon dioxide removal credits purchased on the voluntary carbon market, 40% were based on biochar carbon removal projects.[24]


For the purpose of generating carbon credits, there are several internationally recognised voluntary biochar standards and methodologies. These include the following (non-exhaustive list):[25]

  • VERRA VM0044
  • Puro.Earth Biochar Methodology
  • CSI Global Artisinal C-Sink

Several biochar production and carbon credit standards define criteria for permissible biomass feedstocks for biochar carbon removal. For example, the European Biochar Certificate (EBC) features a positive list of permissible biomasses for the production of biochar. This list includes agricultural residues, cultivated biomass, residues from forestry operations and sawmills, residues from landscaping activities, recycled feedstock, kitchen waste, food processing residues, textiles, anaerobic digestion, sludges from wastewater treatment, and animal by-products.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Constanze Werner et al. (2018): Biogeochemical potential of biomass pyrolysis systems for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Environmental Research Letters, 13(4), 044036. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aabb0e
  2. ^ (2023-03-31). "How biochar emerged as an unexpected champion in the fight against the climate crisis". CEEZER. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  3. ^ M.A, Aparna (2023-05-16). "Biochar: The Miracle Material For a Sustainable World". Earth.Org. Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  4. ^ N McGlashan; M Workman; B Caldecott; N Shah (October 2012). "Negative Emissions Technologies" (PDF). Grantham Institute for Climate Change. Imperial College London. p. 15. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  5. ^ Wang, Liuwei; Deng, Jiayu; Yang, Xiaodong; Hou, Renjie; Hou, Deyi (2023-01-16). "Role of biochar toward carbon neutrality". Carbon Research. 2 (1): 2. doi:10.1007/s44246-023-00035-7. ISSN 2731-6696.
  6. ^ "Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) Guidence". Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  7. ^ Luckhurst, Karen (2022-10-05). "Biochar: the 'black gold' for soils that is getting big bets on offset markets". Reuters. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  8. ^ a b Schmidt, Hans-Peter; Anca-Couce, Andrés; Hagemann, Nikolas; Werner, Constanze; Gerten, Dieter; Lucht, Wolfgang; Kammann, Claudia (April 2019). "Pyrogenic carbon capture and storage". GCB Bioenergy. 11 (4): 573–591. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12553.
  9. ^ a b Werner, C; Schmidt, H-P; Gerten, D; Lucht, W; Kammann, C (2018-04-01). "Biogeochemical potential of biomass pyrolysis systems for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C". Environmental Research Letters. 13 (4): 044036. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aabb0e. ISSN 1748-9326.
  10. ^ "European Biochar Industry Consortium on LinkedIn". Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  11. ^ Schmidt, Hans‐Peter; Kammann, Claudia; Hagemann, Nikolas; Leifeld, Jens; Bucheli, Thomas D.; Sánchez Monedero, Miguel Angel; Cayuela, Maria Luz (November 2021). "Biochar in agriculture – A systematic review of 26 global meta‐analyses". GCB Bioenergy. 13 (11): 1708–1730. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12889. hdl:10261/263150. ISSN 1757-1693.
  12. ^ Gabhane, Jagdish W.; Bhange, Vivek P.; Patil, Pravin D.; Bankar, Sneha T.; Kumar, Sachin (2020-06-30). "Recent trends in biochar production methods and its application as a soil health conditioner: a review". SN Applied Sciences. 2 (7): 1307. doi:10.1007/s42452-020-3121-5. ISSN 2523-3971.
  13. ^ a b c Criscuoli, Irene; Alberti, Giorgio; Baronti, Silvia; Favilli, Filippo; Martinez, Cristina; Calzolari, Costanza; Pusceddu, Emanuela; Rumpel, Cornelia; Viola, Roberto (2014-03-10). "Carbon Sequestration and Fertility after Centennial Time Scale Incorporation of Charcoal into Soil". PLOS ONE. 9 (3): e91114. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...991114C. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091114. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3948733. PMID 24614647.
  14. ^ a b Kurniawan, Tonni Agustiono; Othman, Mohd Hafiz Dzarfan; Liang, Xue; Goh, Hui Hwang; Gikas, Petros; Chong, Kok-Keong; Chew, Kit Wayne (April 2023). "Challenges and opportunities for biochar to promote circular economy and carbon neutrality". Journal of Environmental Management. 332: 117429. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.117429.
  15. ^ "EBC and WBC guidelines & documents". Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 2023-12-10.
  17. ^ Lefebvre, David; Fawzy, Samer; Aquije, Camila A.; Osman, Ahmed I.; Draper, Kathleen T.; Trabold, Thomas A. (2023-10-11). "Biomass residue to carbon dioxide removal: quantifying the global impact of biochar". Biochar. 5 (1): 65. doi:10.1007/s42773-023-00258-2. ISSN 2524-7867.
  18. ^ Roe, Stephanie; Streck, Charlotte; Obersteiner, Michael; Frank, Stefan; Griscom, Bronson; Drouet, Laurent; Fricko, Oliver; Gusti, Mykola; Harris, Nancy; Hasegawa, Tomoko; Hausfather, Zeke; Havlík, Petr; House, Jo; Nabuurs, Gert-Jan; Popp, Alexander (November 2019). "Contribution of the land sector to a 1.5 °C world". Nature Climate Change. 9 (11): 817–828. doi:10.1038/s41558-019-0591-9. hdl:2164/14119. ISSN 1758-6798.
  19. ^ Sanei, Hamed; Rudra, Arka; Przyswitt, Zia Møller Moltesen; Kousted, Sofie; Sindlev, Marco Benkhettab; Zheng, Xiaowei; Nielsen, Søren Bom; Petersen, Henrik Ingermann (2023-12-09). "Assessing biochar's permanence: An inertinite benchmark". International Journal of Coal Geology: 104409. doi:10.1016/j.coal.2023.104409. ISSN 0166-5162.
  20. ^ Sanei, Hamed; Petersen, Henrik Ingermann (2023-02-22). Carbon permanence of biochar; a lesson learned from the geologically preserved charcoal in carbonaceous rocks (Report). Copernicus Meetings.
  21. ^ Petersen, H. I.; Lassen, L.; Rudra, A.; Nguyen, L. X.; Do, P. T. M.; Sanei, H. (2023-04-04). "Carbon stability and morphotype composition of biochars from feedstocks in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam". International Journal of Coal Geology: 104233. doi:10.1016/j.coal.2023.104233. ISSN 0166-5162.
  22. ^ Zimmerman, Andrew; Gao, Bin (2013-02-21), "The Stability of Biochar in the Environment", Biochar and Soil Biota, CRC Press, pp. 1–40, doi:10.1201/b14585-2, ISBN 9781466576483
  23. ^ Schmidt, Hans-Peter; Anca-Couce, Andrés; Hagemann, Nikolas; Werner, Constanze; Gerten, Dieter; Lucht, Wolfgang; Kammann, Claudia (2018). "Pyrogenic carbon capture and storage". GCB Bioenergy. 11 (4): 573–591. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12553. ISSN 1757-1707.
  24. ^ (2023-01-04). " 2022 Year in Review". CDR-fyi. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  25. ^ "How biochar emerged as an unexpected champion in the fight against the climate crisis". Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  26. ^ EBC (2023) Positive list of permissible biomasses for the production of biochar. production of biochar.

External links[edit]