Senior Energy Analyst reports on biochar as economic method of CCS


Just read this on bio-char.


Sound’s good to me.  At £9/tonne this seems a sizeable contribution to GHG

reduction at a carbon price we already have in the EU cap and trade system.

I think the silver buckshot Al Gore cites will have many such low tech, low

cost solutions.  For me making charcoal is an intuitively correct solution

as it seems to be a simple way of compressing the natural carbon capture

cycle that can be done at low capital costs and with lots of other benefits

as well.



9 comments on “Senior Energy Analyst reports on biochar as economic method of CCS

  1. I would agree – there are various means of pyrolizing / gasifying wood which can eg run gas engines, leaving the carbon residue for putting back on the soil where it remains for 1000s of years and promotes soil fertility

  2. Biochar Soil Technology…..Husbandry of whole new orders of life

    Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

    We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

    It’s hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

    Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

    Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

    Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
    Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
    Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

    Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw, “Feed the Soil Not the Plants” becomes “Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !”. Free Carbon Condominiums, build it and they will come.
    As one microbologist said on the TP list; “Microbes like to sit down when they eat”. By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

    Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

    Charles Mann (“1491”) in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.

    Biochar data base;

    NASA’s Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

    The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

    Glomalin’s role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

    UNCCD Submission to Climate Change/UNFCCC AWG-LCA 5
    “Account carbon contained in soils and the importance of biochar (charcoal) in replenishing soil carbon pools, restoring soil fertility and enhancing the sequestration of CO2.”

    This new Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far – both technical and policy oriented. .

    Given the current “Crisis” atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

    This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

    Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.


    Erich J. Knight

    Shenandoah Gardens
    540 289 9750

    Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;



    665 – III.


    Most all this work corroborates char soil dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
    The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.

    Company News & EU Certification

    Below is an important hurtle that 3R AGROCARBON has overcome in certification in the EU. Given that their standards are set much higher than even organic certification in the US, this work should smooth any bureaucratic hurtles we may face.

    EU Permit Authority – 4 years tests
    Subject: Fwd: [biochar] Re: GOOD NEWS: EU Permit Authority – 4 years tests successfully completed

    Doses: 400 kg / ha – 1000 kg / ha at different horticultural cultivars

    Plant height Increase 141 % versus control
    Picking yield Increase 630 % versus control
    Picking fruit Increase 650 % versus control
    Total yield Increase 202 % versus control
    Total piece of fruit Increase 171 % versus control
    Fruit weight Increase 118 % versus control

    There is list of the additional beneficial effects of the 3R FORMULATED BIOCHAREU DOSSIER for permit administration and summary of the results from 4 different Authorities who executed different test programme is under construction
    I suggest these independent and accredited EU relevant Authority permit field tests results will support the further development of the biochar application systems on international level, and providing case evidence, that properly made and formulated (plant and/or animal biomass based) biochars can meet the modern environmental – agricultural – human health inspection standards and norm, while supporting the knowledge based economical development.

    We work further on to expand not only in the EU but in the USA as well. My Cincinnati large scale carbonization project is progressing, hopefully the first industrial scale 3R clean coal – carbon plant will be ready in 2009.

    Sincerely yours: Edward Someus (environmental engineer)
    EMAIL 1:

    EcoTechnologies is planning for many collaborations ; NC State, U. of Leeds, Cardiff U. Rice U. ,JMU, U.of H. and at USDA with Dr.Jeffrey Novak who is coordinating ARS Biochar research. This Coordinated effort will speed implementation by avoiding unneeded repetition and building established work in a wide variety of soils and climates.

    Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak’s soils work at ARS;

    I spoke with Jon Nilsson of the CarbonChar Group, in their third year of field trials ;
    An idea whose time has come | Carbon Char Group
    He said the 2008 trials at Virginia Tech showed a 46% increase in yield of tomato transplants grown with just 2 – 5 cups (2 – 5%) “Biochar+” per cubic foot of growing medium.

  3. Can someone please explain to me in simple terms why the manufacture and aplication of ‘bio char’is preferable to simply composting biomass? Composting is what nature has been doing since the dawn of time, and gardeners and allotment holders since they’ve been around?

  4. Can I enlarge on my question above?

    It seems completely pointless burying carbon at location A while digging carbon (coal) out at location B at enormous energy cost. All the while we’re burning coal it would be much more efficient to burn the carbon and replace some of the coal.

    I assume in creating BioChar we are attempting to obtain energy from sunlight in the least damaging way? The options are:
    1. Land + sunlight > woody plants > pyrolysis > methane + hydrogen + carbon: then, methane + hydrogen =energy + CO2 + carbon sequestered.
    2. Land + sunlight > green plants > dry some, compost some > combustion + compost spreading = energy + CO2 + carbon sequestered (+ soil improvement through improved water retention)

    I would be interested to see a comparison between the two options in terms of the amount of useful energy obtained, CO2 emitted and soil improvement achieved.


  5. Roger – it seems to me an excellent plan to pyrolyse biomass, produce electricity in say a gas engine, and then bury the char. This is both producing power and removing carbon from the atmosphere and in an ideal world is what we would switch to over night.

    However there is enormous historical incentive to carry on burning coal, not least of which there is not much alternative at the present.

    Hence my question, is it not a good idea, to instead of sequestrating CO2, which is voluminous and expensive, better to pyrolyse the coal, as per all UK gas works prior to 1960, and bury the coke?

    This would be a zero carbon method of producing power from coal and an handy means of transitioning to an entirely non fossil fuel based system.

    Obviously at the same time building up the biomass / char / power route and other renewables?

    I think merely composting biomass doesn’t get you any further – the carbon goes back to the atmosphere, without having generated any power.


    Dave A

  6. Why would you want to bury the char? why not burn it and save the energy otherwise consumed in expensive coal mining?
    If you want to improve your soil fertility use compost.
    I feel the whole issue needs a much more holistic examination.

  7. Roger – only tiny amounts of energy are consumed in coal mining…….

    If it makes sense to consider capturing CO2, and pumping it 100s km and then pumping it under ground, surely much easier to just put the coke into the ground directly?

    I suppose it depends on the fraction of energy in coal that is in the coke. (Any of the coal experts know?)compared to how much of the energy in the coal is needed to clean and compress the CO2 etc? I imagine it will use a lot less plant.

    Dave A

  8. “The Biochar Revolution” with “The Biochar Solution”
    The Biochar Revolution collects the results and best practical advice that these entrepreneurs have to offer to the biochar community. When practice and theory advance to the point where they meet in the middle, then we will truly see a biochar revolution.

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