About biochar, pyrolysis, biomass…
Last updated: January 19, 2022
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Carbonised biomass; charcoal, activated carbon, biocoal and biochar can all be described as a solid carbon-rich residue that remain from the heating of biomass in partial or complete absence of oxygen.
With the expansion of the biochar research field, the definition of biochar is however no longer limited to soil applications. In some acceptations, the definition even includes biochar use for energy – sometimes called biocoal – in industrial processes or products that may be later incinerated such as activated biochar filters or electronic components.
Finally, existing voluntary certificates of biochar include in their definitions specific requirements on production conditions and quality e.g. approved biomass types, minimum carbon content, treatment temperature, or pollutant contents.
All these materials have different properties. Usually, charcoal is produced in a way that maximises its yield (around 35% of the initial biomass weight), and charcoal has a lower carbon content and a higher hydrogen content than biochar produced at higher temperatures (and with a lower yield).
There are few studies that estimated the global potential of biochar carbon sequestration. The range they provide is 3 - 10 GtCO2 per year, with varying assumptions on biomass feedstocks used. If achieved, this potential is a significant amount for the climate system. However, humanity must also mitigate its current 50 GtCO2-eq emitted annually.