The basic applications of biochar are:
- Biochar for saving irrigation water:
Biochar produced by our pyrolysers has a very developed honeycomb structure perfect for absorbing water in sandy soils.
- Biochar for stopping and reversing desertification:
Today, intensive agriculture and overgrazing have degraded over two billion hectares of our planet’s agricultural land. Climate change accelerates desertification. Therefore, the story of the birth of the Sahara should be a cautionary tale. Indeed, many of the worlds’ deserts started out as forests that were burned to clear the land.
- Biochar and agroforestry:
Agroforestry is a land use management system that increases the overall yield by combining agricultural crops (subsistence crops, annual crops) with trees (perennial crops) and/or livestock farming on the same plot of land. It is a means of creating and maintaining soil fertility. Agroforestry has an important role to play in the future: increasing production in a broad sense, but also improving the overall productivity of every farm, small or large, in a sustainable manner.
- Biochar and its effects on domestic animal feed:
This particular application for domestic livestock farming is reported in several scientific reviews about biochar. It is known for its beneficial effects in various cattle farms, for both meat and milk, in Switzerland in particular. Biochar also improves the animals’ well-being, improving their hygiene and health as it acts very effectively in the gut. It cleans the intestinal villi thereby enhancing the efficiency of the intestinal filter. Biochar regulates the digestive systems of animals by stabilising the microbial environment.
- Biochar for carbon-negative energy:
Growing plants that absorb CO2 produce biomass that contains carbon. Rather than leaving organic matter to decompose emitting CO2, pyrolysis converts half of the carbon into a stable and inactive form. Photosynthesis absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Biochar also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and nitrous oxide (300 times more active than CO2). Incorporated into soils, biochar, which is resistant to decomposition, fixes the carbon in solid and beneficial form, that, buried underground, does not contribute to a rise in greenhouse gases. We refer to this as carbon-negative. Biochar soils can be regarded as real “carbon sinks”. This new opportunity to capitalize on biomass represents a source of employment in rural areas, as well as a means of mitigating climate change, since one ton of biochar traps 2.7 tons of CO2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that: “There is at least 1 billion hectares of land available for conversion to carbon agroforestry projects.”. Biochar has the ability to significantly reduce poverty and deforestation while simultaneously sequestering carbon on a large scale.
- Biochar – electricity production through cogeneration:
o’deep Greening Desert uses high quality pyrolysers for producing biochar. Accordingly, the biomass pyrolysis system is able to recover 45% of the heat produced. With an installation of two CarboChar-3 machines, producing 1,825 tons of biochar a year, it is possible to produce 1.6 MW of electricity using only the co-generated heat, providing a very low kW/h cost (see diagram below).
- Biochar for wastewater treatment and its reuse:
Due to its high carbon content, biochar is better than powdered activated carbon and can be used as a catalyst support and also as an absorbent for wastewater treatment. Heat treatment by pyrolysis of biomass used to produce biochar contributes to its porosity and considerably increases its surface area, giving it its powerful capacity to adsorb micro-pollutants (pharmaceutical products, pesticides, etc.).
- Biochar for soil decontamination:
When certain industrial sites are closed, it is sometimes the case that the ground close to the factory can no longer be used for agriculture due to the presence of chemical pollutants in the soil. Biochar can be used as a soil amendment to clean up these soils or prevent heavy metals making their way into drinking water aquifers or edible plants. Indeed, in the same way as it fixes carbon in soils while improving their fertility, biochar can also lock in heavy metals that are present in soils, just like the active carbon filters used to purify water. Biochar therefore represents a new, simple and low-cost technique for soil decontamination.
- Biochar, a form of currency:
Indeed, one ton of biochar is equivalent to 2.7 tons of CO2, which equates to 2.7 tons of carbon credits. New stock markets for exchange of carbon credits are representing additional forms to take the sequestration of carbon into account as a means of fighting global warming. According to research and publications on the subject, the careful, large-scale use of biochar to amend soils can offset up to 9.5 billion tons of CO2 per year, that is equal to the amount currently emitted by fossil fuels (source: Johannes Lehman, Wim Sombroek, Bruno Glaser).