New Information on Biochar and Related Systems

I have had trouble until recently finding information that strikes me as reliable.

So thanks to PDA for this link from the COP15, a presentation by Sohi and Shackley of the UK Biochar Research Centre entitled Biochar: carbon
sequestration potential

Also thanks to Dano for this link to a very credible company called CoolPlanet:

Cool Planet is a technology company that is developing sustainable products to address three of the world’s largest markets: energy, food and water. Currently we are commercializing a technology to create green fuels and biochar in a way that can change the world for good.

Our green fuels are chemically identical to fossil fuels and can be blended into the current fuel supply to reduce greenhouse gases from the air without sacrificing performance or increasing prices at the pump.

Our biochar products sequester carbon and deliver transformative benefits to industries as diverse as agriculture, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Our technology allows us to build smaller, significantly less expensive facilities closer to biomass feedstock, so we can expand rapidly, achieve lower scale-up risk and continuously innovate and improve with each distributed facility.

Our strategic investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy), and the Constellation division of Exelon.


  1. For a complete review of the current science & industry applications of Biochar please see my 2013 Umass Biochar presentation. How thermal conversion technologies can integrate and optimize the recycling of valuable nutrients while providing energy and building soil carbon, I believe it brings together both sides of climate beliefs.
    A reconciling of both Gods' and mans' controlling hands.

    Agricultural Geo - Engineering; Past, Present & Future
    Across scientific disciplines carbons are finding new utility to solve our most vexing problems

  2. Sorry, I'm unenthusiastic. That sort of boosterism is what I'd like to get away from in discussions of biochar.

    I'd like to see some Smil-like calculations; mostly: how much carbon can be sequestered, how fast? Or at least some idea that people are looking competently at mass flows in the large.

  3. I'm looking forward to add some pictures of my extreme Terra Preta experiments in later spring. (Wait, I might make one pic this weekend: Agaricus mycelium surviving a massive drosophila attack in pyrolized wood pellets. Nice black and white.)

    I'm currently at work, but can't resist typing this 🙂

    1GtC/a would be doable. (Forestry harvests ca. 2GtC/a). Somewhere I read 78GtC total sequestration potential, but I guess it could be much more (look at soil C reservoir in carbon cycle). The first who did the big numbers is possibly Folke Günther in 2008 (I also recall a graph on his old blog).

    The half-life time of char in soil seems quite variable and depends on the production process and how much biodegradeable oils and tars are left in the pores (e.g. BBQ char is bad, if not complete nonsense) and of course the soil itself (climate, soil animals etc.). Estimates go from 30y to 10000y. It is actually 2 exponential decays. (The oldest traces of plants on this planet are charred residues and a few 100 million years old.)

    To the C sequestration potential you can add soil organic carbon that can grow with help of biochar. However, the char should be pre-loaded biologically before putting it in soil, for otherwise it will eat up humus due to the C/N ratio thing (cf. Wardle's 10y char coal bag experiment).

    Erich, I just had a short look at your presentation. Thanks for the word Agricultural Geo – Engineering. It seems you have dug out one reference I've been looking/waiting for for some time: Char in natural soil building processes. E.g. chernozem soil: I can imagine quite some buildup of soil char from frequent "grass crown fires".

    Next stop: Agricultural geo-engineering of melting permafrost, reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

  4. Pingback: Another Week of Anthropocene Antics, March 9, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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  6. 1GtC/a would be doable. (...). Somewhere I read 78GtC total sequestration potential,

    That was in K.Lorenz, R. Lal: Cropland Soil Carbon Dynamics, in Recarbonization of the Biosphere, 2012. So, this is just what is possible with natural soil C enrichment on agricultural land by non-destructive practice. (But who wants non-destructive agriculture!)

    Agricultural land has typically 1-10% soil organic carbon, with 10% being rare and usually on perfect organic/biodynamic fields. With biochar you easily can make stable 40%. (I do >60% in large flower pots, just for fun, sometimes resulting in root rot of Malva Alcea if too wet. My Horse Chestnut bonsai happily grows on 90% char.)

    So, 300GtC total agricultural sequestration looks realistic, at a rate of 2Gt/y (1Gt/y "natural" + 1Gt/y biochar).

    (BTW, some eminent economist once said that biochar is too expensive. In winter 2010/11 using German prices of wood pellets and heating oil I determined the fossil fools' cost of pyrolized wood pellets as -378$/t (minus!).)

  7. Please see my USBI 2016 Presentation;
    "The Civilization of Soil",

    The full paper, (no slides), is on my LinkedIn page;


    Historic hall marks of Green House Gas, (GHG), emissions are reviewed, providing repeated demonstration of anthropological land use changes on climate forcing.
    New Astrophysical and Paleoclimate concordance with extinction events demonstrating climate adaptation by prehistoric man.
    The Strata graphic measure of distinctions to the start, and effective end, of the Anthropocene.

    A review of new research concerning Soil Carbon, Carboniferous Aerosols and the synergistic ecological services supporting Net Primary Production, (NPP).
    The extent of Pyrolitic-Carbon's fraction in soil and the first survey of the extensive deep soil carbon sink.

    Review of land use studies on Holistic Grazing, ungulate nutrient & carbon dispersal & climate control. Implications for Carbon Dioxide Removal, (CDR), when all Best Management Practices, (BMPs), are observed.

    How thermal conversion technologies can integrate and optimize the recycling of valuable nutrients while providing energy and building soil carbon.
    New discoveries from the Advanced Spectroscopy & Meta-Genomics studies in soil microbiology which demonstrate unaccounted for ecological services provided by a healthy soil. All extremely supportive to Argo-Ecological principles, Carbon & Regenerative Farming initiatives & Soil Carbon Standards and GHG protocols.

    Part and parcel to a healthy, high carbon and highly aggregated soil structure.
    Integration of Agricultural bio-energy production with nutrient and carbon cycles, enhancing ecological services.

    Exploring implications for human and animal health, extrapolating implementation at scale of bio-energy systems that conserve carbon for home health, energy and climate.

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