Sunday, 10 November 2013

Biochar Buries Fossil

Biochar Buries Fossil

What is biochar?

Biochar is charcoal made by heating biomass in a low/no oxygen environment. Biochar can store large amounts of carbon in the ground for centuries, like putting coal back in the mines.

Where would this biomass come from?

Rotting leaves return as much CO2 to the atmosphere as the plants took in to make them. All we have to do is rake them up and turn them into biochar to keep all that carbon in the ground.

How much decaying biomass is there?

The natural decay of organic material in forests and grasslands and the action of forest fires results in the release of about 439 gigatonnes of CO2 every year (IPCC). In comparison, human activities only amount to 29 gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

Who would pay for it?

Adding biochar to soil improves fertilizer and water retention, reduces nutrient leaching, and increases crop yields. This gives it a market value of anywhere from $1 to $50 per kilogram as a soil supplement, depending on quality and additional fertilizer.

Would it take a lot of energy to do this?

Modern pyrolysis plants can use the syngas created by the pyrolysis process and output 3–9 times the amount of energy required to run.

What will Big Oil do about biochar?

BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy), and the Constellation division of Exelon are among the investors in CoolPlanet, a developer of small scale biorefineries which convert non-food biomass into gasoline, jet fuel, and soil enhancing biochar, which is currently building its first 10 million gallon renewable gasoline refinery.

Are there any famous supporters?

This technique is advocated by prominent scientists such as James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, for mitigation of global warming by greenhouse gas remediation, as well as some climate change activists such as Al Gore.

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