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Understanding Biochar: An Explanation of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)

Understanding Biochar: An Explanation of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)

Understanding Biochar: An Explanation of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)

Biochar: A Promising Solution for Climate Change and Soil Health

Biochar, a charcoal-like substance created through pyrolysis, has the potential to revolutionize our approach to climate change and soil health. By heating biomass, such as agricultural waste, wood chips, and manure, to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, we can convert it into a stable, carbon-rich material that can be stored in the soil for centuries.

What sets biochar apart is its complex network of pores and channels, which give it a high surface area and the ability to adsorb and retain nutrients and water. Additionally, biochar’s negative electrical charge attracts positively charged cations like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Benefits of Biochar

Biochar offers a range of benefits that make it a valuable tool in addressing climate change and improving soil health.

Climate Change Mitigation

One of the most significant advantages of biochar is its ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Through pyrolysis, carbon is converted into a stable form that resists decomposition. This means that biochar can effectively sequester carbon in the soil for centuries, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.

Improved Soil Health

Biochar enhances soil health in several ways. It increases soil fertility by adsorbing and retaining nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Additionally, biochar improves soil water retention, drainage, and reduces erosion.

Increased Crop Yields

Studies have shown that biochar application can lead to a significant increase in crop yields, up to 30%. This is due to biochar’s ability to improve soil fertility, water retention, and even reduce pests and diseases.

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Biochar also plays a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It can minimize nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized soils and methane emissions from livestock.

Biochar’s Carbon Removal Potential

Recent estimates suggest that biochar could remove 1.1 to 3.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually by 2030. This is equivalent to the emissions of over 700 coal-fired power plants. The actual carbon removal capacity depends on factors like biomass type, pyrolysis process, and application rate. Nevertheless, even a small portion of global emissions removed by biochar can make a significant impact in mitigating climate change.

Innovative Biochar Projects

A number of innovative biochar projects are currently underway worldwide:

  • The Future Forest Company enhances reforestation projects by using biochar, removing ten times more CO2 than biomass alone.
  • Charm utilizes fast pyrolyzers to convert biomass into bio-oil, which is then injected underground for permanent storage.
  • Oregon Biochar Solutions manufactures ultra-pure biochar on an industrial scale from logging operations in the Pacific Northwest.

These projects demonstrate the diverse applications of biochar in removing carbon from the atmosphere and improving soil health.

Commercial Application of Biochar

The A-P-D (Auen care service) project in Zurich, Switzerland, serves as a successful example of commercial biochar application. A-P-D operates a small biochar pyrolysis plant that converts local farm biomass residues into biochar. The biochar is then used on nearby farms to enhance soil health and crop yields. The thermal energy generated during biochar production also provides heat to nearby buildings. This project showcases how biochar can create revenue from waste biomass, improve regional soil quality, and generate sustainable energy.


Biochar holds immense promise as a carbon removal technology that can combat climate change and improve soil health. As the technology continues to develop and commercialize, we can anticipate more innovative and impactful biochar projects emerging worldwide. With the potential to revolutionize our approach to carbon credits, Toucan is at the forefront of building the technology necessary to create a more efficient and scalable global carbon market.

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