Biomass Residues to Biochar – Then What?

Keith Driver.
Biochar Now. 1907 Gail, Loveland, Colorado, USA 80537.

Biochar is produced through pyrolysis of organic residues (forestry, agricultural). This material has been long touted as a high value transformation of forestry and agricultural residues.

The value of high-quality biochar comes from the numerous potential applications of biochar as a soil amendment, activated carbon substitute, bio-material component, grow media, inoculant carrier, greenhouse grow media, etc. However, the challenge has always been in building the markets for these end-products, particularly where production of the biochar has been sparse.

This presentation will cover a set of three projects being undertaken in Alberta to produce products that include high-quality biochar as a primary ingredient – while supporting overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These projects are a few of the projects that will use the biochar from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo biochar project currently approved for funding under CCEMC. These projects include:

  • A plastic wood project that creates high-value bioplastic resin from mixed plastic wastes and high-quality biochar. The structural properties (i.e. similar to graphene), as well as the odour control properties of the biochar upgrade the value of the resin – which has existing and growing markets.
  • A grow media project that creates ready-for-use greenhouse grow media bags containing high-quality and reusable biochar that are a direct substitute for current grow media products. Testing is proceeding and prototypes are coming to market.
  • A compost project combines egg layer manure with high-quality biochar to retain the nutrients and manage the odour associated with applying egg layer manure. As a pelletized product, this will displace other, lower nutrient value fertilizer products – particularly for organic farming applications.

The objective of sharing these case studies is both to explain the path to market for biochar related products, the true environmental benefits that can be attained and inspire others to consider pursuing inclusion of high quality biochar within existing or new product streams.