Biochar: An ICRLP Explainer Video

Biochar: An ICRLP Explainer Video

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Hello everyone. And thank you for joining us today for this webinar, on biochar. And carbon dioxide, removal. Presented, by the institute. For carbon removal, law and policy. At american, university. My name is jason funk and i'll be your moderator, today. I'm working with the institute, uh and with american university, as a fellow. However most of my time, is spent running something i call the land use and climate knowledge initiative. Which i founded in 2019. With the aim of promoting. More informed. Cooperative. And charitable, solutions, at the intersection, of land use and climate change. My task today, is to help all of you become more informed, about the important topic of biochar. And i plan to do that simply by staying out of the way as much as possible. Because we have an excellent lineup of speakers, today. First let me just uh give a few housekeeping, notes. All of you tuning in are muted, and you'll be muted for the duration, of the webinar. And your video will be turned off as well. So in order to allow us to interact, we encourage you to write any questions you have into the q a tab, which you'll find at the bottom of your screen. For the q a portion of the webinar. You can also feel free to use your chat box, to submit comments, or. Maybe any technical, issues you might have along the way. A recording, of this webinar, will be available, on the institute's, website. Shortly afterward. Along with many past webinars, on relevant topics. Concerning, carbon removal. You'll be able to access, access these webinars. At. Carbon removal, is all one word with no punctuation. Or hyphens. And be on the lookout for our next webinar. On december, 2nd. About enhanced, ocean weathering, and carbon, removal. Today's one hour webinar, will explore, biochar. As a carbon removal, method. We'll start with three presentations. From our panelists. Then we'll open up the floor for questions. On behalf of the participants, i want to thank our panelists today for taking time to be here. For this important discussion. I'm going to introduce them in the order, that they're expected to speak. I have to mention that. One of our speakers, has not yet joined the webinar, so we're not sure if he's having technical, difficulties, or not. Uh we'll see how that plays out. Our first speaker that has already joined us, is johannes, lehmann. Who is the liberty bell, sorry liberty, hyde bailey, professor. Of soil biogeochemistry. And soil fertility, management. At cornell university. His specialization.

Is, Soil organic matter and nutrient, studies. Of managed, and natural ecosystems. With a focus, on soil carbon sequestration. Nutrient, recycling, from waste. Biochar, systems. Circular, economy. And sustainable, agriculture, in the tropics, especially, in africa. The speaker we have slated to. Come up second, is darko, matavik. Who is professor, at queen's university. In kingston, ontario. Where he teaches, in the mechanical, and materials, engineering, department. His research, interests, include sustainable, energy from biomass. And the production. And use of biochar. As a viable technique for carbon dioxide, removal. And as a valuable, resource. Material, in soil improvement. And remediation. Of contaminated. Soils. Our third speaker. On our on our list is kathleen, draper. Who's the board chair, of the international, biochar, initiative. And vice chair of the us, biochar, initiative. Kathleen, is the owner of finger lakes biochar. Which is focused on biochar, activities, in new york state. And she is the us director. Of the ithaca, institute, for carbon intelligence. Which has a global focus for biochar, activities. She's a co-author. Of. Burn. Using fire to cool the earth. As well as terra preta. How the world's most fertile soil. Can help reverse climate change, and reduce, world hunger. First off, we'll have johannes. Uh give his presentation. And we're waiting for darko, to join, um. If he's unable to join or joins late, uh we'll jump straight to kathleen. So for now um let's hear from johannes, take it away johannes. Thank you very much jason, for the kind introduction. And, and moderating. Today and thank you, um allison, and uh, union of concerned scientists, for, for putting this together. Um, so i want to share some, some, basic, thoughts and then um hopefully, make them some salient, points about. Biochar, and and the context, of carbon dioxide, and removal. As well as greenhouse gas emission reduction, because that that plays a role, in that discussion. Um. Just as a preamble. Um, so that we're getting on the right track in in framing, this, uh. Carbon dioxide removal. Really. Makes only sense if if there's, a, lot and sincere, effort in, uh reducing, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel consumption, i think that's that's something i probably would we all agree in um. And, that anything that we do including biochar, is not a silver bullet. Um. But we need a basket, of options, and that we need to dip into, uh so that's that's sort of a wider, framing, um, to to. Frame. A. Discussion, on biochar as a cdr. My initial motivation. And, i believe. Inspiration, for for many others, in the last 20 years. For looking into biochar. Is, the. Investigation. Of the so-called, terpreta, gingio, soils. These so-called, dark earths. In the, in the central amazon. Uh have, remarkably. High carbon contents. And are remarkably. Fertile. We know that they have been modified, by amerindian, populations. Several thousand, years ago. And, they are unusually. Rich, in what we now call biochar. This pyrogenic. Carbon. It is not, really clear for all sites, but, highly plausible, that. These biochar, amendments. Were laid down. On purpose, for, something that approximate, agriculture. But it is very clear that, they where and when, and that they're still there and what effects they have um so those those are a remarkable. Motivation. For looking into the persistence. Of. Biochar. In an environment. Where, carbon, cycles, much faster. Than these, old, c14. Dates would be live. Another, important framing, um. Is that biochar, is actually not. Just peppered, somewhere here and there in the environment. But is ubiquitous. In our soils, sediments, oceans. And the atmosphere. We have to say, um, and uh, and and, we, we're looking at a, map here that, is, still a work in progress. In terms of assembling the global, data set and and there's, much to be done but, it is, blatantly clear that biochar, is is everywhere, in soil so what what we're talking about is, is managing, the earth's carbon, cycle, uh and the stocks that are already there rather than introducing, a completely alien substance. So what is biochar. Biochar, is the conversion. Of. Of, organic, matter, such as here shown for corn carbs. Under. The. Exclusion, of oxygen, heated, to. More than 250. Degrees, 300 degrees celsius. At which stage. Uh not only water evaporates. But. Carbon, is. Is reconfiguring.

In So-called amorphous, carbon and then above. 500, 600, degrees. To an increasing, extent, in in more ordered structures, that, approximate, something like turbostratic. Carbon. Hydrogen, and oxygen, is volatilized. Carbon-carbon. Bonds. Form that are not usual, in, in biological. Systems, because, they are, uh difficult to make and difficult to break, um, and and that's, that's part of the the story, uh. The, biochar, as a product is actually, also not new, um, has been. Around, for a long time, uh even in the com, commercial, realm here from the 30s from the us. Um, but. As far as i can see. From. The first, mentioning, in scientific. Studies, and textbooks. And farmer. Outreach, materials, from the 1850s. Up to, several decades, ago. Never really. Bothered, in in, thinking, through, that there might be different charcoals, what effect they might, exactly, have, and how we might um. Uh uh. Manipulate. And and uh manage it uh judiciously. So that that is really a new way of of, looking at, a charcoal, or biochar. But i want to make. Very clear also that biochar. Is. We shouldn't think about biochar, as a material, biochar, is really a, persis. A system, a paralysis. Uh or a thermochemical. Conversion, system, uh whereby we need to look at all the moving parts in it where's the biomass, coming from, what is it what properties, does it have, um. Yes what kind of biochar, we are producing, but also what kind of gaseous. Compounds, and liquid compounds, we we might produce. Um, there is a large community, and has always, been a large community. That is looking at the oils, and, condensables. As well as the. Gases, that are, produced, during pyrolysis. And some of the major, chemical companies, in the 1800s, were actually pyrolysis, companies, that made all kinds of chemicals, from, from, the gases, and the liquids. In terms of climate. Mitigation. With biochar. I. Like to, distinguish, between three, broad entry points. One is of course when we convert. Thermochemically. Biomass, we are generating, energy, the. Gases, the. The liquids. As well as heat. And those, can, under suitable conditions. Uh not always, but under suitable conditions. Be transformed, into energy, that are. Potentially. Offsetting, fossil fuels. The second one, um. Is. Is the one that is probably, central to this discussion, is the carbon dioxide removal. But also emission reductions. Because we are converting. Something that mineralizes, fast. Um. Relatively, fast within, weeks and months. Into something. That mineralizes. Very very slowly, and, does not emit, appreciable, n2o, or ch4, emissions, either. And then there's a whole, suite. Uh here under shown on the sea. Of effects. That pertain. To the ecosystem, when i put biochar. Into a soil, in in this context, that i'm discussing, today. Um. Then. We we can expect. Changes. In greenhouse gas emissions from the soil so not from the biochar, that was added to soil but from the from the soil.

As Well as for instance, um, changes, in in uh uh photosynthesis. Um, uh, through through greater crop growth and and those, um. Are. Are uh, fluxes, and balances that we need to look at, um, separately. From, from biochar, or the fossil fuel, emission, reductions. Uh so, key for, for this. Uh to work is uh the so-called persistence, of biochar, why it has this large longevity. And as i mentioned earlier. This, fusing, of, aromatic, structures, and the carbon-carbon. Bonds, into clusters, that are not all that large. But sufficiently. Large that they are hard for biological, organisms, to break down. And that translates, into. One to two orders of magnitude, lower mineralization. In soils, than we would otherwise have with the unparalyzed. Material. And that's, that's the key it's not there forever, but the mineralization. Reduces, remarkably. And this condensation. Means there's less hydrogen, in there. More organic, carbon. That is linking to other organic carbon, and this what's called molecular, condensation. With increasingly, high temperature, relates to. Higher mean residence, times as shown here for a global data set. Normalized, to same temperatures, and. Across these, this property, of. Hydrogen, to to carbon ratios. So it seems that, that the material, property, here, um, has a. Direct relation with with an admittedly, large scatter, but there is a a, relationship. With with the persistence. In soil, and that can be utilized. Um, to, uh, devise. Predictions. And even, as, now shown in the latest. Ipcc, guidelines, for national greenhouse gas accounting. Also, a by-hr, method. That in this case translates. Of. The the temperature, at which, a biochar, is made, to a, in this case. These are f perms, um. Fractions. As they're expressed in ipcc, language. Of how much there is still, after 100 years so at lower temperature, 65. Still there after 100 years, going up to about 90, still there after, 100, years if paralyzed, above 600, degrees celsius. So these are opportunities, for, monitoring. Practice, of conversion. Rather than. Only presence, after a certain, time. Um, so that that that is an opportunity. That is um, is interesting. If you're familiar with other cdr, technologies. To look at. I've, i've, so far only looked at at the. At the soil itself, um and the immediate ecosystem. But for a full life cycle assessment, we of course need to. Consider, also. Where the, the photosynthesis. Is happening, at the front end, uh transportation. And manufacture. Of any, uh equipment. Um, so there are there are even more moving parts than i showed you earlier. Uh these all have to be considered. Uh to have any credence, in what the emission reductions. Are or, discount. Any, carbon sequestration. And cdr. Using. The the total emission balance, um and and some of the methods are already going into that direction. Um some of those can be conservatively. Uh. Neglected, because, in in. Meta meta-analysis. They have shown to be, to be rather emission reductions, and to facilitate. Uh accounting, um that can in some cases be done but one has to, think through that very carefully. Um, a full life cycle assessment. Um, would look then, something like this. Looking at different. Uh. Biomass, that that can be, used to hear. Crop residues. As one broad category, where. The the growth of biomass, is is incentivized, by um, another, factor in this case food production. Or, we're producing, a dedicated, material. Uh or it's only a waste product, um and and you see um, that uh, that the, the emission reductions, shown here, um, are uh hovering, around, 800. For most of these systems. 800. Kilograms, of co2e. Per ton of dry feedstock. In. With the exception of when we produce, biomass. Dedicatedly. Then we have to consider. Make some assumptions, about indirect land use change. If that is needed, and and you can see that that makes, of course a big difference, what i would also like to highlight here is that this blue, part, um that's the biochar, that, is retained, um, in the soil, it makes up a large part of the emission, reductions. Of the system so, obviously. Um, the the, persistence, and the sequestration. And the cdr, component. Of the system makes makes up a large part of the greenhouse gas emission reductions, in this, um, in this calculation. Uh, there there is, no. Um. No account, of, any. Crop yield increase. And, under these assumptions. Um, the. Emission, reductions. Achieved, with biochar, additions, to soil are roughly equivalent. To the emission reductions, if that biochar, was. Used for fossil fuel in. Offset. In for instance a coal-fired, power plant. Um, so, that means, um, any. Any, uh. Management, and any effects. That biochar, might have, on soil, and plants. Is the effect that tips the balance. Um towards. Towards, a, biochar, system having. Greater, emission, reductions, in addition to carbon sequestration. Um, that. Um. Than than uh using. Biomass, for fossil fuel offsets, alone, uh. One assumption, is of course that, uh for for fossil fuel offsets, to happen at all is that we can use it uh in many systems as you see here the, photo, um that's probably not the case.

For Pine bark beetle killer, or uh forest fire management, in, in uh california. Um it's hard to see that that always happens. So we need to be um, not on about i, might make another point later um about, about farmers but i, i would like to. Highlight that crop yield increases. Um are probably a cornerstone. Of, of um. Biochar. Um. Biochar, argument. Using it for, climate change mitigation, and the cdr. Um, and uh and, we're getting more confident. On a global scale, to argue. That, biochar. On average. Um with, large variation. And and those are the ones that that require, um site specific, management. On, on average. Um. Has an increase. In crop yield, um that is. About the same increase. That we see with inorganic, fertilizer, on these same sites. To begin with, um so, so we're talking about, um. Almost doubling. Uh, yields. Compared, to fertilizer. Additions. Alone, so that's that's uh that's a significant. Increase. Um, what that means on a global scale, uh looking at systems, greenhouse gas emission reductions, versus, soil carbon accrual, um or a cdr, portion of it. Uh, and comparing, biochar. Which has a slightly, higher. Um greenhouse gas emission, reduction than soil carbon accrual would be lie because there are other moving parts in there as i explained. Um whereas, uh set aside such as restored, wetlands, are, are uh, possibly. Uh having, uh or at the moment, seem to have lower. Um, emission, reductions, than than a soil carbon accrual. Um. Alone because of some of the methane kickbacks. Um and cropland, sits somewhere in the middle. Um. So, that that's, that's uh something to to to think about but they're all sort of in the same order of magnitude, with the last but one slide, um i would like to, just highlight, um the fact, that bioenergy. Systems. Uh will always. Produce. A. 100. Of the material. Or with some losses in there of course. Energy. A back system, where we inject. These emissions. Uh, into, somewhere, where they're hopefully, not leaking. Uh would store 100. Off the biomass, carbon, uh somewhere. Uh whereas biochar sits sort of in the middle, producing, half the energy, and storing half the carbon. So, having to make an argument, for. Only, producing, half, the energy in half the carbon. We. Either have to look at the specific, situations. Where. This could, work and and we've made the point that um the additional. Revenues. For, increasing, crop yields, or the readiness, the deployability. Are arguments, but also there might be a. A, sort of geostrategic. Discussion, to be had, where we want to put our, arduously. Photosynthetically. Fixed. Carbon, aka, plants, um whether we want to produce, only energy from that where there might be other options to do that, or we want to retain as much of the organic carbon that's photosynthetically. Fixed. In, our terrestrial, ecosystems. Um, to, uh improve for instance soil health. So with that i'll. Um, some, just repeat take home messages. There are some synergies, between food production, and biochar, cdr. Um but, uh there's, local optimization. Needed. There is a higher life cycle emission reductions, with biochar than, than uh just the, cdr, portion would be lying that is important, i think uh compared, to, to um, uh other opportunities, so when when when it comes to. Allocating. Carbon. In our environment, we should think about that but of course there are lots of moving parts. Um and again there's there's a, local optimization. Needed, um there's no doubt that there's a trade-off between energy and cdr. Um and we need to, think through that what what's, worth to us more, and will that um i'll thank you very much and i look forward to the. Discussion. Thank you johannes, that was, fascinating. And, quite a bit of information, packed in there. And i especially appreciate, all the links, that you provided, to show us. The literature, sources, for a lot of that material so i'm going to go follow up on those later and check out some of those, some of those citations. Um, we haven't yet uh seen darko, join us so we're going to go ahead and go, straight to kathleen. To hear her presentation. I already see some questions we're rolling into the q a. So, those of you who have already submitted, questions, you'll be first up. And anyone else who wants to submit a question. Feel free to do so. If you're having any other. Issues, or, just want to make a comment you can also use the chat box. Okay so, at this point i will turn it over to kathleen. Go. Ahead. You're still muted at the moment uh just go ahead there you it looks like you're ready to go okay. Thank you jason allison, and american, university. Whenever i follow, johannes. I like to say now i'm going to give you the layman version, instead of the the lehman version, and a case in point here is how i tend to, explain, biochar.

And You'll see, at the back of this slide is is a picture of burnt toast. And, what, what i like to say, is when you think of pyrolysis. It's basically, similar, to putting something, in the oven. Cranking, up the temperature, you don't get any real oxygen, in there, but if you have it high enough you can turn it into something that looks like burnt toast. And, that is not a very very appealing. Food source. Either for humans, or for microorganisms. And also you can tell has a lot of nukes and crannies, which they like to, uh inhabit. And uh so i think, i think that's a quick and dirty way to think about what biochar. Is. But i was asked to provide a high level overview, of the current state of the biochar, industry. Talk about some biotar, markets, and how to foster, market growth, and then to touch on, biochar. And the carbon removal. Market, landscape. I obviously. Need a little bit more than 10 or 15 minutes to do that but i put more information, in the slides then i'll have time to cover so that you can go back and, look at that at your. Leisure. There we go, okay. So first let's take a quick look at the biochar, industry, uh and i will say that there is a market difference, in the industry, in different parts of the world. And the us, is certainly not taking a leadership, role. From a, from a commercial, perspective, but that may soon change. Uh a few years ago it could have been argued that the major, constraint, to growth, was the lack of production, technology. Now however, we're seeing a growing variety of systems, at all scales, and that includes, backyard, kilns. Mobile units. Modular, systems. Decentralized. Mid-scale. Industrial. Scale. That are centralized. And there's even a big push especially, in california. And the pacific, northwest. To retrofit. Existing, biomass, energy, plants, to optimize, biochar, production. So i i thought darko was going to talk about the different types of systems which includes pyrolysis. Of many different flavors, we have slow, fast, flash, and even microwave, pyrolysis. And, gasification. Can also produce, a certain amount of. Biochar, if they're operated, right, but i did want to mention that, sometimes, people, confuse. Incineration. With. Other thermochemical. Conversion, properties, but we do not consider, that as one of the technology, that, that produces, biochar. So the resulting, biochars. Vary, as johannes, mentioned, in physical. Chemical, and biological. Properties. And can now be fined, commercially, available, in most parts of the country. You can see them for sale, at home depot in five gallon buckets. Or they're sold, in super sex. Or even by the truckload. Either as a pure biochar. Or, more commonly, it's blended, with compost, for other additives. Everyone's, always asking about the price of biochar, which i will say varies a lot, depending, on the quality, and several, other parameters. One thing to note though is that the price, of biochar, is falling as production, increases, which i believe is a good thing both for the industry, and the end users. At the last count, the u.s biochar, initiative, estimated, that there are approximately. 150. Biochar, produces. Most of those are on the small scale. And overall, production, is still probably, below, 100. 000, tons per year, but it is ramping, up. The ecosystem. Of biochar, producers, has been evolving. From the pure biochar, producer, model, to include those, in the biomass, energy sector. So that includes not just those producing, the energy but those producing, the feedstock, for the energy production, those are in the torrefaction. Industry. And then we have a variety of players, in organics, management. Including, composters. The construction. And demolition. Recycling. Industry. And, more recently, at least in the us, we have wastewater, treatment plants that are converting. Sewage sludge, into biochar. And we also have, farmers. Foresters. And land managers. That are beginning to carbonize, crop. Residues. Viral car industry has been changing, rapidly, a lot in the uh last few years, for many different reasons. I've just covered, a bunch of the current strengths within the industry, but we do obviously, still have some challenges.

So To highlight just a few, i would guess that somewhere. North of 90. Of the population, has still never heard the word biochar. At least that's been my experience. Another, challenge we have is that although there are various, standards, for biochar. Including. One from the international, biotar, initiative, which covers. Biochars, used in soils, and. In. North america, then there's the european, biochar. Certificate. Program, that has. Uh, certificates. For, used in soils. Livestock, feed and composites. These standards, have not been well adopted, i do see that beginning to change, as there's increased, interest, in biochar, as a carbon, removal, product. And there's also a lack of laboratories. That are capable, of doing the full suite, of, uh, characterization. To certify, biochars. We are still working on that but it's been a challenge, i would also say there's. A need for some unbiased. Educational, materials, about biochar. For different audiences. Including, policy, makers. Biochar, manufacturers. And then the various, different. End users. One of the positive, things we've seen, since the pandemic, though is that there are a lot more biochar, related webinars, offered by different groups, such as american, university. And the u.s forest service. The opportunities. To scale the industry, are growing. Especially, since we have this increased, interest in biochar, as a carbon removal. Market, option. As compared with some of the other negative emissions, technologies. Biochar. Offers. A number of different co-products. As uh johannes, mentioned those include. Heat which can be converted, into electricity. Uh we have singas. Generated. With certain, technologies. Bio oils and even wood vinegar. And if those co-products, can be monetized. Then the price of biochar, can be reduced. So biochar, has been recognized. By the association. Of american, plant and food control, officials, or apco. And most biochars, can be certified, organic, by omri, there's an exception, when it comes to manure biochars, but we're working on getting that, updated. Uh and very recently, this year in fact, the, usda. National resource, conservation. Service. Has. Deployed, what's called uh code 808. Or soil, carbon, amendment. Which is focused, on providing, funding, to farmers, to increase soil carbon, specifically. Using. Compost. Biochar. Or a combination. Of both. And we just heard a week or two ago that at least in new york state one of ten states that have adopted, it, they would pay farmers, up more than eight hundred dollars, per acre. For. Adding, biochar. And and the price points are different when it comes to blends or compost, but that's a that's a pretty. Big incentive. One of the more recent, and most hopeful opportunities, that i've heard about is that there is actually a biochar, policy.

Task Force, on the biden transition. Team. So if any of you have any thoughts on what policies, could help scale this industry, please let us know. The industry is not without, threats. Of course. Although, most biochars, look pretty similar. They are actually very different as i mentioned before. And this has led to some serious, overselling. Of the benefits, of, biotar, for specific, end uses. There's this tendency, to claim that a specific, biochar, can do everything, ever claimed in the name of biochar. And we have learned, to. Our detriment, that that's just not the case. Uh one concern we hear a lot about is that biochar, will kind of follow in the footsteps. Of ethanol, in terms of the food versus fuel dilemma. In this case it would be food versus feedstock. I i would say that until the carbon removal, revenue, started to be a major factor i doubted that that, scenario, would make economic, sense, it just didn't pencil, out, but it is something i think we need to, be wary, of. Now. Uh and i do think it can be controlled. By crafting, the right carbon methodologies. As it relates, to sourcing. Of sustainable. Feedstock. This is an outdated, graphic that i put together, about five years ago and i i did it to describe, the evolution, of markets, for biochar, it attempted, to describe. The. Volume. Uh or size of a marketplace. What the price point would be. And, what the readiness, was. Um, up at the top left there i've added some of the more, uh recent. Categories. We, as an industry, started focusing, on the lower left here mostly as it's used in soils, especially, for farmers. But, when you think about the early stages. Of any industry, when the prices are highest, and, adoption, usually comes from the daring, few. This might not have been the greatest. Market to focus on as farmers. Are largely, conservative. And, aren't known for having a lot of money to spend, on, new shiny things. Or in this case, black. I will say though that we are starting to see a lot more farmers testing biochar, in larger, volumes. Especially. In places that have some significant. Growing, constraints. Think of california. With the water challenges. Or in many parts of the world they have toxic, soils, and biochar, can help immobilize. Those toxins. This is one of the key areas of focus, in china. So biochar, producers, have started to look for additional, markets, that are less seasonal. And and more repeatable. Which includes, things like filtration. And it also includes, livestock, feed. This is probably one of the biggest markets, over in europe. And the benefit, of adding biochar, to feed. Is that it it acts as a carbon delivery, system to get the biochar, into the soil, and at the same time, it's been found to help improve the health, of. The animal. In some cases it's improving, the quality, and the quantity, of the milk produced, in dairy animals. And, it can help reduce, certain greenhouse gas emissions. In manures. I will say that the fda, currently, does not allow biochar, to be included, in animal feed in the u.s, and many people in the industry, are. Looking into this i'm hopeful that this will be a high priority, in the biden. Administration. But that said california. Recently, included, it as something that, can be included. Those are very specific, biochars, they have to be made from a specific, kind of feedstock, but it's a it's a great first step. In the u.s, i would say right now the largest, purchaser. Of, biochar. Is compost. Although there's a big focus, right now in putting it in different kinds of building materials. This is something that at the time i i originally put this together it wasn't quite ready but it is being deployed, already.

In Asia and specifically. In australia. Where a company, is claiming they put up to 30 tons of biochar. Per kilometer, of road. So, that not only creates an excellent carbon sink opportunity. But it does improve certain, uh, aspects, of, asphalt's. Performance. So. Most people really are. Intrigued, by the ability, of biochar, to sequester, carbon, safely and beneficially. But as we know not everybody. Has, has uh. A comfort level with the discussion, on climate change so there's there's just, so many different ways to, talk about biochar, and what this chart is attempting, to do is look at it within the, context, of the 17, united nations sustainable. Development, goals. And i don't have enough time to go into all of these but if climate change is is not something that a farmer wants to talk about which i've, found, often. You can also talk about it in the context, of how it can improve water quality. By holding on to nutrients, so they don't. Pollute the local water bodies, or you can talk about it in terms of farmer, resilience. The last thing i wanted to talk about was uh biochars. Interaction, with the carbon markets. Uh, which, really. There was a lot of effort put in several years ago to get a methodology. Accepted. On the california. Exchange, and it all just, kind of came to nothing. Two years ago, when the ipcc. Highlighted, biochar, is one of just you know a few. Negative emissions, technologies. Things really started to change. And last year for the first time, a voluntary, carbon market, called puro which is based in finland. Selected, biochar. And two other removal, products. To test. Uh in their, carbon removal, auctions. And the most recent, transaction. That i've heard about, as it relates to biochar, on the plural market. Is a company, in australia. That has a biochar, production, unit, in a greenhouse. And they take waste, wood, turn it into biochar, the heat goes into the greenhouse. And the biochar. Is um, taken, back by the provider, of the wood and blended, into their compost. And in this situation. They are getting, 61, euros, per ton of co2. Which in this case the multiplier. Is about 2.88. So that converts, to roughly. 200. Per ton. Of by, dry, biochar. And that's really going to change things. This year we saw the debut, of another, uh. Voluntary, marketplace, which is a blockchain, based. Uh. Market. Very focused, on which are called carbon future. They're out of europe, but they're also looking at u.s producers. And. Next year i know we will be looking at a lot more the. Vera, is, one of the better known. Market, places, and they are very interested, in developing, a biochar. Methodology. So that's where i was going to end i'd be, happy to take, any questions. Thanks kathleen. That was fascinating, and we have a bunch of questions rolling in. But thanks for giving us that overview of the market and some of the considerations. For. How, bio, biochar, as an industry. Has evolved and could evolve into the future. So i'm going to go ahead and. Getting some some questions rolling in already. So, uh, i would encourage the participants, to go ahead and submit your questions, through the q a. Tab. And i'll, begin. Kicking a few of them over to our, our two panelists. So first of all. For johannes. A question comes in that says. Please offer a reflection. On the changing reception, for biochar. In the century. For example over 10 years ago, there were warnings, and skepticism. In the press. Including in the guardian. How have these been addressed, through research, since that time. And, how has the perception, perhaps, changed, in, sort of the public sphere. And then as you might reflect on the changing reception of biochar. Could you talk a little bit about how research has helped to accomplish, that goal. Yeah that's a big question but uh yeah yeah, well and now we can start to look back on on quite a few years um. And. Now, a lot of the, the questions are good question that we should always, ask um. And uh, and, and. Weigh, carefully. Uh the answers. And um. Uh. Look at. What, needs to be, addressed, what kind of research. Agenda, items. Emanate. From. Such concerns. And i think that. That has. Largely. Happened, within the confines. Of. Research. Funding, limitations. As well as i would say. Limitations. Of, implementation. And therefore, research. At scale of implementation. So that there are still. A major, agenda, items. Um, but uh. One of one of the. Big, um. Cornerstones. As as i pointed, out in in my brief talk. Is um. To. Uh that that by, char is more persistent. Than the material, you make it from, um that is is very, well that's that's sort of the the alpha and omega, of of the whole, spiel. Um, because. If it if it doesn't persist. Longer, in soil. Um then, much of. At least half of the emission reductions, fall away. And of course the persistence, of any. Soil, improvement, and therefore.

A Greater crop growth or other. Ancillary. Effects, fall away, uh so that uh obviously, if you want to prove, um that a material, has a mean residence, time. Uh of hundreds to thousands of years you cannot, provide, this conclusively. Within a year right um, it's it's very you need to, wait a little bit until you can actually prove that something decomposes. Slower, than something else um, so, on day one. You don't know that although there are. Ample. Ample, natural, analogs, and and but also that, takes time to, to, unravel, all of that so, the last, 10 15, years, had been a plethora, of of studies, that looked uh natural analogues, or how is how is biochar, type carbon, cycling. In the environment. Doing balances. For the earth system how much biochar, type material do we have in, global soils, and and how much goes in and, calculate. Mean residence, times from that. As well as doing. A. Dedicated, analysis, of adding biochar, somewhere, and then, waiting, five years or ten years and then seeing how much is still there, uh obviously, now you need to wait 10 years until you know how much is there after 10 years and, and those things are are now possible, um. And. And uh well that's also the reason why there is now, a. Biochar, methodology. In the. Ipcc. National greenhouse, gas. Methodology. That, nations can now use this ipcc, method that was published last year. Because we have now, a sufficient. Number of. Data points to put that we can always do better and we don't know it for all, uh, possible, biochar, combinations. But it's enough to, get us in the neighborhood, and be conservative. About assumptions. Uh and still, um. Have a vital. Proposition, in in terms of um. Uh, the the, expected. Um. Permanence, over 100 years um. Uh so that's that's uh, that's certainly, but i i would say, um, as i said justin, at the beginning of this response. Uh, there are. Not enough, uh farmer, implementation. And um, large-scale. Conversions. Uh that we can do all the. The necessary. Uh large-scale. Um. Systems, types analysis. That we would like to do so there are some intermediate, steps that need to be done but they, really require. Engagement, by. Uh, by the industry. And. Municipalities. And um. And governments, to to implement. Those so that we can see how they work. Uh, and and. How what the economics. Are how the acceptance, is um, there will be a lot of details, to be ironed, out. That was going to be one of my follow-up questions, actually, is. What seems to be the bottleneck. On the research, side, uh if you could think about. Is it not enough labs, working on this in a very controlled, space is it not enough. Uh. Not enough opportunities, in sort of an experimental. Field setting, or is it like. Well you're asking about deployment, you want to have more money for research, i'm, saying yes, um. So that's, which scientists, should have more, and which types of, of, experiments. Or studies, um. Are sort of, the most important, right now because yeah, oh that's, uh and. Kathleen, knows probably even more than i do but from the science. Side, i'll just quickly mention uh. From the science side there's there's, quite, a number of um. Labs, around the world that are engaging in biochar, science and research, on the fundamental, side as well, as some of the applied side so so i would say this is the the number of research activity. Is is in biochar. Is, by far outstripping. The. The activity, in compost, science for instance, already for many years, uh so if you take that as a as a benchmark.

Uh So per unit year, um, we're getting more information, about biochar, these days, than about, uh composting. Uh so that's. Uh that tells you that, we're catching up um. We. Know a lot more, about compost. Than than we do about biochar, but but, it's catching up quickly. Um. But indeed. More of the, the um. Business, economics. And industrial. Application. Side, um, farmer, acceptance. Uh, and adoption, disadoption. Side, sort of the scale. The experimentation. And and the the hard, research, at scale of implementation. That's probably, the next big agenda item. Okay. That one of the things, we, need on the research, side, is, a better understanding. Of what particular. Characteristics. Of biochar. Are relevant, to different end uses. We sort of have more knowledge of that on the soil side but as biochar, is moving into these different. End uses, we still don't know. What it is that constitutes. A good biochar. For use, in. You know, concrete. Or. Filtration. To filter specific, types of heavy metals or other toxins, so it would be great to have more research, on that. I wonder kathleen if you could talk a little bit about um. Just in terms of soil application, or soil amendment. It seems that there's quite a bit of variation. And, there's also variation, in the types of biochar. And i wonder. If you if you could say something about the different factors, that affect those outcomes. And. You're sort of talking about. As i understand it kind of matchmaking, right like matching up the right biochar. With the right conditions. Um. How do we understand how to move forward in that space, oh i defer that definitely. To you okay. He knows much better. About that than i do. Yeah, um. I mean. This. There's, definitely a lot that we need to, still know about it there, um. Some of it is is blatantly, obvious, uh, and and it can be tackled with basic agronomy. That we, keep forgetting, um, when we're discussing, this, but, that every farmer, knows, and. And and so there there's a lot that we do know, um. And. Be it for instance lime equivalents. Every farmer knows about, ph, and and uh.

Whether He or she needs to put lime on or not, uh so that. We're getting, very close. Um. To, to a recommendation, system in that uh respect but then there are a lot of others where we know very little and and actually it's the same with compost. Um, or any other amendment. It's also shocking how how little, we know about uh fertilizer, response, night plane nitrogen, and phosphorus. Uh many countries have one fertilizer, recommendation, for the whole country. Um so so. It's not a unique. Challenge. It's just a new challenge that comes to all the other challenges, that we already, had. And so we need these, these. Recommendations. Uh, which type of biochar, to add where. The the challenge, is of course that uh maybe also communication. That, when we talk about nitrogen, we know that it's nitrogen, when we talk about biochar. It. Can be almost anything in the world so we we do need to, pay attention that the word biochar. Implies, uh, it gives a certain framework, but but within that cloud, and there's, something that could be have a ph of 3 or 12. That could have no nitrogen, a lot of nitrogen, um so so we we, do need to cater for all of that, um i, do have a particular, interest, in in some of the. Esoteric. Effects, on on. Plant plant and plant micro, communication. Aspects, and and i think, you know, when we start, um. Looking at at uh, the the the rhizosphere, ecology. Uh of plants. Um, uh, we, we will. As as, everybody, else who's. Not, also in in biochar, is discovering, that that's so important. Um. Uh, that, there are. Specific, effects, that, might still surprise. Us so i think there are some some. Some properties, in in terms of conductivities. And and uh, pores, and surface, properties. That we haven't, really have, had a chance, to translate. Into something that a farmer or a user. Can actually. Decipher. And and translate, into something that goes on a label, that um, that. Translates, into. Into an adoption. Uh so i think there's, there's quite a bit of discovery. Still to be done but what we have, um. In terms of. Can it, can it, replace, lime, long long lasting, lime or, slow release, uh nitrogen, properties, and so on.

We Have enough um, for moving forward and and products on the marketplace, that seem to deliver, some of that already, uh so it's it's not uh only in the research domain of of, of a wedge. Uh of those, um. Of those uh, projected, uh properties. Um but they're highly variable, and, and it's good to look under the hood um. Uh. Of of all of that it's still it's still a fast moving train, um, and uh so we will. It's good to be vigilant, and uh. And uh and know something about it. That's that's. That's great um i want to circle back to kathleen, again though uh i want to there's a few questions coming in. Um they touch on the topic of sort of, recognition. Both, in, the context, of. Some of these standards, um so one question is about, you know why haven't the gold standard, and vera. And. At a higher level the unfccc. Uh acknowledged. Biochar. As an instrument. And then also, there are questions about, you know. What kinds of outreach, or kind of public relations, what do we need to get this. More widely acknowledged, in the public sphere, and sort of, in a mainstream, way. And maybe among. Some of the potential end users of biochar. Can you tell us a little bit more about either of those two topics. Yeah, i'll take the second one first so one of the, uh best, impacts, of the usda. Nrcs. Adopting, this code 808, that i mentioned. At least in new york state from what i've heard what they did is they trained, all their. Agents, to. Learn, how, biochar. Is produced, how it should be added to soils and things like that, so that there is this this notion of biochar, is coming from a respected. Body of individuals. And not just. Us in the industry, saying you got to try this, so that alone, is is worth a lot and if we could get more. Organizations. Like that to, trial, it and and, promote it i think that would be, great. Um, going back to the the first question. It's really interesting, i know johannes, has had several, conversations. With vera as have i. And, the question, has has been a little bit um hung up on getting funding, to, to get these methodologies.

Developed, But we should actually know by the end of this week, if we have some funding to to put that in motion, they are very, very interested, in getting it developed, and the conversations, we've been having, are. Are not just, let's get it done but how would that look who's going to benefit, from that is it just the producer, can it be the person putting the, biochar, in the ground. Um so there's it's it's a. It's a big question, but i think there's a lot of enthusiasm. Just today in fact i got notified, by. A very large, um. Oil and gas company. That's very interested, in biochar. As a carbon removal, product. So. The the, interest is there. The the people, that uh we're putting together a coalition. Of methodology. Developers. Project developers. That. You know will help move this to the next step but i i predict, with a, high degree of confidence, that we'll see something, on, on, one of those exchanges. Next year. Okay um. Assuming that that that, works out um can you talk a little bit about, uh the potential for scaling, up how how big could this get, how, how far could it go. Um johannes, if you want to talk about some of your work in the tropics and maybe some of the barriers, to deployment. In those contexts. That might be helpful but, i'll open this up to both of you. Kathleen why don't you start. Yeah so the question of scalability. Is is going to be very interesting. Just last night i was talking to tom miles who's the head of the u.s biochar, initiative. And he, uh was talking to the u.s forest service which is very interested, in biochar, they have a, 10 000 acre property, somewhere in the midwest. Which is also, um. Uh, co, hosting, uh a mine, that needs to be rehabilitated. Because there's asbestos. There and the forestry. Service is interested, in thinning it so that the. Fire, uh. Risk, is lowered. And and that, alone. You know could constitute, a huge carbon, sink opportunity. Because it'll be using waste resources. And solving a problem, beyond sequestration. Uh that that needs to be solved, economically. So, you know when you think of those kind of large-scale, opportunities. Uh and that's just woody biomass.

I Think, it's it will be easy to scale if we figure this out properly. Can it be abused. Yes, and and i think that's where we need to, to focus the most energy, on making sure the feedstock, is coming from. Non-agricultural. Soils, that are converted, for that purpose. Um so yeah there's challenges, but we have so much unwanted, biomass, out there not just woody, but we're now seeing an increased, interest, in converting, sewage sludge there's a huge plant opening, in new jersey, next year that's taking in. 440. Tons, of sewage sludge and converting, it into, you know bio charts, it's not a lot five or ten percent but still, that's, that's a great use of a resource, that causes problems, if it's you know put on farmland, so. Yeah i think i think we're going to see a big, uptick, in the next couple of. Years. Yeah any any cdr, with with biomass. Or, soils. Um, involving, agriculture. Is is by definition, a distributed. Um, opportunity. And a distributed, challenge. Uh, now this is this this. It shares the challenges, with, thinking about soil carbon sequestration, in general it just has, to to scale to to a petagram. Number, um, globally, it needs to be happening. On many many soils, and uh, solid carbon sequestration, and biochar, would need to have be happening. Um, in in many many places. Um, so scaling, that up is, is uh, by definition, a challenge if if we think about, um. Wind energy, or or photovoltaics. And the 50s, and 60s. Um or we. Might have had um, optimism, in, in the 60s and 70s that photovoltaic. Will will satisfy, our our electrical, energy needs um, within years, and and. Certainly the potential, and now we're 50 years later, uh we're starting to put in the u.s the first um photovoltaics. At least in our area here on our our, our houses. Um so it took 40 50 years until from saying oh here's the technology. Let's get cracking. Um to, well is this everything, in place and is the technology, there and do we have the incentive, structure, and are people interested, etc etc. Um so does it will take another 50 years until it has some kind of penetration, so like. Now starting, to get into the double digits, or 10. Of, what it could do, um. I i don't know um. But um it's. Our track record, in. In spinning, out um. Uh wind energy and photovoltaics. And in the u.s, is not great. Um. If it's on the same, pathway. Penetration, then yeah well we'll take another 50 years until we'll see, happening, in earnest, um. But uh but maybe we're also better now, we we see the urgency. Um, uh. And i would say it it's, um. It's, it's an avenue, that uh could have also, a, back end incentive, that. That uh, farmers. Uh and and that is where i think. We have to, put the focus, on the farmer. Not just on the front end, uh biomass. Um. No farmer or land use manager will put that in the soil if it doesn't. Support, what that farmer, does, every day, that farmer, is a chicken farmer, or, a dairy farmer, or a, or a corn farmer it needs to improve, corn growing, or some, some of the core, core uh enterprise, of of that farmer, um and and if it doesn't do that that that corn farmer is probably not gonna, gonna be a methane, farmer, or or a carbon. Uh carbon, farmer, only that farmer is still, a poultry, or dairy or a corn farmer, uh and and and so so, but this this. This end stage. Incentive, um, the back end instead incentive. If that's happening that can that can create a poll also. That, maybe some of the photovoltaics. Didn't have, um. And. But on the other hand um, having, a lot of, moving parts, and a lot of winds, that in. In theory, are beautiful, if they all come together. Also means, that, no, maybe they have to come together, to create, a socially and an economically. Viable. Package, and and if you have lots of moving parts um it's getting notoriously. More difficult. To optimize, at a given location, but you also have more options to optimize, so, so it's really a balance i think we'll we'll have to take it one step at a time, uh and and move this forward, um. Where, the benefits, especially, the the front and the end. Benefits, are blatantly, obvious when. Taking care of an environmental, issue on the front end, um and we're creating, value, in the soil or somewhere else, um, at the back end and if that comes together at its location, x, then then we should start there, um and and that will keep us busy for the next decade, i'm sure. Only to take care of those. I just wanted to say that in china. The estimates, for biochar, production, are probably five times what they are in the u.s.

Though It's a little hard to verify, that number, but they're really ambitious, about it, and uh they just published a paper recently, in china where they estimated. That. If they went full scale they could probably. Uh. Sequester. The equivalent, of 15. Of their greenhouse, gas emissions, in china. And. Some people think that might be a conservative, number because it didn't take into account. You know reduction, in methane, or, nitrous, oxide, so. That's not about. A huge deal. For, the world's largest emitting country at this point. Um so that's quite amazing and that's a significant, scale, um. On the order of what the entire. Uh. Terrestrial, sink provides to the u.s, in in, uh relative to its scale of emissions, so that's. That would be an enormous, thing. Um. We are approaching, time. Uh or actually a little bit past it and we still have lots of questions, rolling in so i hope that. Those will be captured, by. Our hosts. And they'll be available, for people to refer to in the future. And i encourage, people participating. In this webinar. To follow up. And see if we can learn more from, our, our two speakers. And uh through the institute, itself, which i i, expect will be providing more information, on this topic. And especially, as those. New findings, roll out, that you described, johannes, over the next decade. Hopefully we'll have the chance to check in sooner than that to see how things are going. Um i also want to mention that you know a number of, of, people who submitted, questions, uh were expressing, some concerns, about. The potential for this to sort of create perverse. Outcomes. Um and i know that that's, that's on everyone's, mind, with all of these cdr, technologies. So that's something to keep in mind. It sounds like the two of you are optimistic, that we can do this in a safe. Way that provides, some real benefits, without. Going down those perverse, paths. And so, i think we'll all be keeping an eye on that and hoping that that's the case. And doing what we can, it also sounds like there's, possibly, an opportunity for this to, move forward. In a more accelerated, way. Because of the interest, that's been expressed, by. The biden transition, team. So we'll see where that ends up as well. With that, uh unless there's anything else that, comes through from our. Our hosts. I think, i'll go ahead and wrap things up here. Uh thank you to everyone, for your, interest, and participation. Thank you to our two speakers, kathleen, and johannes. For sharing your your insights, and wisdom. And uh look forward to. Hearing more and hearing more from, the institute, about, other topics related, to carbon dioxide removal. So thanks everyone, and thank you very much see you see you next time.

2020-11-28 08:18

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