Biochar is an often-overlooked solution to sequestering carbon, yet has the potential to do so on a massive scale. To achieve the Paris Accord goals, there simply isn’t enough time to focus on only decarbonisation and emissions reduction. Carbon removal will become essential in reaching net-zero by 2050. Carbo Culture, a Finnish carbon tech startup, has developed a technology to produce biochar from biomass, removing carbon that would otherwise go into the atmosphere.
Who is Carbo Culture?
CEO Henrietta Moon and CTO Christopher Carstens founded Carbo Culture in 2017. They met in Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program. They believe that climate change needs to be addressed or it will worsen other global challenges.
Chris is an inventor at heart who has been building systems and researching carbons from a young age. Henrietta is a second-time entrepreneur who sprung into entrepreneurship through award-winning events and global projects. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and part of the Stanford University StartX community of founders.
What is Biochar?
Biochar is charcoal that is produced by the thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of oxygen. It is used to enrich soil, for both carbon sequestration and soil health benefits. Biochar is a stable solid that is rich in carbon and can endure in soil for thousands of years.
Carbo Culture’s Biochar Technology for Carbon Sequestration
Typically when biomass like wood waste decompose or are burned, up to 99% of its carbon re-enters the atmosphere as CO2. Thanks to a patented process to carbonise biomass (woody waste) at a high temperature, with rapid reaction, they can prevent this.
Biochar has many benefits and applications:
- By carbonising biomass at high temperatures with their patented technology, Carbo Culture is sequestering carbon that would otherwise go into the atmosphere. Even at a demo scale, every tonne of biochar Carbo Culture produces, sequesters 3.2 tonnes of CO2 for over 1000 years.
- The biochar can then be used for soil enhancement. The porous material retains nutrients reducing soil nutrient runoff. It also improves soil structure, tilth and long-term soil regenerative capacity.
- Biochar can also be used in green infrastructure. Biochar retains and drains water which prevents urban flooding. It is also beneficial for plant survival and resilience by simulating a natural environment in a non-natural space. It can alleviate compaction, adding surface area for important microbial life. This extends the lifetime and grows the value of the green space as an investment, reducing maintenance costs. Biochar can help make cities better designed for resilience and life.
- Increasing research is going into using biochar in functional materials. This can range from bioplastics to energy harvesting. It is renewable, more affordable and can perform equally, if not better than fossil fuel-based materials like activated carbon, or organic, non-functional media like sand in construction materials.
Biochar vs Other Carbon Sequestration
Several carbon removal methods exist, whether they’re technological like carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), or reforestation, or “hybrids” like Carbo Culture.
CCUS for instance refers to a chain of different technologies aimed at capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2), usually from large point sources of pollution like power plants. Then it is transported to a storage site and deposited where it will not enter the atmosphere. However, the catch is that CCUS is incredibly expensive, and consumes a lot of extra power.
What sets Carbo Culture apart is it does not need to capture the carbon mechanically. Instead, it lets trees use solar power and capture CO2, they just convert the carbon from biomass to a stable form.
Furthermore, another huge advantage is that Carbo Culture generates renewable heat instead of needing it. they could then sell this renewable heat to other companies, who need it for their processes. These other companies could be doing different forms of carbon removal, or producing alt-protein, …
What’s Next for Carbo Culture?
Carbo Culture’s ultimate goal is to remove 1 gigaton (or 1 billion tons) of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030.
It’s an ambitious but achievable mission bolstered by our patented carbonisation and rapid conversion technology.
They are working on signing their first customers and advancing the R&D work at their demo facility.
Soon, they’ll be commencing the engineering and deployment of their first larger-scale plant.
More About Carbo Culture and Carbon Sequestration
- Carbo Culture verified by Puro.earth marketplace for carbon removal credits to be a true negative emissions technology, here.
- Recent funding announcement, here.
- More on Carbon Capture, here.
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