Biochar soil application to mitigate climate change

Esben Bruun, Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen, Per Ambus, Helge Egsgaard, Peter Arendt Jensen

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Production of energy carriers (oil, gas) and biochar from pyrolysis of biomass is by many considered a promising technology for combined production of bioenergy and recalcitrant C suitable for sequestration in soil. The mechanism behind biochar-C sequestration is straightforward: Due to its recalcitrant characteristics the microbial decomposition of biochar is much slower in comparison to the mineralization of the original feedstock. Conversion of organic residues like household waste or cereal straw to biochar is hence proposed a way to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it on a long term basis in the soil. The experiments presented here illustrate the C sequestration potentials of biochar originating from fast pyrolysis of wheat straw. It is documented that after 47 days in soil 95 % of the added biochar-C is still present in the soil as compared to only 56 % if straw is applied untreated to the soil. The type and settings of pyrolysis influence the chemical quality of the biochar produced significantly. Biochar chemical analysis revealed that the degradation of biochar in soil appears to be proportional with the biochar cellulosic and hemicellulosic fraction. Furthermore, the pyrolyzer temperature settings strongly influence the proportion of cellulose and hemicellulose remaining in the biochar. As these biochar fractions relatively rapidly are mineralized to CO2 by microbial respiration they are – in climate mitigation perspective - unwanted. At the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) December 2009, the use of biochar as a mitigation tool will be on the agenda and for the time being (July 2009) 20 countries and Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have made submissions to the UNFCCC seeking the inclusion of biochar as a climate mitigation and adaptation tool.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnergy solutions for CO2 emission peak and subsequent decline : Proceedings
Number of pages316
Place of PublicationRoskilde
PublisherDanmarks Tekniske Universitet, Risø Nationallaboratoriet for Bæredygtig Energi
Publication date2009
ISBN (Print)978-87-550-3783-0
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventRisø International Energy Conference 2009 - Risø DTU, Roskilde, Denmark
Duration: 14 Sep 200916 Sep 2009


ConferenceRisø International Energy Conference 2009
LocationRisø DTU
SeriesDenmark. Forskningscenter Risoe. Risoe-R


  • Bio energy
  • Biomass gasification
  • Risø-R-1712
  • Risø-R-1712(EN)


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