Biochar Applications

I thought this brief biochar roundup from the National Association of State Foresters is interesting. Potential positive climate impact?

The benefits of using biochar as a fertilizer and long-term carbon sequestration technique are well-documented. A new study suggests that adding biochar to cattle feed can improve animal health and feed efficiency, reduce nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase soil fertility when applied as fertilizer. Recently the Nebraska Forest Service found that the inclusion of less than 1% biochar into the diet of cattle can lead to a 10% reduction in their methane emissions.

Biochar also holds promise for industrial applications. Researchers at the National University of Singapore have concluded that adding only a small amount of biochar to concrete can increase its strength by up to 20% and make it 50% more watertight. And when biochar is added as a concrete supplement, up to six metric tons of wood waste could be recycled and reused in the construction of a 1,076-square-foot home.

Other research suggests that adding 5% biochar by weight to 3D printing polymers improves tensile strength by up to 60%. And that biochar is an excellent, low-cost method of removing contaminants from water that could prove extremely beneficial to public health (particularly in low-income communities).


4 thoughts on “Biochar Applications”

    • Gary, what I think is interesting about that report is that it seems to assume that unless it’s good more broadly, the fact that individual studies have shown utility for specific reasons and specific places doesn’t count. It’s a bit of what I call the Satellite Gaze. It’s a bit like the carbon neutrality of biomass… it’s going to be different in different places.

      “One can only conclude from this high variability that we are still very far from having a reliable understanding of biochar’s impacts – both the impacts on soils and plant growth resulting from application of biochar, and impacts from land use change to supply biomass for the production of biochar.” That’s certainly true, but things can be useful at smaller scales (say Nebraska) without necessarily being globally useful in some abstract way (biochar development and use is always good anywhere in the world!).

      On the other hand, the IPCC have put CCS in their models, so is it clear that they feel comfortable with putting technologies that haven’t yet been developed as part of their modeling. So if IPCC were to include CCS and exclude biochar, would that be consistent?

      • FWIW, the report comes from Biofuelwatch (

        “Biofuelwatch provides information, advocacy and campaigning in relation to the climate, environmental, human rights and public health impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy. We are a small team of staff and volunteers based in the UK and US. In the past two years, our work has been supported by grants from Ceres Trust, CS Fund/Wash-Mott Legacy, Heinrich-Boell Foundation, JMG Foundation, Network for Social Change, Packard Foundation, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Patagonia Foundation, and Threshold Foundation. We are also grateful for smaller individual donations. Please see our donations page for details about how to support our work.”

  1. Plus, biochar production through low temperature pyrolosis of biomass yields syngas (synthetic natural gas) as a by-product. High temperature pyrolosis yields syngas with biochar as a by-product. Syngas can be mixed with natural gas or used alone as a fuel.


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