Basic requirements to earn Carbon Removal Credits from biochar production

Share this
Biochar production, carbon credits

Biochar is such a basic thing when you think about it, naturally occurring all over the planet for hundreds of millions of years. But producing man-made biochar in a way that will earn you valuable Carbon Dioxide Removal Credits (CDRCs) exchangeable in a newly emerging marketplace is a bit more complicated. In the following article, we aim to spell out the basic steps and requirements to develop biochar projects with Planboo’s unique process which is aligned with Europe’s leading Biochar Standard, the EBC.

NOTE: This article first appeared in January 2023, last updated in October 2023.

This is a critical list of elements and ingredients that any biochar-producing farmer or agroforestry project will need in order to qualify and make the Carbon Removal Credit certification process worthwhile. Above all, the project will need a sufficient source of available biomass, as well as access to additional land to develop the project. Some pyrolysis equipment, and staff who know how to operate it, will of course be necessary to turn the biomass into biochar.  It’s essential that everything is done in a manner that meets Planboo’s highest social and environmental standards. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at the specific ingredients and requirements to carry out one of these carbon removing projects.

1. Sustainable biomass

The key ingredient to making a significant quantity of biochar is a generous supply of biomass. Any small biochar project is worth doing, but to make the certification process worthwhile, the project needs at least about 1,300 tonnes of biomass per year. This can come from a single plantation or from a cluster of smaller farmers working together in a cooperative farmer network model.

From this volume of biomass, you should be about produce about 225 tons of biochar per year, or 450 CDRCs.

We prefer to work with woody biomass that’s more substantial, such as bamboo or rubber trees, as the biochar from these feedstocks has a high carbon content between 70-90%. And we insist that the biomass source is sustainable. That means our producers can’t be clearcutting forests to gather wood to turn into biochar.

Consistency is also crucial. For purposes of measuring and tracking biochar production and carbon removal, we need to have a uniform feedstock. If different combinations of biomass are being used in every batch, then it becomes impossible to quantify how much carbon is being captured.  

Bamboo, when harvested correctly, is ideal because it draws down so much CO2 as it grows, and older poles can be collected without harming the plant. In fact, harvesting mature culms actually benefits the plant and encourages more fresh growth. If those poles are not harvested, they will simply age and decay, eventually releasing the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

On rubber plantations, old trees are no longer productive, so they need to be removed and replaced with young trees. This agro-business model results in a great quantity of biomass waste which is another perfect input for biochar production.

Finally, it’s important that this biomass is close to the cook site, within about 50 km of the kilns. If the biomass has to travel too far, then it starts to generate a larger carbon footprint of its own. Long distance transportation can also lead to logistical difficulties and costs.

 

2. Biochar kiln or other pyrolysis equipment

The most affordable option, and the most popular choice among our projects in the tropics, is the Kontiki kiln. The parts for such a kiln can cost around $1-2,000 USD per unit. A successful project may require 3 or 4 of these units to achieve the necessary production capacity.

Kontiki kilns come in different sizes, but we encourage producers to use a large 1500-litre model. Larger capacity means greater efficiency, helping to ensure that the project will be financially viable. Multiple small kilns will translate into higher labor costs and other incidental expenses. 

Someone local to the project will need the engineering and mechanical skills to assemble this low-tech kiln. And staff will be needed to operate the kiln on a daily basis. Planboo will provide the technical knowledge and training to safely operate the Kontiki kiln effectively.

If the budget allows, and there’s enough biomass supply to justify it, you can invest in more sophisticated and higher-capacity machinery. This can significantly improve the efficiency of the biochar production. The range of equipment is vast, and we are continually looking at new options and alternatives.

3. Cook site

In order to assemble, install and operate the biochar kiln, there are a few more simple requirements. Of course, the space will need to be available, not only to operate the equipment but also to gather the incoming biomass feedstock and store the finished product as it comes out of the kiln.

To function properly, the production site will need access to water, electricity, and a mobile network. Solar and satellite technologies can also be used. To satisfy Carbon Credit standards, burns must be closely monitored and recorded. Our smartphone app and IOT hardware technology makes this simple and easy to do.

4. Additional land

To compensate for the trace methane (CH4) emissions associated with biochar production in Kontiki kilns, we require producers to plant another two hectares or bamboo (or other crop) to keep their GHG (greenhouse gas) footprint in a healthy balance. This can also be utilised as a feedstock for future biochar production.

5. Additional compost

To make the biochar most useful and valuable as a fertiliser and soil amendment, we encourage farmers to mix it with fresh compost, manure or liquid fertiliser. The ratio will depend on the soil type and crop use, but we recommend at least 100 tonnes of compost should be available per year. This can come from other agricultural waste, animal manure, or other sources.

6. Market for biochar

To make the production of biochar truly worthwhile, the producer needs to have a local value for it. In other words, they must either be able to sell it to neighbouring farmers and landowners or else recognize the value of using it on their own farmland to increase crop yields. Revenue from CDRCs alone is rarely enough to make a project sufficiently profitable.

In some cases, the local community may require some education about the benefits of biochar before they will recognize its value. Exporting the biochar is not acceptable under the carbon standard, and selling it to distant markets is not recommended, because that adds a carbon footprint back onto the biochar. It also makes it difficult to track where the biochar is being buried in the ground. We suggest using the biochar within 50km of the production site.

7. Financial review

In addition to identifying the local value of the biochar, we also need to calculate the total cost of its production. That means understanding the costs of these key ingredients:

  • Biomass cost per ton or cubic meter
  • Cost of manure or fertiliser per ton
  • Labour rate per day
  • Supervisor rate per day
  • Kontiki kiln cost
  • Water cost per litre
  • 50L bag
  • Bamboo seedling cost
  • Local biochar selling price per ton

8. Reliable Organization

Producing biochar with the quantity, quality and consistency required to meet the Artisan Professional Standard and generate trustworthy carbon credits is not a task to be taken lightly. To design a successful project, you really need to build an effective business. Ultimately, this enterprise will need to operate on a daily basis, collecting biomass, loading and unloading kilns, mixing biomass with kilns, and putting the biochar co-compost into the ground.

To do this, a successful project needs the following elements and personnel:

  • Legally registered business or NGO in the country of operation
  • Carbon Sink manager, and individual or organization registered with CSI, who oversees the project (for example, this might be the manager of the plantation)
  • Artisan professional who supervises the kiln operation
  • Staff who operate the kiln (2 people per 1500L Kontiki kiln)
  • Staff to mix the biochar with manure of compost (these could be the same people who operate the kilns)
  • Some projects also have a biochar trader responsible for selling and distributing the end products to local farmers and landowners

9. Sustainable Development Goals

It is vital that every project meets Planboo’s strict standards of social and environmental responsibility. Our primary mission is to remove megatons of CO2 from the atmosphere whilst contributing towards reducing global inequality. The Carbon Credit market is a fantastic tool to develop the change we wish to see in the world.

Our strong values-driven business relies on transparency, accountability and win-win relationships. For this we have strong policies on a number of social criteria, including diversity, inclusion, gender pay equality, and modern slavery, to name but a few.

Action!

If you have read over these initial requirements and feel that your project is qualified, then we encourage you to take the first step and fill out the Planboo Producer WebForm. This will enter you into our system so our team can take a look at your project and then reach out to  arrange for the next steps for onboarding and becoming an active, certified biochar producer and carbon remover.

The next step will be to complete our detailed Pre-Feasibility form feasibility, and if the projects satisfies all our requirements, we will move forward with a complete Feasibility Study, which includes a Life Cycle Analysis and detailed financial model. 

Please note, if you are looking to develop multiple projects, then the ingredient requirements will be slightly different, and we can offer support and services to you too. Just book a call through Calendly or email us through the website to get in touch.

From there, we will proceed on a case-by-case basis, and ultimately get your project on track to produce valuable, soil-enriching biochar in a way that’s compliant with the strictest international standards so that you can start earning Carbon Credits and getting paid to invest carbon in your soils and remove CO2 from the skies!

Learn more

To learn more about how Planboo operates, take a look at some of these helpful links.

 

Picture of Fred

Fred

Fred Hornaday, founder of Bambu Batu, is a leading voice in the world of bamboo. He’s been working in the industry since 2006 and has a network that spans all six continents.

Read More Posts from this Author

3 Responses

  1. This is fantastic and unbelievable,I wish you can establish in Uganda where numerous land owners just want to sell it off tompotential users
    I will be glad to connect you to those who wish to sell their vast lands and this can work out

  2. The published carbon content of bone dry woody biomass as stated by the IPCC is 47% (factor of 0.47). How are you claiming 70-90%?

    For bamboo carbon content is even lower due to the high water content of the biomass.

    1. Thanks for another insightful question. The 47% carbon content refers to fresh biomass. After going through the pyrolysis process, a significant portion of the organic matter burns away, leaving behind the biochar which has a higher concentration of carbon. Wet biomass has a lower % of carbon, but again, the concentration increases when the biomass dries and the weight is reduced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our blog

Be the first to hear about what’s happening

Carbon Removal

To keep the world within 1.5 degrees of global warming and to avoid global catastrophe – we now need to not only drastically reduce our emissions but also rapidly remove them too.

However, there is very little carbon removal today with less than 50,000 tonnes of CO2 removed in 2021. It’s estimated we need to remove 10% of Global GHG emissions by 2030, which is equal to 5 billion tonnes per year. Carbon removal needs to grow 100,000 times bigger. 

Planboo is a nature-based carbon removal company, using bamboo-the fastest growing plant in the world. Like all plants, through photosynthesis bamboo absorbs CO2 and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. Because it grows so fast, it’s carbon removal potential is huge. We develop projects in Sri Lanka with local partners and supply high quality and high integrity carbon removal credits for the carbon market.