Biomass Pyrolysis

Biomass Pyrolysis is the thermo-chemical decomposition of organic materials by heating in the absence of oxygen. Controlled pyrolysis has been approved by the UN as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for avoidance of methane production from biomass decay. Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change PDF

Gasification and burning of fossil fuels is at best, carbon neutral.
Burning of biomass at best sequesters only 3% of the initial carbon.

Dedicating land to biofuels increases carbon emissions.  In fact, corn-based ethanol can double greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years. (Searchinger et al. 2008, Science)

Biomass Pyrolysis is carbon negative!

  • Sequesters up to 50% of the initial carbon (C) input and returns it to the soil.
  • The initial loss of C is used for energy production to offset fuel use.
  • Can use agricultural residues but DOES NOT require new crops to be grown to fuel the process
Biochar made from peanut hull, pine chip, bamboo, and corn stover
A wide variety of biomass can be converted into biochar

“One promising approach to lowering CO2 in the atmosphere while producing energy is biochar bio-energy, based on low-temperature pyrolysis. This technology relies on capturing the off-gases from thermal decomposition of wood or grasses to produce heat, electricity, or biofuels. Biochar is a major by-product of this pyrolysis, and has remarkable environmental properties.”

– Johannes Lehmann (Lehmann, Johannes, 2007. Bioenergy in the BlackPDF Front Ecol Environ 2007; 5(7): 381–387)

Amazon Tera Preta dark earth after 800 years

Dark earth from the Amazon, with biochar which accumulated about 800 years before present and still shows a distinctly black color, indicating the high stability of biochar (compare black topsoil with the yellow underlying material in the pit).

From: Bioenergy in the Black. Lehmann, J. , 2007