Energy crops improving soils while producing carbon negative solutions. We show why, this is the real future to mitigate climate change.
Since biofuels started to become a real solution at commercial scale, several debates started on how much efficient bioethanol and biodiesel would be compare to most fossil energy sources like diesel, gasoline and fuel-oil. Annual and food crops like corn, rapeseeds, sunflowers and soybean were considered in Europe, USA and many other countries. While brasilian sugarcane became a truly competitibe source of bioenergy, Argentinian soybean and Indonesian Palm oil started became highly required from European industries to meet climate change goals. From then, everything changed because of technology. One of the most promising technologies now commercial and 100% real, is pyrolisis with soil amendment using biochar.,
What is biochar?
Biochar is a solid material obtained from the carbonization of biomass. Biochar may be added to soils with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value. These properties are measurable and verifiable in a characterisation scheme, or in a carbon emission offset protocol. The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can hold carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years. Biochar is produced through pyrolysis or gasification — processes that heat biomass in the absence (or under reduction) of oxygen.
The carbon-packed substance was first suggested as a way to counteract climate change in 1993. Scientists and policymakers have given it increasing attention in the past few years and this new study conducted by a collaborative team from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Swansea University, Cornell University, and the University of New South Wales, is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis to date on the global potential of biochar.
Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen (or any halogen). It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro “fire” and lysis “separating”. Read more on pyrolisis here.
Energy Crops can be carbon negative and improve topsoil for more energy and more
We have been writing and giving strong evidence on how perennial bioenergy crops can determine higher soil organic matter, improve biodiversity and determine more food security. As many organizations have published, emission savings of biomass obtaiend from energy crops could be more or less efficient depending on what technology we use. If combustion or co-firing is used the efficiency is already enoughly high to replace fuel oil and save more than 70% of emissions.
However, if we increase carbon sequestration in long term plantations, even if renovated every 15 years and harvested every 3 years, the situation of course is much better. But what is we have an additional residue from biomass conversion into heat and power? what if biochar can amend soils and improve fertility for nearby areas? what if energy crops become a way to improve soil fertility in marginal lands?