Monday, 28 December 2009

On Nature's carbon capture

One of the currently most popular research topics is Carbon Capture and Storage (technology to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and storage it for long term). Most reviews on the topic (eg, Annual Review of Environment and Resources 2004, Technology Review 2007, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute 2007,
The Economist 2009) fail to include among these techniques the oldest and so far most efficient means to do so. I happened to be in front of one such device; it is about 60 cm tall, shining green and hardly moves. It is a plant!. Carbon dioxide gas is naturally removed from the atmosphere and converted into solid biomass matter by plants during photosynthesis.

In order to avoid the later release of this carbon when the plant dies or is destroyed, biochar technology could be used. Biochar (stable, solid and rich-in-carbon-content char created by pyrolysis of biomass) helps to lock carbon in the solid state for long periods of time. Done right, experts say, biochar produced and used appropriately, could contribute to the removal of carbon in combination with the millennia old technology of plant photosynthesis.


  1. Hi Dr. Rein

    Yes, Unlike CCS which only reduces emissions, biochar systems draw down CO2 every energy cycle, closing a circle back to support the soil food web. The photosynthetic "capture" collectors are up and running, the "storage" sink is in operation just under our feet. Pyrolysis conversion plants are the only infrastructure we need to build out.

    Thought you would like this Biochar News;

    High-tech charcoal fights climate change
    Although some questions remain, biochar shows potential for carbon storage and energy production and as a soil additive.
    Life Cycle Assessment of Biochar Systems: Estimating the Energetic, Economic, and Climate Change Potential
    Kelli G. Roberts* Brent A. Gloy, Stephen Joseph, Norman R. Scott and Johannes Lehmann
    College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, and School of Materials Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2251, Australia

    I would like to see why, on which metrix switchGrass falls down on GHG emissions, but at $30 to read the full work, I'll wait for it to leak out.

    I can understand how an annual crop, (with no cover crop & root death), could be GHG positive , but not a perennial crop

    Your under funded Chartarian,

    MaD Organic Farm is proud to have been selected by Dr. Simon Shackley of the UK Biochar Research Centre, University of Edinburgh.

    This 12 month project funded through the Asia Pacific Network (APN) includes partners from four countries, and it is led by the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) in India. Other partners are International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), SME Cambodia and the University of Edinburgh. This original research will look at the possible agronomic benefits, which the addition of biochar can have to agricultural systems in South Asia.

    Goodall's Top Ten, hope we get top billing..........
    Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, Energy Options for a Low-Carbon Future
    By: Chris Goodall

    Practical solutions for meeting our energy demands while combatting climate change on a large scale, from “the David Suzuki of Britain.”

    Respected, authoritative , award-winning author Chris Goodall adds new material to the climate change debate. His engaging and balanced volume—popular science writing at its most crucial—is arguably the most readable, most comprehensive overview of large-scale solutions to climate change available.

    Everyone agrees we need to slash global greenhouse emissions. But how do we achieve that goal? Goodall profiles ten technologies to watch, explaining how they work and telling the stories of the inventors, scientists, and entrepreneurs who are driving them forward. Some of Goodall’s selections, such as the electric car, are familiar. Others, like algae and charcoal, are more surprising.

    Ten Technologies to Save the Planet combines cutting-edge analysis and straightforward explanations about the pros and cons of each proposed solution and busts myths along the way.

    “Rewarding and essential, Ten Technologies combines rigorous research and an accessible tone.” — BBC Green

    “Chris Goodall’s brilliantly concise and clear-eyed account of the top 10—from covering the Sahara in solar farms to burning wood in your boiler—has it about right: 10 technologies could save the planet.” — New Scientist

    Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.

    Erich J. Knight
    Eco Technologies Group Technical Adviser
    Shenandoah Gardens (Owner)
    1047 Dave Barry Rd.
    McGaheysville, VA. 22840
    540 289 9750
    Co-Administrator, Biochar Data base & Discussion list TP-REPP

  2. May I also offer these vidio presentations, the first Stamets video has a short section on remediation of manure run off with fungi. The second really brings home the power of fungi to remediate hydro-carbons and PAHs;

    Paul is now developing MYC-CHAR
    Usesing biochar as a carrier.

    The Stametsian Vision
    for Sustaining Biospheres and Mitigating Global Warming

    Amazing utility of fungi, Remediation of diesel fuels