BIO Char 101


Biomass power plants play a critical role in woody biomass management, and can produce power rain or shine.  Biomass power is often located alongside industries that require heat energy, thus providing co-generation of heat and electricity (such as at sawmills).  And when the biomass used for power is transformed into biochar, it provides a pathway for fixing carbon and sequestering it in soils.

Biochar production involves the partial burning of plant material.  In this partial burning, a portion of the carbon captured by the plant is immediately released.  But 50% or more of the carbon can remain stable in its new form of biochar.  Energy is also released from the plant material in this process. The release of energy can be captured and used.  The purest and simplest form of energy to capture and use is heat.  It is also possible to generate electricity. Most difficult of all, yet still possible, is to create transportable liquid fuels comparable to petroleum products.

There is still energy in biochar, it’s energy value is akin to charcoal or coal.  In the vast majority of existing biomass-to-energy facilities the biomass used is burned all the way to ash leaving little if any carbon in the form of biochar.  It is only when the value of the biochar is fully recognized as greater in soil than it is a fuel that this will change.