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What are Biochar Carbon Credits?

Updated: Mar 28

Zoomed photograph of black biochar

Biochar carbon credits represent a unique and innovative approach to combating climate change through carbon sequestration. Biochar itself is a stable, carbon-rich form of charcoal produced from the heating of organic matter (such as agricultural waste, wood chips, or other biomass) in a process called pyrolysis, which occurs in the absence of oxygen. This process prevents the carbon in the organic matter from being released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide—a major greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

The production and use of biochar effectively locks away carbon for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the original biomass. By converting agricultural waste and other organic materials into biochar, not only is carbon dioxide capture and storage achieved, but the resulting product can also improve soil health when used as a soil amendment, further enhancing its environmental benefits. In this guide, we will explore biochar carbon credits and how they are sold.

What is Biochar?

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that is made by burning organic material (typically wood)  otherwise destined for decomposition or landfills in a controlled process called pyrolysis. Although it resembles common charcoal, biochar is produced using a specific process to reduce contamination and safely store carbon. During pyrolysis, organic materials, such as wood chips, leaf litter, or dead plants, are burned in a container with very little oxygen. As the materials burn, they release little to no contaminating fumes. The organic material is then converted into biochar, a stable form of carbon that can’t easily escape into the atmosphere.

Biochar is approximately 70 percent carbon. The remaining percentage consists of oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, but the exact percentages depend on the organic material used to make and heat the biochar. Unless through burning, which can be avoided through mixing with non-flammable materials like soil or construction materials, the risk of re-emission of carbon from high-quality biochar is extremely unlikely.

What are the Benefits of Biochar?

Beyond carbon sequestration, biochar has many environmental, social and economic benefits. When incorporated into soil, biochar has shown to enhance agricultural productivity by aiding in water and nutrient retention while also rejuvenating depleted soils. It serves as an absorbent for wastewater, removing pollutants and remediating contaminated sites. Biochar can also be used in the production of more environmentally-friendly construction materials.

Improved Soil Quality

In the agricultural sector, biochar isn't just beneficial — it's transformative. It boosts food security and drives agricultural sustainability. Thanks to the porous microstructure of biochar, the soil gets a lift in both structure and fertility, excelling in nutrient and water retention. Extensive research, including a systematic review of over 1,500 scientific papers, highlights the positive impacts of biochar in agriculture. On average, biochar application significantly increases plant productivity (+16%), crop yield (+13%), water use efficiency (+20%), soil organic carbon (+39%) and available soil nutrients (+45% for phosphorus). 

Production of Construction Materials

Biochar also holds significant promise in the construction industry. By reducing the percentage of cement in concrete, biochar minimizes the carbon footprint of construction materials. The concrete industry is one of the most energy and carbon-intensive of all manufacturing industries, so incorporating biochar into concrete production has the potential to greatly decrease carbon emissions globally.

What are Biochar Carbon Credits?

Biochar Carbon Credits represent a permanent sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. Biochar is one of the safest, most durable & fastest ways to reduce carbon from the atmosphere. It provides guaranteed carbon sequestration for 100+ years with virtually no risk of reversal.

According to Regeneration International, biochar production is a carbon-negative process, meaning that it reduces CO2 from the atmosphere. In the process of producing biochar, the unstable carbon in decaying plant material is converted into a stable form of carbon that is then stored in the biochar.  When biochar is applied to the soil, it stores the carbon in a secure place for potentially hundreds or thousands of years.

Biochar plays a vital role in decarbonization and combating climate change by enhancing soil quality and decreasing reliance on chemical fertilizers, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The enhanced soil fertility promotes plant growth, aiding in carbon dioxide absorption. The numerous advantages of biochar in climate and agricultural systems position it as a valuable asset for regenerative agriculture practices.

How are Biochar Carbon Credits Sold?

Currently, biochar producers have two options to sell into the voluntary carbon market: Puro.Earth or Carbon Future. To sell your biochar carbon credits to interested buyers in the voluntary carbon market, you must enroll in a recognized third-party certification system. Certified biochar producers must provide documentation that the biochar they sell is going to an approved use (such as being added to compost or sold as an agricultural product).

Who are the biggest buyers of biochar?

Large corporations, including Microsoft and Shopify, are purchasing biochar carbon credits to offset their carbon emissions. Microsoft is one of the largest buyers of biochar carbon credits.

How can property owners sell carbon credits?

Property owners can list their land for lease for carbon credits on LandGate's marketplace to connect with a wide network of investors, energy developers, and carbon developers. LandGate does not purchase, verify, or sell carbon credits, but our marketplace provides a unique opportunity for property owners to connect with multiple carbon developers and explore different offers. Listing is free, and there is no obligation to accept any offers that you receive through a listing.


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