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SouthPole and CarbonFuture to scale up biochar with digitised MRV

© Shutterstock / Natchapon SrihonBiochar.

South Pole, a leading climate solutions provider and carbon project developer, has partnered with carbon credit removal platform Carbonfuture to digitise MRV of biochar projects sold through the voluntary carbon markets.

Biochar projects, a way of capturing effective amounts of carbon dioxide and locking them into a stable charcoal form, have been catalysed on the voluntary carbon markets through a joint venture of South Pole and Carbonfuture.

New methodology overcomes doubts in attesting to net carbon removal. 

Biochar projects look set to expand with endorsement from many quarters including the IPCC.

South Pole and Carbonfuture team to group and digitise biochar projects on new Verified Carbon Standard but how useful is biochar going to be for carbon removal? 

What is biochar?

Biochar is a form of soil charcoal created via a special chemical heating process. It is produced by heating organic biomass from agriculture and forestry waste in the absence of oxygen (pyrolysis) to make it carbon-rich and chemically stable. 

Funding into biochar has been stymied by lack of clarity over how to monitor the carbon removal. This is now changing following the introduction of a methodology produced by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for the generation of carbon credits for removal using biochar.

Standard gives it stamp of quality and market value

Carbonfuture’s digital tracking capabilities will work to transmit monitoring data on the carbon removal in biochar projects. Providing the verification that it has met the VCS adds credibility, and therefore potentially higher prices, for the related credits.

“This grouped project will be using the new methodology developed by Verra under the VCS. With Carbonfuture as our partner, we can ensure that the monitoring and reporting of the impacts of our grouped project is as accurate as possible. Digitising the monitoring processes will also save us and our biochar partners, both producers and suppliers, time, and help us to effectively scale up this negative-emission technology,” said Nicolas Roduner, Associate Director of Swiss Projects at South Pole.

Biochar has carbon sequestration potential but viability has taken years to establish

Biochar has been hailed as a multifaceted environmental solution, both improving dead earth and storing carbon, but market appetite has stuttered. If plant matter is turned into concentrated charcoal and is stable, it becomes an attractive way of reducing atmospheric CO2. In order to achieve this on a big scale though will require organic outputs of large areas of land.

Back in 2009 biochar garnered a lot of interest on the back of the discovery that biochar is the primary reason for the sustainable and highly fertile black soils in the Amazon Basin, the terras pretas. Proposals for setting aside large tracts of land for the development of biochar have caused controversy.

If cultivating biochar plantations displaces people, arable land or causes deforestation, it runs counter to environmental and social benefit. Since then a great amount of work has gone into assessing its environmental management. 

The sustainability of biochar has taken many years to establish. Recently in IPPC reports, it has been endorsed as an effective form of carbon removal and was made special mention of in the report preceding the Glasgow COP. Biochar, when mixed with soil, stores around 2.7 times more carbon than traditional soils. 

The UK is enthusiastic about its potential. The University of Nottingham is leading £4.5 million project to evaluate the viability of biochar looking at a scale of millions of tonnes per annum make a significant contribution to support government net zero emission targets by 2050. Therefore, Britain would need to invest in multiple large-scale plants which would not only produce the biochar, but the gases generated in the charring process can be used to provide renewable heat and power.

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