Biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment. Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for thousands of years. Like most charcoal, biochar is made from biomass via pyrolysis. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration. Biochar thus has the potential to help mitigate climate change via carbon sequestration. Independently, biochar can increase soil fertility of acidic soils (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.
Biochar is a high-carbon, fine-grained residue that today is produced through modern pyrolysis processes; it is the direct thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of oxygen (preventing combustion), which produces a mixture of solids (the biochar proper), liquid (bio-oil), and gas (syngas) products. The specific yield from the pyrolysis is dependent on process condition, such as temperature, and can be optimized to produce either energy or biochar. Temperatures of 400–500 °C (752–932 °F) produce more char, while temperatures above 700 °C (1,292 °F) favor the yield of liquid and gas fuel components. Pyrolysis occurs more quickly at the higher temperatures, typically requiring seconds instead of hours. High temperature pyrolysis is also known as gasification, and produces primarily syngas, which has been used as vehicle fuel in some times and places. Typical yields are 60% bio-oil, 20% biochar, and 20% syngas. By comparison, slow pyrolysis can produce substantially more char (~50%); it is this which contributes to the observed soil fertility of terra preta. Once initialized, both processes produce net energy. For typical inputs, the energy required to run a “fast” pyrolyzer is approximately 15% of the energy that it outputs. Modern pyrolysis plants can use the syngas created by the pyrolysis process and output 3–9 times the amount of energy required to run.
The Amazonian pit/trench method harvests neither bio-oil nor syngas, and releases a large amount of CO2, black carbon, and other greenhouse gases (GHG)s (and potentially, toxins) into the air. Commercial-scale systems process agricultural waste, paper byproducts, and even municipal waste and typically eliminate these side effects by capturing and using the liquid and gas products. The production of biochar as an output is not a priority in most cases.
BIOM BioChar “Trinity” is produced in a vacuum kiln at 500~600 °C. After the BioChar forms, initial NPK and trace elements are coated and beneficial micro-organism are added.