Prospective life cycle carbon abatement for pyrolysis biochar systems in the UK

Jim Hammond, Simon Shackley, Saran Sohi, Peter Brownsort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Life cycle assessment (LCA) of slow pyrolysis biochar systems (PBS) in the UK for small, medium and large scale process chains and ten feedstocks was performed, assessing carbon abatement and electricity production. Pyrolysis biochar systems appear to offer greater carbon abatement than other bioenergy systems. Carbon abatement of 0.7-1.3 t CO2 equivalent per oven dry tonne of feedstock processed was found. In terms of delivered energy, medium to large scale PBS abates 1.4-1.9 t CO(2)e/MWh, which compares to average carbon emissions of 0.05-0.30 t CO(2)e/MWh for other bioenergy systems. The largest contribution to PBS carbon abatement is from the feedstock carbon stabilised in biochar (40-50%), followed by the less certain indirect effects of biochar in the soil (25-40%)-mainly due to increase in soil organic carbon levels. Change in soil organic carbon levels was found to be a key sensitivity. Electricity production off-setting emissions from fossil fuels accounted for 10-25% of carbon abatement. The LCA suggests that provided 43% of the carbon in the biochar remains stable, PBS will out-perform direct combustion of biomass at 33% efficiency in terms of carbon abatement, even if there is no beneficial effect upon soil organic carbon levels from biochar application. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2646-2655
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number5
Early online date24 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Biochar
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Pyrolysis
  • SOIL


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