Pyrolysis biochar systems, balance between bioenergy and carbon sequestration

Kyle Crombie, Ondrej Masek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to investigate the extent to which it is possible to marry the two seemingly opposing concepts of heat and/or power production from biomass with carbon sequestration in the form of biochar. To do this, we investigated the effects of feedstock, highest heating temperature (HTT), residence time at HTT and carrier gas flow rate on the distribution of pyrolysis co-products and their energy content, as well as the carbon sequestration potential of biochar. Biochar was produced from wood pellets (WP) and straw pellets (SP) at two temperatures (350 and 650 °C), with three residence times (10, 20 and 40 min) and three carrier gas flow rates (0, 0.33 and 0.66 l min−1). The energy balance of the system was determined experimentally by quantifying the energy contained within pyrolysis co-products. Biochar was also analysed for physicochemical and soil functional properties, namely environmentally stable-C and labile-C content. Residence time showed no considerable effect on any of the measured properties. Increased HTT resulted in higher concentrations of fixed C, total C and stable-C in biochar, as well as higher heating value (HHV) due to the increased release of volatile compounds. Increased carrier gas flow rate resulted in decreased biochar yields and reduced biochar stable-C and labile-C content. Pyrolysis at 650 °C showed an increased stable-C yield as well as a decreased proportion of energy stored in the biochar fraction but increased stored energy in the liquid and gas co-products. Carrier gas flow rate was also seen to be influential in determining the proportion of energy stored in the gas phase. Understanding the influence of production conditions on long term biochar stability in addition to the energy content of the co-products obtained from pyrolysis is critical for the development of specifically engineered biochar, be it for agricultural use, carbon storage, energy generation or combinations of the three.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2014


  • biochar
  • Carbon sequestration
  • energy
  • carbon
  • Pyrolysis
  • stable carbon


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