Pyrolysis biochar systems for recovering biodegradable material: A life cycle carbon assessment

Rodrigo Ibarrola Esteinou, Simon Shackley, Jim Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A life cycle assessment (LCA) focused on biochar and bioenergy generation was performed for three thermal treatment configurations (slow pyrolysis, fast pyrolysis and gasification). Ten UK biodegradable wastes or residues were considered as feedstocks in this study. Carbon (equivalent) abatement (CA)
and electricity production indicators were calculated. Slow pyrolysis systems offer the best performance in terms of CA, with net results varying from 0.07 to 1.25 tonnes of CO2 eq. t1 of feedstock treated. On the other hand, gasification achieves the best electricity generation outputs, with results varying around
0.9 MWhe t1 of feedstock. Moreover, selection of a common waste treatment practice as the reference scenario in an LCA has to be undertaken carefully as this will have a key influence upon the CA performance of pyrolysis or gasification biochar systems (P/GBS). Results suggest that P/GBS could produce
important environmental benefits in terms of CA, but several potential pollution issues arising from contaminants in the biochar have to be addressed before biochar and bioenergy production from biodegradable
waste can become common practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-868
Number of pages10
JournalWaste Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Biochar
  • Biodegradable waste
  • Pyrolysis
  • Gasification
  • Life cycle assessment


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