What are the disadvantages of biochar?

Hi everyone!

Happy fasting month!

I'm Indri from THINK-Research Team. As I wrote last week, I will continue writing about biochar. If you have not read my previous blog post, you can check it here: https://www.su-re.co/post/what-is-biochar.

As you know from https://www.su-re.co/think, currently, su-re.co is working on two European Commission projects: LANDMARC and TIPPING+. LANDMARC is LAND-use based MitigAtion for Resilient Climate pathways. We assess negative emission technologies and practices in land-use management. You can read a previous blog from su-re.co CEO here: https://www.su-re.co/post/su-re-co-venture-negative-emissions-technologies-and-practices-netps.

Negative Emission Technologies (NETs) are classified into biomass/photosynthesis-based and non-biomass/photosynthesis-based technologies. Among the biomass/photosynthesis based, there are biochar and Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) (BECCS). On the other hand, Negative Emission Practices (NEPs) are further subdivided based on land use, either on land or ocean.

NETPs (Haszeldine, 2018)

That's why since last year, I explore how biochar implementation in Indonesia. After writing briefly about the advantages of biochar implementation, I will share the drawbacks of biochar. Some researchers stated that biochar implementation with the right amount to improve soil quality from physical, biological, and chemical reviews still requires further study. Many variables need to be studied more. For example, their interactions with soil types, environment, materials, biochar standard and the type of the plant. Before I share a recap of potential negative impacts from biochar implementation, I want to share how creating biochar is.

Biochar Process (Sakhiya et al., 2019)

The biochar process is quite simple. Biomass as the feedstock is put in the pyrolysis reactor with specific heating and gas flow rate, residence time, and temperature. After that, biochar can be produced. In this process, there are some co-products, such as gas and bio-oil. However, when biochar is applied in the agricultural land, some previous studies highlighted some drawbacks of biochar implementation: (i) loss of land due to erosion, (ii) soil compaction during the application, (iii) risk of contamination, (iv) removal of crop residues, and (vii) reduction in worm life rates.

Some previous case studies assessed the biogas implementation on soil management. For example, soil fertility in the Amazon region is not only because of the biochar implementation but also other input. Besides, the biochar applied was the relatively uniform material origin and production process. Another case was that biochar implementation would improperly create soil compaction, and heavy metals (Cu, Zn, Cr, and Ni) can be found, which is quite high in sewage biochar. Also, biochar from plantation waste can negatively affect the soil surface, e.g. erosion by water and/or wind (Bridle and Pritchard 2004).

In the LANDMARC project, for the national LMT (Land-use mitigation technologies) of the Indonesian case study, we do not include biochar since there are only some pilot or research projects implemented. However, there are around four case studies that include biogas in their LMT portfolio. It is interesting to compare the LMT of different case studies.

In my next post, I will continue to write about BECCS. Thank you for reading! ^^

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