BIOCHAR – why and for how much?

This discussion refers to European regions with developed conventional agriculture.

I passionately “dirty my hands” with Biochar for 11 years. Over these years I looked at it from all the possible angles and through different lenses. To me, it was always a material defined by its feedstock, production method and its use. This “trinomial” was used to determine its price which is an expression of complex value. Let us bear in mind that Biochar is not yet a standard material with a fixed price. 

Therefore, as part of our (still) unique solution to produce biochar from fermentation residues at a biogas plant, we have offered an economic model that does not need to determine the price of biochar. It only calculates with the cost of its production and compares it with the current cost of digestate disposal. The result are savings that finances the investment in new equipment. Biochar proves to be the most economically viable solution for the management of the digestate. 

Thus, we avoid pricing biochar through benefits – contrarily to what is common for all other agricultural inputs. Agricultural economics neglects the value of land as a set of utility properties. By this I mean the value of a unit of “soil fertility”, “soil aggregate stability”, “biotic colonization” or “retention capacity”. These are all a list of the most important effects that biochar brings to the soil. 

However, a discussion on the value of Biochar as an agricultural input is very unlikely to be avoided.. It has in fact become the “creator” of high-quality carbon credits! (Meaning – a certificate of permanent carbon removal issued by a recognized certification body.)

Like any other carbon removal from carbon dioxide, biochar must go through a “capture – modification / transformation – sequestration” process. The first is done by biomass through the process of photosynthesis, the second is provided by thermal conversion during biochar production, and the third is a task (primarily) for farmers. Without completing this process, carbon certificate simply will not be generated. 

Voluntary markets with carbon certificates (VCM) will enable the substantial development of projects for biochar production and its use (Which is what we at have been dreaming since 2013!) thanks to the revenue generated from sales of the certificates, but at the same time they bring a new challenge to the micro-market for biochar. Who should implement biochar projects and why?

This is because unless the project is farm-driven, there will have to be cooperation between the project implementer and farmers in order to deposit biochar. This is the point at which the price of biochar, or otherwise: the cost of storing it, needs to be found. So, who is actually going to pay who? I would say that the farmer is unlikely to pay for something that (as stated) has no defined economic value. 

Project for biochar production should therefore be developed and implemented by those who will also use it! I am very pleased that our company – BIOUHEL.CZ – has developed such project (MicroCHAR) and both VCM and CRCF are giving it a big green B-).