Production of biochar

Webinar Thursday November 18

Biochar is the solid product of biomass pyrolysis, which involves heating in the absence of oxygen to co-produce liquid bio-oil and combustible gas. Owing to carbon stabilization during heating, biochar is difficult to degrade in soil environments, making it a useful candidate for the long-term storage of carbon. Several reactor configurations can support biomass pyrolysis, from simple pit kilns to multiple hearth kilns and drum kilns with sophisticated temperature and residence time control. “What type of reactor to employ” is a function of production scale and the biochar properties needed by the selected market. Operating parameters, such as set point temperature and reactor residence time, can be controlled to adjust biochar properties to match market needs.

The end uses of biochar increasingly span a number of potential markets beyond agriculture, including heat and power, air and water treatment, healthcare products, and building materials. Owing to the diversity of these markets, the variability of biochar physical and chemical properties, and the uncertainty of carbon credit policies, a large range of biochar selling prices are observable. This range may narrow as standardization of biochar properties is formalized.

In making biochar, biomass pyrolysis practices will likely face increased regulatory measures to ensure acceptable air quality, recognizing that pyrolysis emissions may include carbon monoxide, volatile organic contaminants, and fine solid particulates.

Technoeconomics are affected by processing yield, capital investment, and biochar selling price, and whether a decentralized “hub-and-spoke” model using pyrolysis depots is employed to lower biomass hauling costs. Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions depend on biochar yield, its carbon content, the effect on soil organic carbon, and whether nitrous oxide emissions are reduced. Though universal biochar application is not recommended because of local environmental uniqueness, biochar production for land application, heat and power production, and other novel uses can economically and environmentally benefit many communities.   

More information on the Production of Biochar will be presented in a webinar with Chris Saffron, department of biosystems and agricultural engineering, Thursday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. EST. This event is offered by the Great Lakes Biochar Network (GLBN), which is a newly formed initiative by Michigan State University Extension that will provide nonbiased, research-based information for practitioners of all levels and scales.

This is part of a series of fall webinars, the last of which will be on Dec. 9, covering the Economics of Biochar Production and Use with Raju Pokharel, department of forestry.

The recording of the first webinar, the Introduction to the Great Lakes Biochar Network and Biochar Basics can be found at the GLBN website. This webinar provides an overview of the goals and objectives of the network and how people can get involved, as well as information about the potential benefits of biochar and the effects on the bioeconomy of the Great Lakes region. This recorded webinar was by Jessica Miesel, department of plant, soila and microbial sciences and forestry, and Booke Comer, project coordinator of the GLBN.

GLBN is supported by Project GREEEN, Michigan DNR Forest Resources Division, and MSU Extension.

How do I register?

Online registration is now available for the 2021 Webinar series - register for any or all!

For more information, contact the GLBN Program Coordinator Brooke Comer at

Stay connected!

To follow the activities of the GLBN, check-in on our website for updates, and like/follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook! The International Biochar Initiative and the US Biochar Initiative are great resources for further information.

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