Biochar, derived from carbonized biomass or plant matter, holds significant promise in carbon sequestration—a process aimed at mitigating carbon emissions. The primary goal is to capture carbon emissions, redirecting them back into the soil’s organic structure to revitalize soil health and enhance productivity, countering the detrimental effects of monoculture agriculture as well as capturing other useful carbon emissions to reutilize them for fuel or alternate heat generating and industrial uses.

Navigating the complexities of biochar and carbon sequestration poses challenges, notably in education and technology acquisition due to scale. Biochar production varies widely; smaller kilns rely on specific heat and temperature ranges to create powdered carbon substances beneficial for subsequent harvests. However, capturing residual oils and volatiles from plant material proves difficult, especially in small-scale units lacking sufficient throughput to ensure efficient capture.

This limitation necessitates transporting materials to larger pyrolysis reactors capable of effectively capturing volatile gasses with further capture and cooling features. Failure to do so may result in measurable carbon emissions vented back into the atmosphere during the kiln heating process, undercutting many of the intended environmental benefits.

Simplified, biochar creation through pyrolysis equipment is not the same as carbon sequestration. Both can occur under the same roof and both types of equipment can create biochar, but the choice to sequester carbon emissions must be made prior to equipment selection.

With the global initiatives to open up programing for industrial hemp and consumable hemp products, we are seeing a revitalization of a fast growing biomass skilled at phytoremediation purposes. Not only does hemp develop deeper root structures and remediates unhealthy soils contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants, the fast growing cycles replenish our high demand for consumable carbon products in fewer growing cycles.

With the focus on growth coming naturally, its important to recognize the value available in the post-harvest and post-production plant cycle often considered ‘waste’. This is where many suggest the benefit of the carbonized plant replenishes the spent topsoil of most any arable land, not just the tilled soils of monocropped agriculture, but the regenerative farming lands can see improvement as well by introducing biochar to their growing fields upon the next cycle. The benefits of which are substantial and are well documented.

With the substantial amount of hemp ‘waste’ that could be generated this can prove to also be a substantial amount of potential carbon sequestration as well.

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that not all biochar processes are created to effectively capture carbon emissions. While biochar holds promise for enhancing soil and sequestering carbon during the next growth cycle, its production isn’t devoid of carbon emissions unless purposefully designed this way.

In conclusion, the widespread adoption of biochar for carbon sequestration demands innovation and investment in technologies capable of efficiently capturing and utilizing carbon emissions across various scales.

 

About the author

Ada Estrada is the co-chair of the National Hemp Association’s Social Equity Committee. She has successfully acquired hemp licenses for processing, research, handling, brokering and collaborated on zoning industrial processing facilities correctly. She has experience with office management, laboratory work, facilities intake, online scheduling, logistics, lab equipment operation, training, and has a background in environmental studies. Currently she is focusing on education and consultation efforts with interested communities.” 

Ada is a first-generation Guatemalan-American with Spanish as her primary language, she assists in all endeavors with Latinx clients looking to understand their regulations or how to apply a business model to them as well as with general translation.