Biochar applied with organic fertilizer

Cradle to Grave - Our Quality Criteria for Biochar Carbon Removal

Quality Criteria

Before the carbon absorbed by plants can be safely stored in the soil with a verified climate effect, it undergoes several processes and quality checks. We take quality and transparency seriously. Here, you can read more about the standards and methods we at Down to Earth follow to provide you with durable biochar carbon removal.

CRADLE

It starts in the forest

A long-lasting stable carbon structure is formed ifTrees absorb large amounts of carbon during their lifetime. This carbon distributes throughout the tree, down to the roots, and over time, large carbon reservoirs are built up inside the tree both above and below ground. In the natural carbon cycle, this carbon would be released into the atmosphere when the tree dies. If the biomass is heated above 500 degrees in surroundings without oxygen known as pyrolysis. Stabilizing carbon that is no longer part of the cycle.

The raw material used to make biochar is biomass leftovers such as branches and treetops, logging waste usually left in the forest during industrial logging consisting of about 25% of the tree's biomass. In this way, we ensure more comprehensive utilization. NIBIO (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research) estimates that about 50% of the biomass leftovers from logging can be extracted without affecting the biodiversity of the forest area post-logging.

How the forest is harvested matters for the carbon balance. Today, 91% of productive forests in Norway are harvested through clear-cutting. This affects the addition of carbon to the soil by halting it, and clear-cut areas can release carbon 10-20 years after logging. We work to influence the Norwegian forestry industry to develop more sustainable logging practices. We also follow research in the field, where, among others, NMBU (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) is working on a 5-year project examining the effects of forestry on biodiversity and carbon storage.

LIFE CYCLE

Factory – stabilization of carbon in biochar

If the carbon in the wood is not stabilized, it will return to the atmosphere much faster, either through decomposition on the forest floor or combustion. When the tree burns, the carbon stored in the wood is released, and most of it will return to the atmosphere as CO2. We remove carbon from the short carbon cycle by stabilizing it through biochar production and storing it in the soil of Norwegian farmers, ensuring it doesn't return to the atmosphere. This results in a tangible and measurable climate effect.

Norsk Karbonlagring's carbon certificate is compatible with the leading industry standard of the European Biochar Certification (EBC) concerning the certification of biochar from cradle to gate. EBC is based on the "do no harm" principle with four main pillars:

  1. Sustainable supply and production of raw materials (Environmental certification requirements - see the list of approved biomass here).
  2. Energy efficiency - low emissions related to pyrolysis technology.
  3. Ensuring the quality of biochar through sampling and analysis.
  4. Ensuring the safe use of biochar.

If you wish to delve deeper and view the framework for a life cycle analysis of biochar, click here.

From Factory to Storage

EBC's standard covers the process from cradle to gate. Now, the EBC C-sink comes into the picture. Certification of Biochar-based Carbon Sinks analyzes the carbon content in biochar to verify its storage capacity in the soil. To move EBC-certified biochar from factory to ground (gate-to-grave), EBC requires that you be a C-sink trader. This requires comprehensive and accurate tracking of all carbon units that are stabilized and stored, guaranteeing a climate effect and that the removal/reduction of atmospheric CO2 has actually occurred. This is also crucial to avoid double counting. We collaborate with the two companies that meet EBC's requirements, Puro and Carbonfuture.

For carbon to be considered stored, it must be mixed with a mineral blend that makes it inseparable, thus irreversibly stored. This occurs either by feeding the biochar as an additive to animals, using it in manure, placing it in a slurry pit, or spreading it dry in the field. All CO2 emissions related to transport and spreading not accounted for by the actors mentioned above are recorded and offset by us. We also work at this end of the supply chain to make transportation and agriculture as sustainable as possible, using zero-emission vehicles.

Once the biochar is safely stored in the soil, the farmer reports this to us, and we can issue a deletion receipt as proof that the exact amount of carbon placed in the ground belongs to the customer who paid for the biochar.

GRAVE

Carbon storage duration - Permanence

Carbon storage duration is often referred to as permanence, and several factors influence the duration of biochar storage. (Read more about precisely what is here, Chapter 10.3). A smaller portion of the biochar breaks down quickly, while another part is very stable and decomposes very slowly. It's estimated that 70% of the carbon in biochar is still stored after 100 years. This is a conservative estimate, meaning that often, a more significant percentage remains after 100 years (read more about it here, chapter 14). EBC adheres to this conservative estimate and incorporates this into calculating how much additional carbon needs to be produced to guarantee a more significant percentage of 100 years of storage time.

The Co-benefits of biochar

We emphasize that biochar's primary function is as a climate solution storing carbon for as long as possible. When mixed into the soil, it has many other beneficial properties besides storing carbon away safely. Biochar retains water well, which is helpful during dry or excessively wet conditions. In the soil, there aren't just minerals but millions of microorganisms. Because biochar is highly porous, microorganisms can settle in many places. These microorganisms benefit soil life, including plants and other growths. Plant roots in the soil collaborate with these microorganisms, exchanging nutrients that they can't obtain independently.

Please feel free to email us at hei@downcarbon.earth if you have any questions!