There are many different ways to make biochar, but all of them involve heating biomass with little or no oxygen to drive off volatile gasses, leaving carbon behind. This simple process is called thermal decomposition usually from pyrolysis or gasification. These methods can produce clean energy in the form of gas or oil along with the biochar. This energy may be recoverable for another use, or it may simply be burned and released as heat. It’s one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable and quickly scalable.

But biochar technology is more than just the equipment needed to produce biochar. Biochar technology necessarily includes entire integrated systems that can contain various components that may or may not be part of any particular system.


Biochar production diagram courtesy of Johannes Lehmann

In general, however, biochar systems should include the following elements:


Al Gore
45th Vice President of the
United States and 2007 Nobel
Peace Prize Co-recipient

Photo: Paramount Vantage

One of the most exciting new strategies for
restoring carbon to depleted soils,and
sequestering significant amounts of CO2 for 1,000 years and more, is the use of biochar.” “The principle barrier to the use of this
strategy is the lack of a price on carbon that would drive the economy toward the most
effective ways to sequester it. There is
presently no formalized network of biochar distribution channels or commercial scale
production facilities. But a stable price on carbon would cause them to quickly emerge – because biochar holds such promise as an inexpensive and highly effective way to sequester carbon in soil.”