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Biochar research

The work at the New Zealand Biochar Research Centre is organised into three closely-linked streams of research activities:

Soil science and biochar

Pyrolysis plant and biochar engineering

Biochar and greenhouse gas mitigation strategies

Current research

Specific research questions we are investigating include:

  • Can we produce environmentally-safe biochars from New Zealand feedstocks with an agronomic value for New Zealand soils?
  • Is the whole process economically viable with a long-term net carbon negative footprint?
  • Which barriers (e.g., social, technical and logistical aspects) are to be overcome before a large-scale implementation is attempted?
  • Are there alternative uses of biochar other than agronomic ones (e.g., wastewater filtering)?
  • Can we monitor biochar in soils with rapid and accessible technologies?
  • What are the opportunities for the trading of carbon credits sourced from biochar/bioenergy systems?

How to make production feasible

An over-riding concern is how to make the production of biochar feasible. There are a number of options which are being reviewed by the Centre:

Offset trading (carbon markets)

Use of feedstocks with a waste management fee

Production of chars with added value

Agronomic added value

  • Increases CEC
  • Increases soil water content capacity
  • Improves soil structure
  • Increase biomass production

Environmental added value

  • Reduces need for fertilisers
  • Reduces N2O emissions
  • Offsets fossil fuel for energy
  • Filters pollutants