The publication of Verra’s verified carbon standard (VCS) methodology for biochar methodology, which quantifies greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from the production and use of biochar, is a significant step for the sector according to one of its authors.
The methodology accounts for the full lifecycle of producing biochar, using it in approved soil and non-soil applications, and the creation of carbon credits.
Matt Delaney, the head of carbon forestry at Ottawa-based Invert Inc., was one of several authors of the paper.
“What I think is really great about the methodology is that it’s comprehensive, that it’s not just about production of biochar,” Delaney said. “Biochar can be made of just about anything.”
Biochar, or biological charcoal, is produced by heating organic feedstocks such as wood chips, agricultural residue or animal manure in a limited-oxygen atmosphere. This produces carbon that can be used for sequestration purposes.
For example, he explained the methodology can account for the possibility of methane emissions as a result of wet feedstocks, or an inability to reach high enough temperatures during production.
“Verra’s approach (involves) looking at where you’re sourcing the material, looking how you’re producing the biochar, and then tracking it to the destination and accounting for all of the greenhouse gases and fossil fuel inputs that may go along with that.”
The other authors were Hannes Etter, Andrea Vera, Chetan Aggarwal and Simon Manley.
Invert works to finance carbon credit and carbon offset programs.
Verra, based in Washington, D.C., is the world’s most widely used voluntary program. Its website states 1,808 certified VCS projects collectively reduced or removed more than 966 million tonnes of carbon and other GHG emissions from the atmosphere.
Verra’s biochar methodology
Delaney had previously co-authored the improved forest management methodology under the American Carbon Registry. Having joined Invert in February after working previously as as freelance natural resource consultant, he’s been a part of carbon projects covering 2 million acres of land over the course of his career.
FORLIANCE had reached out to him to be a part of the methodology about two years ago, before he joined Invert, but Delanaey said the company was “very supportive” of him continuing his involvement. From start to finish, the methodology took about 18 months to develop.
For Delaney, the ability to account for the entire journey of the biochar material is what sets it apart.
“If you’re shipping it down the road with a truck it accounts for your diesel, your gasoline or things like that,” Delaney explained. “That’s what I think is new about it, is that we’re trying to do a full lifecycle assessment of the total benefit of the material.”
Critically, the methodology is limited to biogenic sources — meaning forestry or agricultural waste. This excludes feedstocks that may come from plastic, and create other emissions.
However, it does account for biochar use in agricultural soils – where it can deliver additional benefits such as moisture and nutrient retention, and enhanced crop yields – and in non-soil products such as concrete.
In April, SustainableBiz had reported on Invert and Ripple Inc.’s $38 million carbon credit purchase from CarbonCure Technologies. At the time, Mark Zekulin, Invert’s executive chair, praised CarbonCure’s credits for being approved by Verra. Invert supplied $31.6 million in the 10-year agreement.
Biochar has been listed on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s shortlist of negative emission technologies that could prove significant in their sequestration impact, with the potential to mitigate over a billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2050.
The methodology states in 2015, 85,000 metric tonnes of biochar was transacted globally. Canada contributed 16 tonnes to that figure.
In June, Toronto-based Carbon Streaming Corp., which works to build exposure to carbon credits, made its first biochar carbon streaming agreement with a Restoration Bioproducts LLC subsidiary to support the construction of a biochar production facility in Virginia. Those credits will be verified under the Puro.earth standard.
“You’re taking wood waste that would otherwise degrade and emit carbon into the atmosphere and you’re converting it into biological charcoal,” said Justin Cochrane, Carbon Streaming’s founder and CEO in an interview with SustainableBiz at the time. “You’re converting this residual from a sawmill and putting it into a useful product that will store carbon for, in some cases, over 1,000 years.”
Invert recently announced a carbon credit agreement with BC Biocarbon, headquartered in McBride, B.C. The credits, verified by Puro.earth, will be derived from biochar produced from Biocarbon’s proprietary biorefinery in Robson Valley. Each credit represents a metric tonne of CO2.
Delaney also noted the benefits of biochar for companies that may be looking to take it on as a carbon credit stream; A prime example being the leftover bark from production involving forests.
“If you’ve got this problem on your hand as a business, biochar potentially could be a source of higher-value product,” Delaney said. “There’s all sorts of things you can do.
“You’re upgrading a low-value resource that you might be either paying for, or maybe breaking even on.”