Biochar Opportunities in Africa

1) Summary:
There is a huge business opportunity emerging to produce energy and biochar from biomass in Africa.  Along with generating energy and increase the productivity of soil, it can be effectively combined with other technologies such as solar farms.  As a result of our recent research, we have identified a set of complementary technologies including ones that produce biochar that have considerable synergy.  This set includes creating energy from biomass, wind and solar along with energy storage and direct air capture.

2) Biochar description:
Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes (also called biomass) in a controlled process called pyrolysis.  Biochar is by far more efficient at converting carbon into a stable form and is cleaner than other forms of charcoal. Biochar’s chemical composition varies depending on the feedstocks used to make it and methods used to heat it.  For a summary about biochar production and utilization that we recently prepared, see: Biochar Production and Utilization Summary.

One biochar company that specializes in biochar, AirTerra, indicates that biochar can be used to increase the productivity of soil for growing food and enable the soil to be more resilient to droughts due to its increased water-retaining capacity.  As well, it can be further enhanced by co-composting it with animal manure and/or food waste.  If it is done, it will further increase the productivity of soil for growing food.  Therefore, in addition to generating reliable power with negative carbon emissions, we understand that valuable products can be created from biomass.

3) Biochar communities in Africa:

a) Biochar Initiative of Nigeria – The 1st Biochar Technology Stakeholders’ meeting was hosted by Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria
b) African Biochar Expert Group project
c) AirTerra’s African biochar initiative
d) ECREEE: The Africa Biochar Partnership (ABP)
e)  Africa Biochar Partnership (ABP)
f) Biochar initiative by Warm Heart Foundation

4) Selected videos about biochar:

a) Video: The Promise of Biochar – Part 1 – a short documentary showing a 880% increase in food production using biochar.
b) Video:
Biochar: The Oldest New Thing You’ve Never Heard Of | Wae Nelson | TEDxOrlando.
c) Video: Amazon Soils & Biochar.
d) Video: How to make Biochar from locals in the Peruvian Amazon.
e) Video: Biochar in Viticulture Webinar, Jan 14, 2022

5) Selected articles about biochar:

a) Experts Call For Adoption Of Biochar Tech For Sustainable Agric Protection, AGRIBUSINESS By Our Correspondents On Sep 28, 2018
b) The Africa Biochar Partnership (ABP) was launched during the International Workshop “Biochar Systems for Africa”
c) ProNatura: Biochar an innovative agricultural input that increases yields in an ecological manner together with sequestering carbon
d) Technical paper: Biochar Potential in Improving Agricultural Production in East Africa By Godfrey Omulo, June 2nd 2020
e) Italian Universty working on biochar in Africa: Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences – University of Udine
f) University Don Clamour For Adoption Of Biochar Technology, September 20, 2018

6) Research and training centers in Africa that can assist with biochar production and utilization initiatives:

a) West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) at the University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale, Ghana
b) Bells University of Technology, Ota, Nigeria.

7) Foundations that have expressed concern about climate change can help accelerate biochar production and utilization of biochar in developing countries such as ones outlined below:

a) Philanthropy Coalition for Climate.  (In 2021, the Philanthropy Coalition for Climate is funded by the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation and the Laudes Foundation).
b) Philanthropy For Climate – 425 foundations have committed to act on climate.
c) Open Philanthropy, San Francisco, CA
d) ClimateWorks Foundation
e) Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI), San Francisco, CA

8) Example carbon capture technologies that can be combined with systems that produce energy and biochar from biomass:

a) Allam Cycle by Netpower, which generates power from biogas or natural gas and captures 100% of CO2 created.
b) SureSource Capture by FuelCell Energy, which enables a hydrocarbon-based power plant to capture 90% of CO2.  For more information, see this technical paper: “Fuel Cells finally find a killer app: Carbon Capture”.
c) Carbon Capture Technology by Global Thermostat, which can cost-effectively capture CO2 from the outside air and natural gas power plants simultaneously.

9) A facility containing a power plant with carbon capture, renewable energy, energy storage and direct air capture can generate reliable power with substantial negative carbon emissions.  To view a schematic illustrating this combination, see the image below:

10) Recently article by Climate Solutions Advancement Network (ClimateSAN) was published in oilprice.comHow Oil & Gas Companies Can Profitably Create Carbon-Negative Energy (Jan 05, 2022).  To view a 3.5 min. animated video along with links to more information about these opportunities, see: Business Opportunities Creating Large-Scale Carbon Emissions Mitigation.

11) Given below is are links to related summary pages we created: