Bringing the benefits of biochar to Irish farming

Biochar can be used in agriculture and farming practice as a solution to a number of challenges faced at farm level, according to the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).

To coincide with the Bioeconomy Ireland Week 2020, the IrBEA had the Irish launch of the THREE C (“Creating the Circular Carbon Economy”) project today (Tuesday, October 20).

The three-year Interreg North West Europe project is focused on promoting innovation and business development in the circular carbon economy based on alternative biochar products.

Seán Finan, IrBEA CEO, said: “Biochar has the potential to generate value from biomass that might not have been looked at before. It is a sector that is gathering momentum both here and abroad.

Biochar can be used in agriculture and farming practice as a solution to a number of challenges faced at farm level including reducing odour, as a soil additive to reduce nutrient loss, as a slurry additive, an animal feed additive, a biogas additive, a growing medium and for soiled water filtration.

“We are delighted with the opportunity to participate in this project and develop products which will have a positive impact on the many areas of application.”

THREE C project

Commenting on the project, Stephen McCormack, IrBEA and THREE C project officer, said:

“Ireland has a wealth of potentially valuable bio-based resources that can not only contribute towards the bioenergy sector, but for the production of many bio-based products that can help offset or replace dependence on fossil fuel based sources.”

Biochar is one such product, a carbon rich solid material made by heating biomass in a low oxygen environment.

According to the IrBEA, biochar has a wide range of potential applications largely due to the physical structure – being highly porous, it can be used for filtration purposes, to reduce odours or pollutants, as a soil conditioner and improver as well as a large variety of potential agricultural and industrial applications.

Producing biochar

Continuing, McCormack said: “Biochar can be made from a wide variety of biomass streams and allows for value creation from material that otherwise might not have been used.

“Once thermally converted to biochar, these materials become extremely stable, meaning they don’t decompose in the environment in the same way the source material might, essentially allowing you to sequester atmospheric carbon.

The source material used could be anything from agricultural residues, any type of woody biomass and even problematic species such as rhododendron or rushes.

Biochar is increasingly being recognised as a valuable bio-based material with a range of beneficial uses. It is great to see that the sector is beginning to develop here in Ireland.

“This material has the potential to replace fossil-based material with an indigenous supply, produced from a wide variety of biomass sources.”