Start-Ups In Biochar-Based Carbon Removal Aim To Solve Its Scalability Challenges

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Start-Ups In Biochar-Based Carbon Removal Aim To Solve Its Scalability Challenges

Carbon removal technology’s star has risen dramatically in the last year, and biochar in particular has drawn increasing attention. In our recent analysis of greenhouse gas emissions reduction and removal technologies, biochar falls in the research and development phase of maturity, with broader commercialization expected in 2-5 years. Leaders should increase their familiarity with biochar as a fast-growing means of offsetting residual emissions.

Biochar carbon removal involves heating biomass at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to produce biochar, which sequesters carbon long-term. It also has several use cases beyond carbon capture, such as boosting soil health and productivity, replacing some of the cement in concrete mixtures, and as a food supplement for livestock. The technology has been widely researched and, according to the University of Oxford, accounts for 40% of academic coverage of ‘novel’ CO2 removal methods. Until recently, this high level of academic interest had not translated into commercialization of the technology, but in the last six months there has been significant investment into biochar carbon removal start-ups. In June 2023 Charm Industrial raised $100 million to support its pilot process and in November 2023 Carbo Culture raised $18 million to advance the deployment of its biochar carbon removal technology.

Despite these investments, the technology is only in the research and development maturity phase, owing to the relatively few firms currently offering biochar. The most significant challenge for these providers will be scaling production – which will be vital if it is to be widely adopted. The IPCC estimates that biochar has the potential to remove up to two billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. The next few years will be crucial for the trajectory of biochar as it attempts to become an established carbon removal technology. If similar levels of investment as those seen in the last six months continue, then demand signals will be sent to suppliers to enable the scaling up of the solution.

For organizations, the value exists in purchasing biochar carbon removal offsets, mitigating the reputational risks associated with unreliable carbon offset projects. Biochar has a high carbon permanence, ranging from 60% to 100% after 100 years, while the cost of producing it is relatively low. Thus, biochar offers firms a reliable and relatively inexpensive option that also has positive use cases beyond carbon capture. It remains to be seen if biochar can make the leap to the next maturity phase, but continued investment and innovation could make the technology an attractive prospect for organizations looking to reduce or offset their carbon emissions.

To learn more about the 21 technologies in the GHG emissions management roadmap, read the full report: Verdantix Tech Roadmap: GHG Emissions Management, Reduction and Removal Technologies (2023).

Gus Brewer


Gus is an Analyst in the Verdantix Net Zero & Climate Risk practice. Prior to joining Verdantix, Gus worked at Rio ESG, where he gained experience as a sustainability consultant, specializing in carbon accounting and environmental strategy. Gus holds a BA in Geography from the University of Exeter and a MSc in Carbon Management from the University of Edinburgh.