Biochar Use Cases: Asia

Use Case #2: Pine Tree Reforestation and Inoculation (Japan)

Use Case #4: Water Purification (The Philippines)

Use Case #1: Greenhouse Gas Reduction/ Carbon-Neutral Agriculture (China)

Biochar, a promising solution, can reduce greenhouse gas and increase organic carbon in soil. Recent groundbreaking research from the Center for Landscape Research in Sustainable Agricultural Futures at Aarhus University has unveiled a biomass pyrolysis (biochar) system. This innovative system involves heating biomass, such as straw, without oxygen to produce biochar. The implications are significant: biochar could slash greenhouse gas emissions from Chinese crops and generate biogas and bio-oil as valuable byproducts for electricity production.

An Integrated System to Combat Climate Change

 Applying biochar in rice fields as part of an integrated system offers practical benefits. With its slow decomposition rate, biochar effectively sequesters carbon in the soil for a more extended period. This, along with the displacement of fossil fuels by bio-energy, forms the primary means of reducing emissions. The data suggests this biomass energy system could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 666.5 Tg to -37.9 Tg CO2-equivalent yr. This integrated system can also increase rice crop yield by 8.3%, significantly boosting agricultural productivity.

 By embracing this innovative solution, China can achieve its carbon-neutral goals and pave the way for sustainable agriculture. The practical benefits are clear: reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased crop yield, and the potential for bio-energy production, which creates a win-win situation for both the environment and the agricultural sector.

Key Points 

  • Data suggests a widely adopted biomass energy system could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 666.5 Teragrams (Tg) to -37.9 Tg CO2-equivalent per year. 1 Teragram is 1,000,000 metric tons.
  • The proposed biomass system would also positively affect rice crop yield by approximately 8.3%

Use Case #2: Pine Tree Reforestation and Inoculation (Japan)

This use case involves using biochar powder to help cultivate the edible and dominant mycorrhizal fungus Rhizopogon rubescens associated with pine trees like Pinus thunbergii to promote their growth and inoculation. When small amounts of fertilizer were mixed with bark charcoal powder, and the mixture was applied to pines, fresh roots regenerated inside the charcoal layers three months later.

Regrowing Roots

 After a year of implementing the biochar system, the results were impressive. The amount of pine root and mycorrhiza in the charcoal increased significantly, improving the growth and colour of pine shoots. These seedlings’ survival rates and growth were consistently higher than those without mycorrhiza and charcoal. This is believed to be due to the enhanced uptake of nutrients and water absorption from increased mycorrhizal formation. The water content of the pine roots in the biochar was also considerably higher (40%) than that of a control group placed in sand (5%), simulating the dry season (Ogawa 1992).

Key Points 

  • The growth and colour of pine shoots and the amount of pine root and mycorrhiza in the presence of biochar considerably improved during biochar treatment.
  • The water content of the pine roots in the biochar was considerably higher (40%) than that of a control group simulating the dry season.

Use Case #3: Biochar Used as Vapor-absorbent Materials for Construction Materials and Explosives (South Korea)

South Korean commercial wood chip (WC) and biosolid (BS) biochars were used to make biochar-mortar composites tested for their carbon sequestration and absorption capacity. The biochar-mortar composites retained their engineering properties, including flowability, compressive strength, and thermal conductivity, with 3-5 wt.% biochar.

Clearing the Air

 As the biochar content increased, the concentration of benzene and toluene in the air decreased, indicating that biochar inclusion can remove volatile toxic contaminants that cause sick building syndrome. Bioassay tests confirmed that the biochar-mortar composites were not harmful, suggesting they could be environmentally friendly carbon-sequestering construction materials. The biochar composites were also evaluated to be useful as a sorbent (vapor-absorbing material) for nitro explosives, blocking a proportionate amount of nitroglycerin fumes from being inhaled by workers, a necessary safety component for many commercial explosives.

Key Points 

  • Adding 3-5% biochar to biochar-mortar composites reduced benzene and toluene concentrations in the air, preventing Sick Building Syndrome from phenol-based construction materials.
  • Biochar composites effectively block a proportionate amount of nitroglycerin fumes from entering the air, making them a valuable sorbent for worker safety in commercial explosives.

Use Case #4: Water Purification (The Philippines)

The CRZ or Clean River Zones project is a partnership between the Philippine Biochar Association, Philippine Mining Safety and Environment Association, and GMA7, a central television station in Manila, and aims to clean up Diliman Creek, located in Quezon City, Philippines, using Bokashi Balls.
Bokashi Balls, initially developed in Japan, contain a mixture of rice-hull biochar, soil and molasses, with the soil and biochar containing lactobacillus bacteria and other microorganisms that cleanse pollutants, eliminate foul odours and reoxygenate small bodies of water.

Clean River Zones – The Differences Are Visibly Clearer

 Another similar project was launched at Maningning Creek in Santa Ana, where upstream factories had turned the creekwater black and caused several severe outbreaks of dengue fever. In both Diliman and Maningning, the result has been visibly clear water, elimination of the creek’s once-noticeable odour and a more solid river floor, plus the absence of any further dengue outbreaks in Santa Ana in particular. Diliman and Maningning serve as a model for rehabilitating waterways, an example to be replicated to save other creeks and rivers in other ASEAN countries.

In another concurrent study conducted at the Turawa reservoir (Poland), evaluating effective microorganisms in the form of Bokashi balls, the analysis showed that it could be one of the most effective methods for cleaning water from unfavorable microorganisms (HBN22, HBN36, CBN, FCBN, FEN). After applying the Bokashi balls, their average concentration was reduced (from 46.44 to 58.38%). The duration of their effect ranged from 17.6 to 34.1 days. Using other water purification methods alongside the bokashi balls, like constructing wetlands, floating beds, or intermittent aeration, only increased the purification effect and improved the trophic status of the Turawa reservoir, expressed by the Carlson index, by 7.78% overall.

Key Points 

  • Bokashi Balls, containing a mixture of rice-hull biochar, soil and molasses, along with lactobacillus bacteria and other beneficial microorganisms, have been shown to cleanse river pollutants, eliminate foul odors and reoxygenate small bodies of water, returning river water that was visibly black back to clear.
  • Analysis showed that after applying the Bokashi balls, the concentration of harmful organisms in river water was reduced by 46.44 to 58.38% on average.
  • The duration of their effects ranged from 17.6 to 34.1 days but was prolonged when used with other purification methods like constructing wetlands, floating beds, and intermittent aeration.