Unearthing Innovation with PyroGenesys Biochar in Scotland
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Unearthing Innovation with PyroGenesys Biochar in Scotland

April 9, 2024

Our Co-Founder Alex Taylor was recently invited to Scotland to visit PyroGenesys and CEO Simon Ighofose - the team developing an innovative biochar facility in North Lanarkshire.

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PyroGenesys was founded in 2017, with a vision to develop and deploy sustainable, efficient and modular biochar facilities across the globe.

They have been funded by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to deploy a pilot facility at an animal feed factory in Lanarkshire. With the trial coming to an end soon the facility is fully operational, and yielding great results.

The facility itself can:

  • Sustain the endothermic pyrolysis process itself, through the cracking and combustion of the pyrolysis vapours produced in the reactor, mitigating a reliance on fossil fuel for the heat required in the process.
  • Provide hot water to the feed manufacturers’ industrial boiler that is required for their agricultural processes, displacing their dependency on mains gas and mitigating the carbon impact of the facility’s own carbon emissions.
  • Creates a biochar product that has numerous benefits (including carbon removal!)

The magic of pyrolysis is that it can use a variety of combustible waste biomass feedstocks to do something useful. These are feedstocks that may otherwise be sent to landfill – at a cost to producers of waste, or local authorities.

Using this feedstock to create biochar – which is one of the outputs of pyrolysis alongside renewable heat (in the form of hot water) and cracked pyrolysis vapours – enables the creation of a legitimately useful commodity that has a range of use-cases including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Soil amendment: improve soil health and fertility by retaining water and nutrients.
  • Water treatment: biochar’s porous nature and large surface area means it can absorb contaminants and heavy metals to treat water.
  • Construction materials: adding biochar to construction materials such as plaster, concrete and insulation materials can improve their thermal and moisture resistance properties.

We are of course hearing a lot about biochar at the moment within the context of carbon removals and carbon markets. This comes from the fact that the pyrolysis process itself fixes carbon into the biochar output; when this biochar is used in non-destructive end-use applications such as the above, it ensures this carbon is removed from the carbon cycle and stored.

As a leaving gift, Simon gave us this 100g bag of biochar from the pilot - it contains around 75 grams of carbon - fixing around 250gCO2e (remember, gases are less dense than air, so for each unit of carbon in biochar; a lot more carbon dioxide is actually fixed).

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Imagine if we can actually deploy pyrolysis technology at a global scale, creating useful commodities that fix the carbon from waste biomass that will otherwise sit there decomposing and releasing gases into our atmosphere, whilst training local people to participate in the development of these facilities and their business cases?

The impact for our planet and local communities will be significant.

This is why biochar is such a hot commodity in the carbon markets today, but more importantly, why so much hard work is going into developing facilities such as the one developed by PyroGenesys - because it really is innovation that can scale, and have real climate impact.

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