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Producing energy while sequestering carbon? The relationship between biochar and agricultural productivity

By Nathan Kauffman, Jerome Dumortier, Dermot J. Hayes, Robert C. Brown and David A. Laird


A partial solution to problems associated with anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be the development and deployment of carbon-negative technologies, i.e., producing energy while reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Biofuels have been considered a possibility but have faced limitations due to competition with food production and GHG emissions through indirect land-use change (ILUC). In this article, we show how emissions from ILUC can potentially be reduced by producing food and bioenergy from biochar amended soils. The possibility of yield improvements from biochar would reduce the land requirement for crop production and thus, lead to a reduction in emissions from ILUC. In our application, biochar and bio-oil are produced via fast pyrolysis of corn stover. Bio-oil is subsequently upgraded into a fuel suitable for use in internal combustion engines. Applying the U.S. regulatory method used to determine biofuel life cycle emissions, our results show that a biochar-induced yield improvement in the U.S. Midwest ranging from 1% to 8% above trend can lead to an ILUC credit between 1.65 and 14.79 t CO2-equivalent ha−1 year−1 when future emissions are assessed over the next 30 years. The model is generalizable to other feedstocks and locations and illustrates the relationship between biochar and crop production

Topics: biochar, life cycle analysis, biofuel
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2014.01.049
OAI identifier:
Provided by: IUPUIScholarWorks

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