By converting biomass residue to biochar, we could generate power cleanly and sequester carbon resulting in overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) savings when compared to typical fossil fuel usage and waste disposal. We estimated the carbon dioxide (CO2) abatements and emissions associated to the concurrent production of bioenergy and biochar through biomass gasification in an organic walnut farm and processing facility in California, USA. We accounted for (i) avoided-CO2 emissions from displaced grid electricity by bioenergy; (ii) CO2 emissions from farm machinery used for soil amendment of biochar; (iii) CO2 sequestered in the soil through stable biochar-C; and (iv) direct CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soil. The objective of these assessments was to pinpoint where the largest C offsets can be expected in the bioenergy-biochar chain. We found that energy production from gasification resulted in 91.8% of total C offsets, followed by stable biochar-C (8.2% of total C sinks), offsetting a total of 107.7 kg CO2-C eq Mg-1 feedstock. At the field scale, we monitored gas fluxes from soils for 29 months (180 individual observations) following field management and precipitation events in addition to weekly measurements within three growing seasons and two tree dormancy periods. We compared four treatments: control, biochar, compost, and biochar combined with compost. Biochar alone or in combination with compost did not alter total N2O and CO2 emissions from soils, indicating that under the conditions of this study, biochar-prompted C offsets may not be expected from the mitigation of direct soil GHG emissions. However, this study revealed a case where a large environmental benefit was given by the waste-to-bioenergy treatment, addressing farm level challenges such as waste management, renewable energy generation, and C sequestration.
Pujol Pereira EI, Suddick EC, Six J (2016) Carbon Abatement and Emissions Associated with the Gasification of Walnut Shells for Bioenergy and Biochar Production. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150837. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150837
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