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Finnish start-up heats bio-waste to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere
By: Sebastian Maks
In Finland, close to the capital Helsinki, a large-scale facility has been opened that stores CO2 from the atmosphere. The Direct Air Capture companies are now well known, which use innovative technologies to capture CO2 from the air. But the Finnish start-up Carbo Culture uses a different method: 'biochar'. By heating organic waste, CO2 can be safely stored in the ground for hundreds or even thousands of years, where it also benefits the soil. How exactly does the technique work?

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It hardly needs any explanation that our life on earth entails a gigantic emission of CO2. A common way to offset those emissions to some extent (whether or not in vain) is to plant trees. The trees absorb the CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen. But: if the planted trees die at a certain moment, the stored CO2 slowly returns to the atmosphere. And then you're back to square one.

Better use of bio-waste
That's where "biochar" comes in. Biochar is a material that is created by heating organic waste – wood, crop residues and waste water residues – to high temperatures without burning it. That process is called pyrolysis. The resulting product is a grain that is very similar in appearance to charcoal.

By turning the organic waste into biochar, the CO2 that would otherwise be released is retained. If you store the granules in the ground, the CO2 will be held there for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. In addition, it makes the soil healthier, which can benefit agricultural harvests. This is especially true for dry and acidic soils, helping farmers in areas affected by the effects of climate change.
Large facility
The Finnish Carbo Culture has received a grant of more than two million euros from the European Innovation Council to build their facility near Helsinki. With that facility, where bio-waste is converted into biochar on a large scale, it says that 3,000 tons of CO2 per year could be prevented from ending up in the atmosphere. This is roughly comparable to the annual emissions of 1,500 petrol cars.

The bio-waste used by Carbo Culture comes from nearby woodworkers. The wood chips and pellets left over from their work would otherwise end up in the trash. It is important that the wood is no longer usable for primary applications, the company believes. This would mean that more trees would have to be felled than necessary. The company also considers it important to use nearby materials, so as not to have to use polluting transport options.

Capture from the air
Another commonly used technique to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is to capture it from the air. Direct Air Capture, or DAC, is called that method. Ambient air is then sucked in with fans, and the CO2 is then filtered out with a membrane. According to Henrietta Moon, one of the founders of Carbo Culture, storing CO2 with biochar is faster scalable than with DAC. “If you look at other methods, they are scalable within one or two decades,” she says. “The natural systems (biochar, ed.) are already doing that today.”
  • Saustine Lusanzu

    38 w

    Amazing project

    1
    • bonke reinhard

      39 w

      Very great

      6
      • Munene Mugambi

        39 w

        This is such an interesting concept

        7
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