Cheap and effective carbon storage method can give an immediate boost to the green transition of agriculture

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A new action plan from the CIP Foundation confirms that biochar is a potent and stable climate measure that can capture and store CO2 from agriculture for centuries. New analyses also underline that the use of biochar can be scaled up rapidly and more cheaply than other types of carbon storage.

Danish agriculture is facing its largest ever task: to transition production and reduce its climate footprint. In this context, the effective and potent climate technologies of pyrolysis and biochar will play an important role, and help to realise the goals for sustainable transition of the agricultural sector.

The new action plan from the CIP Foundation confirms that storing CO2 in biochar can be stable and long lasting – in fact for centuries. Making the right decisions today means that, in principle, biochar can be scaled up tomorrow, and with a possible economic benefit for society if we include the sale of climate credits and positive side-effects. But even without these, the socio-economic displacement costs will be considerably lower than for the other types of CCS.  For biochar, the socio-economic shadow prices vary from almost DKK 250 to DKK 700 per tonne CO2, whereas carbon capture and storage from biomass-based CHP plants (BECCS), for example, costs society almost DKK 1,500 per tonne CO2. If the potential positive side-effects and revenues from climate credits are also taken into account, biochar has a socio-economic gain, while BECCS remains a cost.

Pyrolysis and biochar could potentially be a catalyst for the green transition of Danish agriculture in the same way as wind technology has been for the energy sector. The technology is not only mature, it’s also inexpensive and easy to scale. However, if we are to scale up biochar and reap all the benefits of the technology, the framework conditions will have to be place as soon as possible. Once these are in place, Danish agriculture could be an international example of how climate-friendly food production can go hand in hand with increasing global food needs and thereby generate growth and exports, says Anne Arhnung, member of the board of directors of the CIP Foundation.

Don’t know what biochar is? Then watch here

Huge potentials for the technology

Carbon storage in biochar works by heating agricultural residues to 500-600 OC. At these high temperatures, in a low-oxygen environment, the biomass is divided into gasses and surplus heat for energy, and a solid mass called biochar. Carbon from the biomass is distributed relatively equally between the gas and biochar.

The biochar can then be spread on farm fields and store the carbon in the soil, while the surplus energy can be converted to heat and bio-oil and used by ships. In the future, the energy can also be used in advanced green fuels for aircraft, for example.

Moreover, the storage potential in biochar is enormous. Although primary focus is on CCS technologies to capture and store CO2 in the subsoil under the Danish North Sea, according to analyses from the CIP Foundation, there are sufficient biomass residuals available to reduce CO2 emissions by 2 million tonnes per year, which is the political goal in the Agriculture Agreement. However, this requires the right decisions on the framework conditions: and they must be taken now. For example, there is no clear legal authorisation to use biochar in agriculture and to site pyrolysis plants in rural zones.

It’is absolutely crucial for agriculture that the green transition is good business, especially if Denmark is to maintain its position as one of the world’s most innovative and green agricultural countries. Therefore, I’m very proud that the CIP Foundation can now present an action plan showing the way to significant carbon reductions and with far better economic benefits than similar CCS initiatives. Pyrolysis and biochar have multiple benefits: carbon capture and storage, green energy, potential environmental benefits from recirculating nutrients, and soil enrichment. There are also indications that biochar may reduce nitrogen leaching from the soil to wetlands, but researchers have yet to determine how and by how much, says Charlotte B. Jepsen, managing partner in the CIP Foundation.

Central recommendations from the CIP Foundation for large-scale deployment of biochar

  1. Establish a clear legal basis for biochar made of agricultural residues
  2. Support the start-up with CCS subsidies; to be replaced by the market for climate credits.
  3. Establish guidelines for the use of biochar in agriculture.

Read more about the report

  • Read the summary of the conclusions and recommendations from the CIP Foundation via this link
  • Read the entire action plan from the CIP Foundation ”How to establish a market for CCS with biochar in Denmark” via this link
  • See the CIP Foundation’s explainer video about pyrolysis and biochar via this link
  • Read the “Knowledge Synthesis on biochar in Danish agriculture”, Advisory report from DCA – Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, via this link.
  • Read the “Introduction to Production and Use of Biochar 2022: working towards a more circular and bio-based Danish economy” by Thomsen, T. (2022) from Roskilde University, via this link.
  • Download pictures of biochar here. Graphics from the report can be forwarded.

About the CIP Foundation

The CIP foundation works on society projects for long-term and action-oriented solutions to structural societal challenges. We do this within agriculture and food, data and digital solutions, as well as energy and infrastructure. We are an independent “action tank”, acting as a hub for decision-makers, the business community and knowledge players. The solutions we present are ready-to-use action plans for politicians and the market. We aim for projects to contribute to the green transition, to sustainable development and economic growth in Denmark, and to Danish export promotion. We believe that there is no doubt that the market can contribute considerably to the green transition.


Address press enquiries to:

Anne Lawaetz Arhnung, member of the board of directors of the CIP Foundation
Telephone: +45 27 24 59 64

Charlotte B. Jepsen, managing partner in the CIP Foundation
Telephone: +45 41 93 31 98