Carbo Culture, a start-up specialized in carbon removal technology, plans to remove 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year at its industrial pilot plant “R3” or “Reactor 3” in Kerava, Finland. This amount is equivalent to the emissions of 1,500 gasoline-powered cars . The project received financial support, including a €2.3 million grant from the German federal agency SPRIND and a €2.2 million grant from the European Innovation Council.
Biochar for Carbon Capture (BCR)
To permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere, Carbo Culture uses biochar for carbon capture (BCR) or pyrogenic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS). In this process, advantage is taken on the fact that biomass, such as trees, naturally absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis as it grows. Subsequently, a technical approach ensures long-term carbon storage, transforming biomass into a stable form for various applications, including agriculture and construction materials.
Carbo Culture uses its patented Carbolysis™ process to convert waste biomass into what it claims is one of the most reliable biochars on the market. R3 sources its feedstock from nearby wood manufacturers, specifically using waste wood unsuitable for other purposes like construction, thereby minimizing associated emissions. Carbolysis™ stands out as the sole pyrolysis technology that combines high temperature and ultra-fast processing to instantly convert biomass into biochar and energy-rich syngas. It achieves high efficiency by converting excess energy into heat and avoids producing liquid fractions like potentially toxic bio-oils, common in most pyrolysis methods. Carbolysis™ enables large-scale industrial production, with 1 ton of biochar sequestering 3.2 tons of CO2.
Biochar is a charcoal-like, highly porous, stable, carbon-rich material made from plant material that is decomposed at high temperatures in an oxygen-limited environment. This pyrolysis process concentrates carbon into a form highly resistant to biological decomposition. When applied to soil and other products, biochar effectively sequesters carbon for over 100 years. For example, the porous structure, negative charge, and large surface area of biochar make it a powerful soil conditioner. Biochar acts like a sponge that retains nutrients and water, which is important for climate adaptation.
Conventional carbon capture and storage (CCS) merely reduces the CO2 concentrations in exhaust gases, at best preventing further atmospheric CO2 increases. Large-scale implementation of this technology is still in the future. In contrast, biochar production offers a low-tech solution that can be promptly.
Examples from Europe
Carbo Culture’s journey began in 2019 when they demonstrated their patented Carbolysis™ process in California, USA, using their initial reactor, R1. In 2022, the company commenced operations with their second reactor, R2, at the same site, focusing on research and development for commercial-scale use. In March 2023, construction commenced on their full-scale prototype, R3, at their new site in Finland, designed to meet the highest industry standards and expected to be fully operational in Q3 2023.
The European biochar production landscape is growing, with an anticipated 180 plants in operation by the end of 2023. Approximately 75 % of its capacity is currently concentrated in Germany, the Nordics, and Austria and Switzerland. By the end of 2023, European biochar production capacity is expected to reach 90,000 tons, with 2023 production estimated to exceed 50,000 tons, equivalent to nearly 150,000 tons of CO2e . Additionally, there is a growing relevance of feedstocks other than woody biomass in this industry.
(CO2e = number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as 1 metric ton of another greenhouse gas)
Neste, LyondellBasell, Biofibre, and Naftex have just create a value chain that combines bio-based polymers with natural fiber for making construction elements. This innovative process, involving the use of renewable feedstock from Neste, results in carbon storage within these elements . Specifically, Neste supplies renewable feedstock to LyondellBasell, which transforms it into bio-based polypropylene. Biofibre then uses this polypropylene to produce natural fiber reinforced plastics granules, which are finally extruded by Naftex to create construction components like fence posts and terrace decking profiles.
 Carbo Culture Oy, Helsinki, Finland. (accessed September 8, 2023)
 European Biochar Market Report 2022/2023, European Biochar Industry (EBI), Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. (accessed September 8, 2023)
 Polymers as carbon storage: Neste, LyondellBasell, Biofibre and Naftex bring bio-based polymers to the construction sector, Neste Corporation, Press Release, Neste, Espoo, Helsinki, 29 August 2023. (accessed September 8, 2023)