Commercializing Biochar

Shaping the future of forestry often requires a comprehensive approach to developing new products, such as biochar. Biochar can provide revenue to forest owners by generating carbon credits and for its value as a soil amendment for crops or as a water purifier. It offers a market-based approach for removing small-diameter trees that contribute to wildfire risk and forest health challenges.

The Endowment’s commercial demonstration project produces large amounts of biochar each month from forest restoration treatments on National Forests — permanent carbon sequestration equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of over 200 cars.

The Endowment is co-investing with the USDA Forest Service to support collaboration within the emerging biochar sector, develop strategies to address priority market development needs, and develop stable, long-term support for the biochar industry. One collaboration, Oregon-based Restoration Fuels, provides commercial scale volumes of biochar, which is being used in demonstrations and applications in the forestry, agriculture, and remediation sectors to quantify biochar benefits.

An Endowment grant to The Sierra Fund supported a partnership with the Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu Indians and the Tahoe National Forest. This effort is integrating forest restoration treatments and mine remediation to reduce sedimentation, restore soil health, and improve water quality at legacy hydraulic mines, of which there are thousands across the Sierra.

In 2023, the Endowment issued Program Related Investments to Climate Robotics, Inc. to support development of mobile pyrolysis units and to Wakefield Agricultural Carbon, LLC, to support retail applications of biochar, including fabric dyes, carpeting tiles, and soil health amendments.

What is Biochar?

Created through pyrolysis or charring of wood from small-diameter trees and lumber mill residues, biochar is a charcoal-like substance that stores carbon for centuries, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Matt Krumenauer, V.P. for Special Projects, in a pile of biochar
Matt Krumenauer, V.P. for Special Projects, in a pile of biochar