What is a Negative Emissions Technology (NET)?

Our projects partner Titan Clean Energy Projects Corp. has developed a negative emissions technology that sequesters carbon through waste biomass. The process extracts inert carbon from non-food waste biomass such as wood waste or hemp fibre.

Using renewable biomass as the energy source, the majority of the carbon from the biomass is recovered. The carbon is then engineered into products that replace products that are typically manufactured using fossil fuels.  

The benefits of the carbon are cumulative to reduce greenhouse emissions. For example, biocarbon animal feed supplements have been found to reduce methane output from cattle, and biocarbon formed into a biopolymer can replace energy intensive plastics that generate as much as six tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of plastic produced.   There are more than 30 other uses for biocarbon including stormwater treatment, odour control, soil enhancers and personal care products.  

The process is a partnership between nature that sequesters the carbon and Titan’s autothermal pyrolysis technology that stabilizes it.  

What is Pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is the process we use to turn the wood (or other biomass) into carbon also called charcoal, biochar, and biocarbon. This is done by feeding wood chips into what is basically a big tubular oven, and heating it at over 500oC in a vacuum.  As the biomass heats, it splits into a solid, liquid and a gas.  

The gas is called syngas, a synthetic renewable natural gas, which is then used to heat the system.  

The liquid is a biocrude which can be used as a fuel or, much like crude oil, can be refined into numerous products including lubricants and asphalt emulsion.  

A watery liquid called wood vinegar is also recovered.  It is used in agriculture as a fertilizer and for weed control.  One of the major uses is as liquid smoke in the food industry.  

The solid is pure charcoal, which has beneficial uses for several products, such as animal nutrition, since it acts as a toxin binder which means livestock digests their food more efficiently and also helps reduce methane emissions and barn odour.  It can be used as a soil amendment since it gives beneficial soil bacteria a place to live and can significantly improve crop yields in poor soils. 

Carbon is an effective odour eliminator and can be used in filtration processes.  It can also be processed for human use in the myriad of activated charcoal recipes in the making of everything from soap to digestive aids.  Finally, carbon can be added to bioplastics as a way to increase strength, decrease weight, and add UV protection and add natural colour.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with high temperature steam to increase the internal surface area.  This increases the amount of micro pores so that the material can be used as filter for purifying air and water, or as a toxin binder.  

What is Pyrogenic Carbon Capture?

Pyrogenic carbon capture is the process of using pyrolysis to remove carbon from the atmosphere by processing biomass into biocarbon.  

How is your process carbon negative?

During the pyrolysis process, a small portion of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen form a syngas.  Our pyrolysis process uses this gas and since it is used as a fuel source, we cut out the need to burn fossil fuels to keep the process running.  Most of the carbon from the biomass is recovered in a stable form that will not re-enter the atmosphere. 

A solution to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is to plant more trees. What if we leave trees in nature?

If we let a tree decay, the carbon dioxide trapped in it will return to the atmosphere.  The same thing happens if the tree burns in a forest fire or fireplace.  All of that carbon dioxide is re-released.  If we make a product like a house or a table out of the wood, we delay it’s return to nature, but eventually the house or table will either burn or decay in a landfill, putting that carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.  The best way to remove the carbon dioxide is to capture it as a stable solid that can remain for thousands of years.

Do others agree?

Yes! On October 8th, 2018 the International Panel on Climate Change published a special report that stated that biochar (or pyrogenic carbon) is one of only a handful of promising negative emissions technologies that could make a meaningful impact in mitigating climate change.  And the report states that we need to get moving on implementing this technology now as the problems resulting from climate change will only compound with further inaction and delays.