Carba ($85K Grant funding to convert biomass waste into biochar for CO2 removal)

Carba, an American climate tech company founded in 2021, develops carbon removal technology using low-temperature pyrolysis (torrefaction) to convert biomass waste into biochar, which can then be buried to seal carbon in place for generations. This process is energy neutral, requiring near zero additional power.

Challenges: carbon emissions and biochar carbon removal

Carbon emissions

Since the early 1900s, carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels in the atmosphere have increased by 50% due to human activities. When fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) are burned for energy production, transportation, and industrial processes, CO₂ is released into the atmosphere. This excess CO₂ acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat and causing the air and ocean temperatures to rise. CO₂ emissions play a crucial role in driving climate change.

This warming effect has caused the global average temperature to rise by about 1.1 ºC since the pre-industrial period. This has led to rising in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, melting of polar ice caps and glaciers and rising sea levels, shifts in species ranges and increased risk of species extinction, agriculture and food security,  and ocean acidification.

To mitigate these impacts, the Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2 ºC above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a “carbon budget” of about 500 GtCO₂, which corresponds to about ten years at current emission rates, provides a 66% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 ºC.

Biochar carbon removal

Biochar removes CO₂ from the atmosphere by sequestering carbon.

It begins with plants absorbing atmospheric CO₂ and converting it into biomass during photosynthesis. Waste biomass is converted to a stable solid biochar at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen.

When biochar is buried underground, it acts as a carbon sink, storing the carbon that was previously in the atmosphere. This long-term carbon storage contributes to the reduction of CO₂ in the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change.

In addition to its role in carbon sequestration, biochar improves soil performance by enhancing the retention and diffusion of water and nutrients.

Carba Technology

Carba has developed a low-temperature pyrolysis (torrefaction) method for converting biomass waste into biochar. This process involves heating the biomass at a low temperature and transforming cellulose and hemicellulose molecules into a stable solid carbon. The biochar produced is then buried underground, effectively sequestering the carbon for thousands of years. The company's method is energy neutral, requiring almost no additional energy, and is regarded as the most energy- and material-efficient use of biomass waste.

Carba biochar technology

The diagram below depicts the Carba’s low-temperature torrefaction system.

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