Biochar is a renewable form of highly stable carbon that looks and feels a lot like charcoal, though it is not intended to be burned. It is produced when waste biomass, such as forest residuals, is heated without enough oxygen for combustion, converting the unstable carbon in the biomass into a stable form of carbon known as biochar. Biochar is more than 80% carbon and lasts for hundreds to thousands of years. So by converting short-lived waste biomass into biochar, carbon is sequestered “permanently,” making biochar an important carbon removal, climate change solution. Biochar is recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as one of the best methods for removing significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2050.
As industries work to reduce their dependence on fossil carbon sources that contribute to climate change, companies are looking with increased focus at biochar as a valuable supply chain input. In addition to its long-lasting durability, biochar is highly porous, retaining the cellular structure of the plants from which is was made. The different-sized pores in biochar make it beneficial in agricultural soils, the larger pores holding water and microbes, the smaller pores containing vast surface area where nutrients are retained. With these attributes and others that are the subject of hundreds of research papers, biochar contributes to drought resilience, fertilizer efficiency and overall soil health in many soil conditions, especially poor and sandy soils. For these reasons, biochar has enormous potential as a regenerative agricultural input. In addition to agriculture, biochar has potential applications in numerous industries that utilizes durable carbon materials, including building materials, industrial solvents, and pharmaceuticals. Myno invites innovative companies in these industries to test our materials in their R&D efforts.
We at Myno think biochar is a unique climate solution ready for scale today, with a multitude of benefits. When we make biochar, we also reduce forest fire risk, increase food security by improving agricultural soils, help industries reduce their carbon footprints and create new jobs in rural communities.
Myno Carbon Removal Facilities (CRFs) convert the carbon in wood waste, drawn down by trees from the atmosphere via photosynthesis, into biochar. By converting wood waste, a labile form of biogenic carbon that typically decomposes back to atmospheric CO2 within a decade, into biochar, a stable form of carbon, the process removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Myno CRFs use only sustainably sourced wood waste to create biochar, such as logging slash piles (i.e., leftover limbs and branches), non-merchantable dead standing timber from insect outbreaks, wildfire, and drought, and mill residuals that would otherwise have no use. Each Myno CRF will convert approximately 180,000 tons of waste timber feedstock annually, reducing wildfire risk and reducing toxic emissions from the standard practice of open slash pile burning.
Each Myno CRF will generate around 40,000 tons of biochar per year, sequester about 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually, and produce about 18 MW of renewable electricity. Myno CRFs are guided by a rigorous Carbon Life Cycle Analysis and by VERRA’s biochar carbon removal credit methodology to ensure accurate measurement, reporting, and verification of the biochar carbon removal.
Biochar is a carbon-negative material that can be used as a climate-smart additive in a multitude of products including growing media, fertilizers, and carbon black, providing additional insetting opportunities for companies to reduce their GHG emissions. Myno is also partnering with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to assess options for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) strategies for our Carbon Removal Facilities (CRFs), including utilizing waste CO2 to sequester carbon in crushed basalt to generate an agricultural liming soil amendment.
Myno follows internationally recognized biochar carbon removal standards, such as the International Biochar Initiative, European Biochar Certificate, VERRA, and Puro Standard Biochar Methodology, to quantify the amount of carbon removal for biochar. These standards require lab testing analyses to determine the amount of organic carbon in the biochar and a permanence factor to indicate the amount of organic carbon that remains after 100 years in soil applications. Based on analytical testing of representative Myno biochar samples, the research indicates Myno’s biochar has a permanence factor as high as 0.89, meaning that 89% of the biochar’s organic carbon mass will be sequestered in soil for at least a 100 years. A growing body of research suggests that these estimates may be conservative, and that the addition of biochar to soil enhances the accumulation of additional soil organic matter by promoting plant growth, providing microbial habitat, and binding soil organic matter to biochar where it is harder to decompose.
Timber harvesting operations and wildfire mitigation efforts are creating a pressing need to remove hazardous fuels, a byproduct of these operations, from timberlands. Recent announcements by the United States Forest Service and the Washington Department of Natural Resources indicate a significant increase in wildfire risk reduction thinning treatments, particularly in high-priority firesheds, many of which surround the Kettle Falls area where our first Carbon Removal Facility (CRF) is located. Foresters estimate that 20 million tons of waste biomass is available annually in Washington state and currently left in woods to decay, or stacked into piles and then burned, practices that contributes to regional air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and increased wildfire risks (Amonette, 2021).
There is an abundant surplus of waste wood biomass residue in the Kettle Falls region. Myno’s CRF will collect and convert less than 1% of the available in-state wood waste. This means that the total quantity of wood waste biomass available in the project region is likely an order of magnitude larger than the biomass residues utilized annually in the project region.
To address the environmental problems associated with leaving waste biomass in forests, Myno Carbon Removal Facilities (CRF) will utilize approximately 185,000 tons of biomass waste feedstock per year, including slash and mill residuals derived from sustainably managed and harvested timber from Federal, State, Tribal, and private lands. Myno will only use waste biomass, and not whole, merchantable logs. Furthermore, because whole merchantable logs are much more valuable as lumber than as biochar feedstock, our procurement efforts will not increase in the amount of timber land that is harvested. Removing in-woods residuals and providing a market for unmerchantable standing dead timber and trees harvested for wildfire risk reduction, Myno CRFs will lead to a decrease in wildfire fuel, a reduction in regional air pollution, and in CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Myno will become a Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified buyer of biomass feedstock. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) defines sustainable forestry as: “a land stewardship ethic that integrates reforestation and the managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees for useful products, and for the provision of ecosystem services such as the conservation of soil, air and water quality and quantity, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biological diversity, wildlife and aquatic habitats, recreation and aesthetics.”
Myno will work with Avista to implement feedstock tracking using the 3-Log fiber tracking and accounting system from the source of the wood waste to Myno’s custody. Myno will also periodically audit procurement practices to ensure feedstock is sourced sustainably (audited against governmental, tribal, and independent standards).
Furthermore, the VERRA biochar carbon removal methodology outlines strict requirements for feedstock procurement. Myno will adhere to the VERRA standard and ensure all feedstock is 1) purely biogenic waste biomass and a by-product of another business and has no higher or better use 2) does not contribute to illegal deforestation or degradation and 3) is harvested under approved State and Federal permits.
Unlike biomass pellet and traditional biomass energy plants which are designed to convert 100% of the carbon in biomass into energy, the primary objective of Myno’s Carbon Removal Facilities (CRFs) is to remove and sequester carbon in the form of biochar. Biomass electricity is a byproduct of our process because ~40% of the carbon contained in the feedstock can be converted into biochar using Myno’s gasification system, while the remainder is converted into combustible wood vapors which Myno CRFs convert into biomass electricity. Additionally, biomass pellet production facilities and traditional biomass energy plants have significantly higher overall emissions and toxic chemicals than the biochar gasification process. The gasification system in Myno CRFs has inherently lower toxic emissions than combustion facilities, and our CRFs will also implement the best available emissions control system.
Myno will construct its first Carbon Removal Facility (CRF) in Kettle Falls, Washington, a small rural community categorized as a ‘disadvantaged community’ by the US Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The CRF aims to bring economic and environmental benefits to the region through the production of sustainable biochar to improve agricultural soil health, the creation of prevailing wage jobs, supporting healthier forests, and reducing regional air pollution. To achieve these goals, Myno is collaborating closely with local partners such as the Colville Tribes, Avista, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, United States Forest Service, and Stevens County Conservation District, among others.
Future Myno CRFs will also likely be in small rural timber communities, many of which are economically disadvantaged. Myno CRFs will also increase the availability of biochar to support regenerative agriculture. Moreover, CRFs will generate affordable renewable electricity, which will help to decarbonize the grid with baseload renewable electricity.
Myno is focused on building future biochar Carbon Removal Facilities (CRFs) in locations with access to 1) extensive working forests with ample waste wood such as forestry slash or timber mill residuals; 2) applications for waste heat, including industrial process heat or electricity production when existing grid interconnects are available; and 3) proximity to biochar markets and/or transportation to markets. Myno is actively working to build 6 more CRFs across the US by 2030, with a focus on California and the Southeast.
Currently, biochar production remains small scale across the US due to low capital investment resulting in small-scale production, high priced and inconsistent biochar, and limited revenue generation capabilities. Myno Carbon Removal Facilities (CRFs) pioneer a new business model for biochar production that improves profitability and scalability of biochar production. Myno CRFs are innovative through the following attributes:
Myno CRFs will produce 40,000 tons of consistent, low-cost, premium biochar per year. This material is derived from 100% sustainability sourced waste timber residuals, converted into biochar at high processing temperatures, resulting in premium, consistent, and low-cost biochar. Myno biochar costs $600 per bone dry ton, which is equivalent to approximately $400 per ton as delivered after wetting, or $50-60 per cubic yard. This price is cost-effective for many growers without additional incentives due to the many long-term agricultural benefits of biochar application.
The new USDA NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 336: Soil Carbon Amendment is a financial incentive for farmers to apply biochar as an agricultural amendment. Through NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 336, producers can secure cost share payments to cover the cost of biochar purchase, shipping, handling, storage, and deployment, including any equipment and labor required by growers. NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 336 will provide farmers up to $200/CY ($2,000/MT) to apply at least 12 CY of biochar per acre to increase soil carbon. With these incentives, producers will incur no out-of-pocket costs and will be compensated for a portion of equipment and labor costs. Furthermore, emerging ‘Climate-Smart’ crop pricing and credit programs implemented by food products companies could also result in higher crop prices paid to growers that implement climate smart agricultural practices, including applying biochar as a soil amendment.
Carbon removal credits differ from traditional carbon offsets as they give the purchaser credit for existing CO2 emissions that are permanently withdrawn from the atmosphere or ocean, rather than for new emissions that are avoided. While companies work to reduce their operational and supply-chain carbon footprints, carbon removal credits offer a way to make progress toward net zero that is generally seen as more scientifically credible — albeit much more expensive — than offsets.
Today the market for carbon removal is tiny: Last year, 4,000 times more tons of carbon offsets were sold than carbon removals. The technologies — which include biochar, direct atmosphere capture with big fans, converting farm waste to oil that gets injected deep underground, and spreading carbon-sucking crushed rocks on farmland, among others — are at about the stage solar energy was two decades ago, with few customers and no economies of scale.