Pyrogenic carbon capture and storage

Hans Peter Schmidt*, Andrés Anca-Couce, Nikolas Hagemann, Constanze Werner, Dieter Gerten, Wolfgang Lucht, Claudia Kammann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growth of biomass is considered the most efficient method currently available to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, biomass carbon is easily degraded by microorganisms releasing it in the form of greenhouse gases back to the atmosphere. If biomass is pyrolyzed, the organic carbon is converted into solid (biochar), liquid (bio-oil), and gaseous (permanent pyrogas) carbonaceous products. During the last decade, biochar has been discussed as a promising option to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon, although the carbon efficiency of the thermal conversion of biomass into biochar is in the range of 30%–50% only. So far, the liquid and gaseous pyrolysis products were mainly considered for combustion, though they can equally be processed into recalcitrant forms suitable for carbon sequestration. In this review, we show that pyrolytic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS) can aspire for carbon sequestration efficiencies of >70%, which is shown to be an important threshold to allow PyCCS to become a relevant negative emission technology. Prolonged residence times of pyrogenic carbon can be generated (a) within the terrestrial biosphere including the agricultural use of biochar; (b) within advanced bio-based materials as long as they are not oxidized (biochar, bio-oil); and (c) within suitable geological deposits (bio-oil and CO2 from permanent pyrogas oxidation). While pathway (c) would need major carbon taxes or similar governmental incentives to become a realistic option, pathways (a) and (b) create added economic value and could at least partly be implemented without other financial incentives. Pyrolysis technology is already well established, biochar sequestration and bio-oil sequestration in soils, respectively biomaterials, do not present ecological hazards, and global scale-up appears feasible within a time frame of 10–30 years. Thus, PyCCS could evolve into a decisive tool for global carbon governance, serving climate change mitigation and the sustainable development goals simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-591
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • bio-oil
  • biochar
  • carbon sequestration
  • climate mitigation
  • permanent pyrogas
  • pyrolysis
  • tCDR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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