North America's largest biochar plant takes shape

Friday 21 Jul 2023

A group of Canadian and French companies will build a $80 million plant in Quebec to turn forestry waste into biochar, a black substance which can store carbon for hundreds of years and improve soil quality at the same time.

The facility in Port-Cartier — about 850 kilometres northeast of Montreal — will be completed next year with an initial annual capacity of 10,000 tons per year, which will be tripled by 2026, making it North America’s largest biochar plant. The plan was announced in a joint statement by Canadian cleantech startup Airex Energy Inc., lumber producer Groupe Remabec and French waste-treatment group Suez SA.

The project will sequester 75,000 tons of carbon per year — equivalent to over 400 railcars worth of burned coal — and generate certified carbon credits that will be sold by First Climate AG. The nascent market for biochar could grow if more farmers use it as a soil additive, or if it’s integrated into building materials as companies seek new ways to reduce emissions.

Biochar is produced by heating wood residues and other biomass in a low-oxygen chamber that limits emissions, in a process known as pyrolysis. As the biomass heats, bio-oils and gas are also produced, which can be used for power generation.

“There’s much more demand for biochar than supply,” Yves Rannou, the head of the Recycling and Recovery at Suez, said in an interview. The cost of building the three production lines at the Port-Cartier plant by 2026 will amount to $80 million, he said.

Suez and Airex aims to produce 350,000 tons of biochar by 2035. The French company has identified areas in Europe and Africa where it would have access to feedstock to produce the carbon sink, as well as potential buyers, Rannou said, without providing details because the projects are still at “very early stages.”

Airex, which will provide the pyrolysis technology, is backed by investors such as Cycle Capital, Investissement Quebec, Desjardins Group and Export Development Canada. Groupe Remabec is owned by its founders and managers as well as Produits Forestiers Arbec Inc.

Further coverage.

Source: financialpost, newswire

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