The SBRI brings together government challenges and ideas from businesses to create innovative solutions. Their recent competition is funded by Innovate UK as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Greenhouse Gas Removal Demonstrators programme.
The objective of the competition is to deliver MRV tools, technologies and techniques that assess the effectiveness, integrity, and longevity of land-based greenhouse gas removal for the following carbon sequestering techniques, Enhanced weathering, Biochar, Afforestation, Perennial biomass growth, Peatland restoration. The fund will not support direct air capture and storage (DACS) or bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BEECS).
Enhanced weathering and Biochar are two of the key carbon sequestration techniques which could be used to support the removal of greenhouse gas as part of this project.
Chemical weathering of rock is a natural process which takes place over millions of years, and this is accelerating due to our rain becoming slightly more acidic due to the absorption of CO2 from our atmosphere.
Enhanced weathering is a process that aims to accelerate natural weathering, to remove CO2 by spreading large quantities of selected and finely ground rock material onto extensive land areas, beaches or the sea surface.
How does this process remove carbon from the atmosphere? (in the below example we will use calcium carbonate as an example however the process applies to most basaltic rock)
- Rainwater absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere to form a weak acid or “carbonic acid”
- This rainwater breaks down calcium carbonate into minute rock grains over time.
- These calcium carbonate rock grains react with carbonic acid to form calcium and bicarbonate ions.
- The bicarbonate (where the carbon is stored) then exists in either a dissolved form or builds up the seabed over hundreds of thousands of years.
- The chemicals formed from this process (calcium and bicarbonate) contribute to soil health and when present in the ocean reduce acidification due to it being alkaline.
Enhanced weathering is the process of grinding basaltic rock into minute rock grains then scattering it on soils to radically accelerate the above process. More information on this can be found here.
Biochar technology has the potential to mitigate climate change whilst also improving soil fertility. It is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes (also called biomass) in a controlled process called pyrolysis.
To create biochar you essentially combust biomass using the process of pyrolysis (pyrolysis is essentially the combustion of something with the presence of little to no oxygen). When biomass is combusted in such a process it releases minimal contaminating fumes. Once the process is complete you get a solid material made up of stable carbon which can’t easily escape into the atmosphere. The energy or heat created during pyrolysis can be captured and used as a form of clean energy. The finished product is made up of approximately 70% carbon. Biochar is then added to soil where the carbon is stored in a solid form for hundreds of thousands of years, this also enhances soil quality.
Biochar production is a carbon-negative process, which means it actually reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.
More information on Biochar can be found here.
This is phase 1 of what could be a 2-phase competitive process the decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Competition entry closes on Wednesday 7th September at 11.00am, to find out more click here.