Objectives and Motivations of the EBC-Certificate

For thousands of years, charcoal has been one of civilisation’s basic materials. By far the most common use of charcoal is for cooking, for heating and for smouldering when producing metal tools. However, for centuries charcoal and biochar have also been used for conditioning soils, or as litter (bedding) materials, as medicine and also as a feed additive. In the course of the last century most of this traditional knowledge has been lost and is only now being rediscovered.

Thanks to wide-ranging multidisciplinary research and field trials, the understanding of the biological and chemo-physical processes involved in the use of biochar has made great progress. Thus a major increase in the agricultural use of biochar is to be expected for the next years. Usage ranges from soil conditioning, compost additives and carrier for fertilizers, manure treatment and litter (bedding) materials to silage additives, feed-additives, medical applications and others.

Traditional kiln production of charcoal and biochar was unsatisfactory with regard to its carbon efficiency and especially its environmental footprint. Accordingly, it is unsuitable for producing larger biochar amounts to be used in future agriculture. Modern pyrolysis plants are now ready to produce biochar from a large variety of different feedstocks in energy efficient way and without harming the environment. As both, biochar properties and the environmental footprint of its production are very much dependent on the technical control of pyrolysis and the type of feedstocks, a secure control system for its production and analysis needs to be introduced.

The intention of the European Biochar Foundation in issuing these guidelines on how to gain biochar certification is first to introduce a control mechanism based on the latest research and practices. Second, the biochar certificate aims to enable and guarantee sustainable biochar production. It is introduced to give customers a reliable quality basis, while (third) giving producers the opportunity of proving that their product meets well-defined quality standards. Fourth, it aims at providing a firm state-of-the-art knowledge transfer as a sound basis for future legislation. Finally, it is introduced to prevent and hinder misuse or dangers from the start, as long as no “special interests” are calling for exceptions (e.g. such as cutting down native forests to produce biochar).

Biochar production technology is currently developing very fast, with more than 500 research projects worldwide looking into biochar properties and interactions. Every month new test results and numerous scientific studies appear on the subject. Every year sees new manufacturers of pyrolysis equipment entering the market and the areas in which biochar and biochar products are used are steadily and rapidly growing. This biochar certificate is closely linked to this research and technical momentum and will accordingly be revised annually to take into account the latest findings and developments. Thresholds and test methods will be adapted to reflect the latest findings and, if necessary, re-introduced.

The goal of the guidelines is to ensure control of biochar production and quality based on well-researched, legally backed-up, economically viable and practically applicable processes. Users of biochar and biochar-based products will benefit from a transparent and verifiable monitoring and quality assurance. It is our as well as every biochar user’s duty to make sure that a good idea will not be carried into misuse. The certificate was designed to serve this goal.