Principal Investigator

Sebastian Behrens

Co-principal Investigator

Brian Barry

Industry Partner

James Doten, Carbon Sequestration Program Manager, Minneapolis Health Department
Nicholas Vetsch, Environmental Engineer at Stantec Consulting Services Inc.


The state of Minnesota set itself ambitious climate and socio-environmental goals with its new Climate Action Framework and Climate Equity Plan. The comprehensive climate action plans include reaching carbon neutrality between 2030 and 2050, and achieving net-negative emissions thereafter, which will require removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A major carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology readily implementable in Minnesota is biochar production and use. Biochar, the carbon-rich residue derived from biomass pyrolysis , is regarded as having a higher readiness than other CDR technologies because it is already available at various production scales.


The increasing interest in biochar production in urban areas is motivated, beyond CDR, by the multiple applications that biochar can have for municipalities and the abundant availability of green-waste biomass for biochar production in large cities like Minneapolis. While traditionally viewed as a soil amendment for agriculture, the number of uses for biochar has been expanding over the past several years. Many of these uses are directly applicable to urban environments. Urban uses for biochar include tree planting, turf and soils quality management, compost additive, bioremediation, stormwater management, urban agriculture, green roofs, and construction materials. More research is required to understand which biochar characteristics are most important for different end uses and what the ranges are for those characteristics. This project is designed to match Minneapolis feedstock availability with the range of production parameters of the city’s new pyrolysis plant so that the city can produce high quality and safe biochars with the optimal material properties for its various urban application.


This project is needed as it integrates critical research needs with direct field implementation, and soil, water, and climate protection efforts for the benefit of all Minnesotans. This project will generate critical knowledge for the successful implementation of a resilient and equitable bioengery-biochar solution for carbon management in the City of Minneapolis. Project outcomes will assist the City of Minneapolis in accomplishing the goals set by its Bioenergy-Biochar Action Strategy and Climate Action Plan that outline a roadmap to reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, the project will help reducing green-waste by turning it into a value-added product and carbon-sink. This will reduce state carbon emission by effectively sequestering carbon as biochar.

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