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Stronger abilities and local expertise: North Karelia open for biochar innovation

Significant focus has been placed on biochar investments in North Karelia in the 2020s. As a result, there is high demand for biochar expertise in the region. Coordinated by Luke, the BlackGreen project increased the abilities and skills of companies in North Karelia to start and develop biochar operations.

North Karelia is developing into a significant production hub for modern reactive carbon. It is a high value added product with various applications in the metal industry, carbon dioxide sequestration and pharmaceuticals. Modern reactive carbon can be produced from peat, while the most sustainable option is to make it from renewable carbon-containing biomass such as wood.

Funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Regional Council of North Karelia, the project extensively studied the local potential of biochar in the region. The project coordinated by Luke increased regional companies’ competence in and awareness of the opportunities of biochar and laid the foundation for new value chains.

Key project measures included the identification of the availability of raw materials, the analysis of the biochar market situation, raw materials and product logistics, as well as process modelling for a biochar plant. During the project, information cards were also prepared for regional companies to disseminate information about the properties and applications of biochar, as well as the availability of raw materials.

North Karelia has a high potential for biochar production. The availability and procurement costs of raw materials suitable for production were assessed during the project. There is sufficient wood-based biomass in the region to increase wood processing volumes sustainably. Removals in the region have been below the maximum sustainable felling potential for the last decades.

In addition, tests, demonstrations and application presentations were held for regional companies during the project. Demonstrating biochar filters in practice in runoff treatment was one of the project’s accomplishments. For example, nutrients from agriculture and forestry, including phosphorus and nitrogen compounds, are discharged into waterbodies. Biochar filters can prevent nutrients from accessing waterbodies when they are installed in ditches used to collect industrial runoff. Filters help return the nutrients back into fields or forest areas adhered to biochar.

The project also laid the foundation for a web-based biochar production price calculator, which can be used to determine the price of biochar products and compare it to the current global price level. The calculator can increase transparency and cooperation between different stakeholders to make it easier to understand biochar production as a whole. It also offers encouragement to make biochar innovation and share information.

The BlackGreen project has played a significant role in developing the biochar business in North Karelia. Regional companies now have even better abilities and skills to produce and use biochar which lays the foundation for new sustainable and innovative business.