Today, approximately 150 companies, mostly small garden supply and specialty retailers, sell biochar worldwide. There are new opportunities, but the market is still in its infancy, production is limited, and costs are high. The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) published a report in 2013 that provided a snapshot of the current state of the biochar economy. IBI conducts biochar field research on six continents and provides producers, gardeners, and researchers with free information. The report was based on survey data from 43 biochar companies, as well as anecdotal and commercial data. According to the report, the United States accounts for the majority of global market share (65%), followed by Europe (25%), Asia (7%), and Africa (3%).
According to reports, Japan has a growing commercial biochar industry, with approximately 15,000 tons traded each year. In 2011, 94,159 tons of compost, a popular soil amendment, was sold for $30-50 per ton. Biochar has a much higher price per ton and much lower volume. Companies responding to the IBI survey reported sales of 911 tons in 2013, with North America producing 65 percent (597 tons). In the United States, the average price for biochar was $1.29 per pound or $2,580 per ton.
Biochar will most likely be used in high-end specialty markets in the near future due to its high price point, but there is growing interest in developing biochar into new products that take advantage of its unique chemical properties. Today, wastewater treatment plants, for example, buy thousands of tons of activated carbon each year to help absorb potential contaminants and reduce odors. Biochar has been demonstrated to be a low-cost alternative.
Figure 1. Biochar market
According to Transparency Market Research’s latest research report on the biochar market for the historical period of 2020and the forecast period of 2021to 2031, environmental benefits and advantages associated with biochar are expected to fuel the biochar market across the globe. In terms of revenue, the global biochar market is expected to surpass US$ 6.3 billion by 2031, expanding at a 15.35% CAGR during the forecast period.
Industrialization and urbanization have been rapidly increasing around the world in recent years. This has increased demand for renewable energy as a viable alternative to coal.
Asia’s electricity consumption grew from 8,616 TWh in 2014 to 10,716 TWh in 2019. During the forecast period, global electricity demand is expected to rise further. To meet the world’s high demand for electricity, the world is focusing on renewable energy sources such as biomass. Biochar is a popular renewable energy source because it helps to sequester a billion tons of carbon each year. Thus, an increase in electricity demand is expected to propel the biochar market during the forecast period.
Main Factors Fueling Market Growth for Biochar
The potential use of biochar as a sorbent in processes aimed at immobilizing the residues of bacteriostatic antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, such as sulfamethoxazole from sewage, represents a significant growth opportunity for stakeholders.
Growing market interest in developing biochar into novel products based on its unique chemical properties is expected to sustain sales. For example, biochar can be used in place of activated carbon, which is commonly used in wastewater treatment facilities to absorb potential contaminants and reduce odors.
With the potential to be used as a tool to reduce soil nitrogen leaching and thus achieve lower nitrogen loss from croplands soils, biochar holds the promise of being a part of soil amendment solutions that target improved N availability in soil.
The increasing use of biochar pyrolysis equipment, latest advancements in gasification biochar systems, and growing demand for biochar in agriculture are expected to drive the biochar market value higher.
The countries covered in the biochar market report are U.S., Canada and Mexico in North America, Germany, France, U.K., Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Rest of Europe in Europe, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Rest of Asia-Pacific (APAC) in the Asia-Pacific (APAC), Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Israel, Egypt, South Africa, Rest of Middle East and Africa (M.E.A.) as a part of Middle East and Africa (M.E.A.), Brazil, Argentina and Rest of South America as part of South America.
North America has been the largest consumer of the product, and it is expected to grow significantly due to rising demand for organic food and high meat consumption. When compared to other regions, awareness of biochar is very high in this region, and the farming community is more knowledgeable about the product and its benefits. Furthermore, low livestock feed costs are expected to boost consumption in this sector.
Figure 2: Biochar market growth rate by region
The United States has generated the most revenue in the world as a result of widespread product awareness in the country. Numerous small and large-scale manufacturers operating on a national and international scale have contributed to the sector’s growth. Despite several companies exiting the industry due to a lack of capital and expected growth, the overall growth prospects for the upcoming period will be very positive. The Asia Pacific is expected to experience extremely high growth because of the presence of large and developing agriculture sectors in developing economies, such as China and India.
China is the world’s third-largest producer of organic foods. The use of genetically modified crops has had an impact on soil and crop productivity in the agricultural fields of the country. A biochar farming amalgamation led by several research initiatives in the country is expected to raise awareness of the product and drive consumption.
Some Examples of New Biochar Companies
Biochar Now – based in Colorado, produces biochar from beetle-killed pine trees. The Upstate Colorado Economic Development Corporation and a revolving loan fund helped to establish the company in 2011. Biochar Now is focused on producing and marketing biochar for specialized applications, such as helping the oil and gas industries capture pollutants, reduce and treat water pollutants, and control odors.
Biochar Solutions, Inc. – based in Colorado, is creating a distributed network of pyrolyzers to produce biochar and bioenergy from wood waste. The company collaborates with biomass producers to provide them with equipment, information, and a network in order to offer wholesale distribution of biochar products.
Cool Planet – Pine and spruce bark beetle disease infestation threatens 42 million acres of US forest. Cool Planet is one of the first companies in the United States to offer a reuse for this waste wood. Pyrolysis is used in their business model to produce biofuels and biochar from wood, perennial grasses, and corn stover.
Some of the other major players operating in the biochar market are; Black Owl Biochar (U.S.), CharGrow USA LLC (U.S.), Earth Systems Consulting Pty Ltd (Australia), Pacific Biochar Benefit Corporation (U.S.), Pacific Pyrolysis Pty Ltd (Australia), Phoenix Energy (U.S.), Arstaeco (India), Genesis Industries Inc., (U.S.), Airex Énergie Inc. (Canada), American BioChar Company (U.S.), Bioforcetech Corporation (U.S.), ECOERA (Sweden), PYROPOWER (Netherlands), ETIA S.A.S. (France).
However, there are many factors affecting the development of that market, including: technology, quality standards, education and marketing, and economics. Soil-based applications will be the largest market for biochar and it is likely to be used primarily in high-end specialty markets because of its current high price. In addition to these soil-based applications, there is growing interest in incorporating biochar into new products to capitalize on its unique properties. As new companies emerge and existing companies expand production, the price of biochar should fall and finally making its use more affordable to a wider range of potential customers.