Berruti joins international network in biochar carbon research

Franco Berruti

Agnes Chick | March 25, 2013

Franco Berruti, Western Chemical Engineering professor and Director of the Institute of Chemical and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR), is part of a team that recently launched Biochar Carbon for Carbon Capture, a UK-Canada Research Network. Sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust, the Network’s official launch took place on in January 2013 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Directed by Raffaella Ocone from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the Network includes Ondrej Masek from the UK Biochar Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, Berruti from ICFAR at Western University, Ajay Dalai from University of Saskatchewan, and Donald Smith from McGill University.

The recent creation of the UK-Canadian Network will investigate the potential of biochar, a solid compound rich in carbon and inorganic elements, as a technologically and economically effective method of capturing carbon in a stabilized form while increasing soil quality and adaptability of agriculture to climate change.

Biochar is produced as a co-product when organic materials are thermally decomposed in the absence of oxygen to produce bio-oils, which can ultimately be refined into valuable chemicals and fuels. Plants synthesize organic carbon via photosynthesis and a portion of that carbon is then locked in the biochar and returned to the soil.

The Network brings together a group of dedicated engineers and scientists from Canada and the UK with the specific aims to exchange methodologies and experiences for biochar production; to develop modeling methodologies to complement and expand on the experimental expertise in the UK and Canada; to create the critical mass to position the UK and Canada as the leaders in the area of biochar production, utilization and standardization. 

Berruti is looking forward to strengthening connections with a team of internationally recognized researchers as they continue to work together to formalize the value of biochar as a Negative Emission Technology.

“At ICFAR we have an outstanding track record of efficient relationships with the best colleagues around the world,” says Berruti. “This Network builds on this record and allows us to enhance even further our capabilities, efficiency, outreach and responsiveness.”

The Network’s team met after the official launch to develop a research plan that will be carried out over the next three years. In a statement, Berruti outlines the Network’s plans to identify potential sources of funds for collaborative projects that take synergistic advantage of the skills of the team. Currently, there are no internationally accepted standards for characterization of biochars. The coordinated effort of the team will work towards the development of standardization criteria for biochar, including research on the type of biomass feedstock, the conversion process, the possible upgrading technologies, and the final product characteristics and use. Finally, the Network will aim to continuously improve the technologies, and focus on carbon capture and sequestration efficiencies.

Although initiatives from across the world are researching potential sustainable production of biochar, the UK-Canada Network is bringing together expertise for the continuous production of biochar, both for fast and slow pyrolysis and the modeling aspect of it. 

For more information about the UK-Canada Network, Biochar Carbon for Carbon Capture, please visit