Biochar production from wood waste for GHG reduction : A case-study from the construction industry

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Skanska, Sweden’s leading project development and construction groups, is increasingly striving for innovative solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations and close the loop on waste materials. The company has expressed interest in investing in a pyrolysis plant in the Stockholm region to produce biochar out of wood waste from construction sites. Biochar, a charcoal-like substance, is produced through thermochemical decomposition of biomass. Recently recognized as a negative emissions technology thanks to its ability to act as a carbon sink, and with its many properties and applications, biochar has in recent years become an increasingly valued product on the Nordic market. However, the magnitude with which biochar production mitigates climate change depends on a number of parameters. The present thesis seeks to assess the potential of biochar production at Skanska and use for urban soils to reduce the company’s GHG emissions, and puts results in perspective with Skanska’s sustainability targets. Using the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting, and through a life-cycle perspective, the thesis examines whether biochar production results in a higher climate gain compared to the continuation of current activities, i.e. the treatment of wood waste through incineration for energy recovery. The results show that reductions in emissions depend on a number of factors including biochar stability, biochar yield, the availability of excess heat from the pyrolysis process and its use for district heating, and most importantly, the type of fuel substituted by waste wood for energy production. Ultimately, the quality, quantity, and geographic distribution of wood waste produced by Skanska determines the viability of this project, and this information should be carefully compiled by the company.

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