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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Small-scale biochar production on Swedish farms: A model for estimating potential, variability, and environmental performance

Azzi, Elias S.; Karltun, Erik; Sundberg, Cecilia


Several small-scale pyrolysis plants have been installed on Swedish farms and uptake is increasing in the Nordic countries. Pyrolysis plants convert biomass to biochar for agricultural applications and syngas for heating applications. These projects are driven by ambitions of achieving carbon dioxide removal, reducing environmental impacts, and improving farm finances and resilience. Before policy support for on-farm pyrolysis projects is implemented, a comprehensive environmental evaluation of these systems is needed. Here, a model was developed to jointly: (i) simulate operation of on-farm energy systems equipped with pyrolysis units; (ii) estimate biochar production potential and its variability under different energy demand situations and designs; and (iii) calculate life cycle environmental impacts. The model was applied to a case study farm in Sweden. The farm's heating system achieved net carbon dioxide removal through biochar carbon sequestration, but increased its impact in several other environmental categories, mainly due to increased biomass throughput. Proper dimensioning of heat constrained systems is key to ensure optimal biochar production, as biochar production potential of the case farm was reduced under expected climate change in Sweden. To improve the environmental footprint of future biochar systems, it is crucial that expected co-benefits from biochar use in agriculture are realised. The model developed here is available for application to other cases. (c) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


Biochar; Pyrolysis; Farm; Energy system modelling; Life cycle assessment; Potential

Published in

Journal of Cleaner Production
2021, volume: 280, article number: 124873

Authors' information

Azzi, Elias S.
Royal Institute of Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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