Evaluation of Biochar Post‐Process Treatments to Produce Soil Enhancers and Phosphorus Fertilizers at a Single Plant

Mahmood Laghari*, Dorette Sophie Müller-Stöver, Maria Puig Arvanat, Tobias Pape Thomsen, Ulrik Birk Henriksen

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study evaluates the potential to produce phosphorus (P)-rich fertilizer substrates with high plant availability as well as carbon (C)-rich biochar with soil enhancement properties in a single slow-pyrolysis plant. Campaign-based production or co-production of soil enhancers and fertilizer substrates may increase the potential societal value of slow pyrolysis plants. The assessment focus on conventional slow pyrolysis operated at 600 °C to produce biochar from various substrates as well as two options for post-process char treatments—char oxidation at 550 °C and char steam gasification at 800 °C, as a potential way to improve substrate fertilizer value. Four P-rich biomass residues including municipal sewage sludge (SS), biogas fiber (BF), cattle manure (CM), and poultry manure (PM) as well as two C-rich biomasses: wood chips (WC) and wheat straw (WS), were tested. Production yields of biochar and ash from char oxidation and steam gasification were compared and the materials were characterized to be used as soil enhancers and P-fertilizers through direct analysis and soil incubation studies with two different agricultural soils. All thermal treatments increased the concentration of the plant nutrients P, potassium and magnesium in the resulting biochar and ashes compared to the dry biomass. At the same time, concentrations of nitrogen and sulfur were reduced. The dry biomasses generally increased the amount of available P in the soils to a greater extent than biochar or ashes at an application rate of 80 mg P/kg soil. The P-rich biochar and ash made from BF, CM and PM had higher P fertilizer values than those made from SS. In terms of thermal processes, pyrolysis with subsequent char steam gasification was found to be the best option for high P availability in both soils, except for operation on SS where the oxidized char gave the best results. The C-rich biochars made from wood and wheat straw both showed potential for improving soil properties including soil organic matter (SOM) content, cation exchange capacity (CEC) and water holding capacity (WHC). The study shows that campaign operation of slow pyrolysis with the option for char steam gasification is a viable option for producing fertilizer substrates with high levels of plant available P as well as biochar with substantial soil enhancing properties on a single plant. In addition, results also indicate that direct co-pyrolysis of P-rich substrates—especially BF and CM, with any of the two tested C-rich substrates—without subsequent char treatment may be a sufficiently well integrated option for combined soil fertility and soil P fertilization management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste and Biomass Valorization
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2021

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