18/04/2024 - Permalink

Cabinet approves carbon-saving business innovation

Related topics: Assets and estates / Climate change / environment / Finance and budget / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet yesterday (Wednesday 17 April 2024) (in exempt session) approved a new business proposal that will see the council owning 50 per cent of a specialist pyrolysis company established to help offset carbon emissions and to sell ‘credits’ on the open market.

Cabinet members agreed a plan to create a strategic partnership with a local biochar company, to establish a new Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will operate a pyrolysis plant near Welshpool. The agreement is the first of its kind for any council in the UK.

The pyrolysis plant will use proprietary technology to produce biochar from various feedstocks, such as wood waste, straw and manure. Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that can be used as a soil enhancer, a carbon-negative additive to materials like asphalt and concrete, and an air or water filter for various pollutants – just like activated charcoal. In all cases it acts as a carbon sequestration agent.

The biochar project will also generate Carbon Offset Removal Certificates (CORCs) that certify the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by the biochar production process. The SPV will sell the CORCs, estimated to be 8,000 tonnes over five years, on the open market via the international Puro.earth platform.

The council will acquire a 50% ownership in the SPV, which will generate an estimated annual gross profit of £133,333 from the sale of biochar.

Ian Nellins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, said:-

“The biochar project is an innovative and sustainable way to reduce net carbon emissions and create value from waste. It is a collaborative and cross-border initiative that supports local businesses and communities.

“We would be the first council in the UK to do this, but it is a scalable and replicable model that can be applied to other locations and has already attracted interest from other councils in the UK and companies internationally.”

Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for housing and assets, said:-

“Shropshire Council will be the first council in the UK to develop a pyrolysis unit for biochar with private business to sequester carbon. The joint venture will build a pyrolysis biochar demonstration plant across the border in Powys, in the Marches Forward Partnership area. The SPV will be named Biodynamic Carbon Ltd, and drawing on the expertise and existing infrastructure of our business partner we would expect to see the unit up and running by August this year.”

In September 2023 Shropshire Council approved investment of £2m into a Biochar from Pyrolysis programme to identify a site and develop a unit in Shropshire.

Dean Carroll said at the time:-

“Developing a pyrolysis plant which runs off self-generated clean energy and creates biochar would certainly give Shropshire the edge and would put us in a uniquely pioneering situation.”

Officers are continuing to work on identifying a site in the county to take the best advantage of the commercial and climate benefits of developing a further demonstrator unit.

Further information

Pyrolysis is the heating of organic matter at high temperatures, without oxygen. It creates gases and oils which can be burned in a generator to produce clean renewable electricity, around 35% of which is used to power the process. It creates biochar, a carbon storing form of charcoal, that has many uses and is considered to be of great benefit environmentally.

Biochar is most commonly used on land, where it improves the soil, helps reduce drought stress for crops, and stores carbon that was formerly carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It can also help reduce pollutants like agricultural pesticides and fertilisers from getting into rivers.