First Green Asphalt implemented in Europe

The importance of charred biomass for the creation of carbon sinks and thus for climate protection was recently outlined in a Whitepaper of the European Biochar Association EBI. Further uses of biochar outside of agriculture were only touched upon. A concrete example of implementation is currently taking place in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg, where biochar makes road construction climate-positive: Green Asphalt.

Since its creation, the European Biochar Industry Consortium (EBI) has sought to implement new applications for biochar that will improve products while mitigating climate change. Biochar is a very versatile material, which consists largely of carbon (C). It can become the basis for a carbon-based economy of the post-fossile future.

It is already widely used in various agricultural applications, for example as a feed additive, stable bedding, soil conditioner or for manure treatment. In the industrial and construction sectors, there is an even greater potential to sequester (permanently bind) carbon. “Thanks to innovative and visionary actors, this potential is now also being exploited. The industrial application also allows biochar from residual materials (e.g. waste wood), which are excluded for food production”, says Marcel Huber, CEO of Syncraft.

One example of this use of biochar is as an aggregate in asphalt. A cooperation between the energy and biochar producer EnergieWerk Ilg, the road construction company MIGU and the system supplier Syncraft shows that the addition of biochar to asphalt can make it climate-neutral, even climate-positive. In the case of this project, which is being implemented in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg, road construction actually helps to remove carbon from the atmosphere and bind it profitably for a long time.

Each kilogram of biochar stores the carbon from about 3kg of CO2, which the plants have absorbed from the atmosphere during their life. Even at a low dosage of only 2% biochar-addition, the annual production of MIGU of about 100’000t asphalt, would sequester 6000t of CO2 every year. According to MIGU, “The biochar becomes part of the matrix of the asphalt and is permanently preserved”. In the coming months, the composition will be further improved and the carbon storage increased.

If this model is transferred to the European market, over 9 million tons of CO2 could be bound annually in road construction alone. “We have already started with this, now municipalities are called upon to continue on this path”, says Tobias Ilg, Managing Director of EnergieWerk Ilg.

This climate service is exactly calculated by the European Biochar Certificate (EBC) under the certificate “EBC Sink” and can therefore also be remunerated in monetary terms. The company Carbonfuture, a trading platform for carbon sinks, has already agreed to trade certificates from the green asphalt. “The prices for these stable sinks will probably be in the range of 100 euros per ton of CO2 equivalent. The users of the biochar, who provide the climate service, will benefit in particular from this,” says its Managing Director Hannes Junginger.