LCN’s Explained

Local Carbon Networks for community-based carbon sequestration are working in the manner of Local Food, Farmers’ Markets, or CSA’s. The project closes the carbon cycle by transforming local green-waste into renewable energy, with long-term sequestration of carbon in soil as Biochar.

raised garden beds

The LOCAL CARBON NETWORK

is a Community-Based Climate Solution where plants, people and machines work together to remove CO2 from the sky and put it back in the soil. The project closes the local carbon cycle by transforming local green-waste into local renewable power and products, with long term sequestration of carbon in soil as Biochar.

Through this process, waste is transformed into value, and carbon is stored in soil with ongoing benefits to local gardens, agriculture and forestry. Our solution uses new biomass conversion technology, combined with soil cultivation at local gardens and farms, to generate energy from green-waste, while at the same time moving atmospheric carbon into the soil, and accelerating new plant growth.

The Local Carbon Network forces carbon drawdown by transforming the byproducts of urban landscaping, agriculture and forestry into renewable electricity and heat, with long term sequestration of the embedded carbon into the soil as Biochar.  In plant biomass, the difficult work of atmospheric CO2 capture has already been solved via photosynthesis, with solar energy helpfully stored during the process.

Unfortunately, much of the output we currently call “waste” we pay to make it go away, or just let it rot – sending carbon dioxide and methane back skyward.  The Local Carbon Network leverages this already existing global carbon-capture system, connects it with community conversion and sequestration opportunities, and creates a ton of local value beyond climate in the process.

Your purchase and use of Local Carbon Biochar makes this “refossilization” of carbon with benefits possible today.

A mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of the soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions

Biochar makes it all happen

Biochar is an accessible way to put this already captured carbon back underground and improve soils in the process.  For those of you new to the concept, Biochar is a specialized form of charcoal that increases plant growth, reduces water usage, prevents fertilizer runoff, and fixes carbon in soil.

Whereas raw biomass will quickly rot and go back into the atmosphere as carbon-based greenhouse gasses, carbon charcoal is stable and will stay in the soil for centuries to millennia. Mixing charcoal into compost is much easier than pumping CO2 underground and trying to keep it there.  And there’s a ton of benefits to local energy, food and water systems from doing so.

Soil Benefits

Soils around the world have been heavily degraded by Industrial Agriculture over the last 100 years. Regenerating these soils with biochar and resulting organic matter, is one of the most powerful tools we have to put this atmospheric carbon back into the Earth.

It’s a solution that’s available today, and with your help, we can grow this solution to the massive scale that is needed–one Local Food and Carbon neighborhood at a time.

infographic of tree showing biochar effects
Power Pallet with material flows in field

We Have the Technology

The machinery that enables this green-waste to power and sequestration solution is already developed and currently manufactured by All Power Labs (APL) in Berkeley, CA. The technology is based on the gasification of biomass to produce syngas, then using the syngas to fuel an engine to generate electricity and heat.

The byproduct of gasification is biochar, enabling the return-to-soil of carbon and minerals contained in the original biomass. The result is Combined Heat and Power with Carbon Sequestration (CHPc-), using the “waste” of already captured atmospheric carbon dioxide.

We’ve been delivering evolving forms of this solution around the world since 2011. After years of continuous improvement in the crucible of real-world use, the technology and product are now solid and ready to scale. This solution is one of the very few carbon negative emissions scenarios that is currently without major technical or economic hurdles remaining to solve before moving to the general market. It’s unique in that it’s ready to deploy today, at climate-relevant numbers and impact.

Local Carbon Farmers

Local Community gardens and regenerative agriculture farms are an integral part of the process. Via our fundraising activities and the sale of Climate Products from our website we are able to provide the biochar to the community gardens free if charge. Contact us if you would like to become a recipient.

biodynamic garden with circular rows

Local Carbon Sourcing and Processing Sites

We have small, modular, fixed mobile conversion hubs. We prefer having the conversion hub located very near or directly on the green waste site to avoid the transport of the greenwaste overland for long distances, which would increase its carbon footprint. Contact us if you would like to have our equipment on site or near you.

Local Engineering & Manufacturing

APL/Berkeley LCN group photo

All Power Labs is the global leader in small-scale biomass gasification based power generation systems. Over the last 9 years, APL has developed and delivered progressively maturing forms of this technology to over 50 countries around the world.

APL is part of a larger nascent industry that is working to bring the carbon negative Gasification + Biochar solution to global market in truly usable and consequential product forms. APL has previously enabled the growth of this industry by open sourcing our gasifier reactor designs, as well as sharing related science and engineering knowledge with researchers and educational institutions around the world.

Bags of biochar

Carbon Accounting

Through the combined activities of Local Carbon Network green-waste conversion, each 1kg Biochar bag represents 20-40kg CO2 equivalent climate impact.  These impacts span energy, soil and plant growth contributions, and divide into the following impact types.?
  •  Carbon offset through displacing fossil-based electricity and heat generation sources.
  •  Carbon sequestration of already captured plant carbon through biochar to soil.
  •  Carbon capture through new or accelerated plant growth, and;
  •  Carbon emission avoidance through:
    •  reduced greenhouse gas emissions from soil (CH4, N2O)
    •  reduced CH4 emissions from biomass decomposition
    •  water use reduction (with related decrease in energy use for pumping).

What does 20-40kg CO2e impact mean?

CO2e means “carbon dioxide equivalent,” which is a way of standardizing the effect of different climate impact pathways to a common scale.  We use carbon dioxide (CO2) as the standard because it is the most common greenhouse gas and the single largest contributor to climate change. To understand what the specific numbers (20-40kg CO2e) mean, let’s consider an everyday example.

Each gallon of gasoline or diesel you burn in your car makes about 10kg CO2.  Therefore each 1kg Local Carbon Biochar bag represents a negative carbon emission equal to 2-4 gallons of liquid fuel.  Beyond this raw carbon calculus, Local Carbon Biochar also delivers social, environmental and commercial benefits to the local community–unlike generic carbon credits, or cap and trade positions–as well as the simple pleasure of cultivating good things in local soil.

The chart below gives the nitty gritty on carbon accounting by impact type and amounts per 1kg Local Carbon Biochar bag (which started as 20kg of green-waste, thus the calculator set to 20kg input at the top left).  If your inner carbon nerd wants still more, you can enter your own numbers and debate the results in the live worksheet here.

Scaling for Global Impact

The Local Carbon Network model is designed to be easy to replicate and scale across other Local Food, Farmers’ Market and green-waste ecosystems.
After nine years of technology development, business partner establishment, and on-the-ground infrastructure building worldwide, we are ready to make a consequential impact on energy and agriculture transformations in foreign countries, while drawing down carbon from the global pool during the process. Contact us if would like to start an LCN in your area/country.

The goal is to fuel progressive and consequential steps towards, and long-term stewardship of, gigawatts of carbon-negative power and product deployments, with the ultimate objective of enabling a 10-40 ppm drawdown in global CO2 concentration over the next century. A 10-40 ppm drawdown is approximately 10-20% of the carbon reduction that will be needed to maintain global temperature increase below 2˚C, the commonly-accepted point that will stave off catastrophic climate change.

Why Carbon Drawdown is Important

At the dawn of the industrial era, atmospheric CO2 levels were ~275ppm. Largely through burning fossil fuels over the following century plus, we’ve moved this number to 410ppm. We’re currently trending towards a still very bad best case low of ~500ppm, or a catastrophic high of ~900ppm by year 2,100, depending on our actions in the interim.

To not exceed a 2 C° temperature rise, we need to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels around 480ppm. The longer-term responsible state is ~350ppm if we want to ensure climate conditions similar to those present during most of human history.

Assuming we succeed in avoiding the fully catastrophic case, we might expect to be in the 500-600ppm CO2 range by 2,100. As such, we will still need additional carbon offset and drawdown on the order 100-200ppm, to return the Earth atmosphere to a reasonably known and safe equilibrium.

Global temperature chart

We’re cooking the planet with our fossil carbon emissions

One Solution

In the larger climate management discussion, the Gasification + Biochar solution is part of the “Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration” or BECCS category of solutions. However, with biochar the “carbon capture and sequestration” is achieved via simply adding it to compost, not the difficult process of pumping and storing CO2 gas underground.

The BECCS option plays a major part in nearly all climate planning scenarios that work to recover from the CO2 budget overshoot currently understood as a given in our climate future.

What could the Local Carbon Network do at scale?

The screenshot to the right summarizes a modeled possible future climate impact for the Local Carbon Network, at deployment scales that are attainable with existing industrial/economic dependencies and drivers.

The model considers a total of 60,000 Local Carbon Clusters globally, each operating machinery at 2tonne/hr (2MWe generating capacity) and 70% uptime, over the next century. The model assumes the LCN “green-waste to CHPc-” type solution will rise to become an ongoing solution and general industry beyond All Power Labs.

This, of course, is premised on a success state where economic drivers make the LCN self-propagating and sustainable through decades of project starts and stops, machinery replacements and upgrades, and the general churn of a new product category in the world.

Chart showing carbon impact

Global Max Scenario

Electricity + high heat utilization + biochar + increased plant productivity

The full live model is here for those who want to dive deeper.

At the above average conditions, the outcome of one century of activity is 40ppm total CO2e total impact.  More aggressive entered values can drive the impact up higher, however, the current values represent an attempted “reasonable max”.   Taking this answer, quartering it for good measure, suggests this solution offers a total potential climate impact in the range of 10-40ppm CO2e.  Of course, this is caveats all the way down, and now let’s start interrogating the model, but as an orientation to what is possible, this is what a well-exercised consideration has produced.

This 10-40ppm CO2e impact compares to the 100-200ppm CO2e total impact required as summarized above.  While this is well short of the total solution needed for our climate problems, any one scenario that has the potential to contribute even 10+% of the total needed, is a consequential addition to the combined package of climate solutions.  The Local Carbon Network has the potential to be a consequential slice of the solution pie.

The green-waste required to run such a project is 1.2 billion tonnes per year.  This represents less than 1% of the total yearly terrestrial photosynthetic production on the planet.  Our green-waste resources far exceed this globally. The US alone has identified 1 billion tonnes of biomass byproduct currently underutilized.  The total Network would have ~ 120GW electrical generating capacity, with an annual generation of ~1,000 TWh. This would be about 4% of the current ~25,000 TWh total global generation– a percentage that would decrease over time as the rest of global generation capacity increases.

In summary, the climate impact multipliers we can realize through the collaborative intervention of plants, people and machines, are unique and non-trivial in their potential.  Achieving this long-term goal of the Local Carbon Network will be an opportunity for many to benefit from climate positive and profitable work for decades to come.

 

It’s up to us to make it happen!