The plant essentially becomes a carbon sink until it dies, at which point the carbon is released back into the atmosphere during decomposition.
“Basically, what this project does is it doesn’t allow for the decomposition stage,” said Snyder.
When sugarcane is harvested, for example, the portion that is unused is known as bagasse, huge piles of which can often be seen in parts of rural Louisiana. Normally, the bagasse releases carbon back into the atmosphere. But Snyder says the leftover sugarcane could be ground into a slurry and injected deep into the ground using biomass slurry fracture injection.
The oil and gas industry first invented the injection process to dispose of contaminated rock, and other companies have used the process to inject sewage. Snyder said it could give the agricultural community an option for getting rid of some of their waste.
“This could possibly work with any agricultural waste you could name. Woodchips, sawdust from forestry or paper production, animal processing waste, any carbon rich feedstock,” he said. “You could even grow crops specifically for it like grasses or algae.”
Biomass slurry vs. industrial carbon capture
Biomass slurry injection differs from other carbon capture projects in a key way: projects are taking carbon from an emissions source like a smokestack, whereas this process takes carbon from the atmosphere. It can also work on a smaller scale.
“You need a lot of wells, but each well is not injecting millions of tons of carbon dioxide per year,” said Snyder. “Most processes don’t have that kind of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, so this fits better with agriculture.”
Snyder said typical industrial carbon capture projects inject around one or two million tons of CO2 per year, whereas biomass slurry injection is around 30,000 tons per year.
The process could have a huge impact globally.
“We have to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to come even close to the goals of the Paris Agreement. This process can’t do all of that, but it could contribute,” Snyder said.
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