Putting (bio)Oil Back Underground

Remove carbon by converting biomass into bio-oil that is put back underground.

Location
Kansas, United States
Category
Removal

About this Project

Charm Industrial converts waste biomass into bio-oil by briefly heating it to high temperatures in an oxygen-free chamber through a process called pyrolysis. The resulting bio-oil can then be injected into orphan (decommissioned) oil wells, where it solidifies, stored securely for thousands of years. Charm only uses waste biomass—such as corn stover, leaves, & stalks— for its pyrolysis process, which would otherwise rot or burn and emit carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Therefore, Charm’s process uses abundant and low-cost waste products and leverages existing infrastructure; this means that the solution can rapidly scale.

Charm’s carbon removals will have significant local environmental benefits by helping to avoid agricultural waste incineration and wildfires in high-risk areas through efficient on-site biomass processing. Payments to farmers for waste biomass improve their profits and Charm’s partners in oil field services have been delighted to deploy their underground well operational knowledge and geological talents to try and reverse climate change. Additionally, Charm is exploring ways of contributing to wildfire fuel reduction by processing woody biomass into bio-oil with various forest management partners throughout the US.

In the future, at a large enough scale of bio-oil production, Charm will be able to use bio-oil as an input into steel making that avoids the use of new fossil fuels while still capturing emissions and removing them from the atmosphere. Charm is actively commercializing this technology in addition to scaling its bio-oil production operations.

Why We Picked This Project

The United States alone has over 39 million hectares of corn production, and stover makes up nearly half of the yield of a corn crop. In addition to the massive mitigation potential of corn stover, there’s significant potential for this technology to process other forms of biomass waste such as sawdust, wood-chips, and nutshells for bio-oil production. A byproduct of Charm’s bio-oil production is biochar, which Charm plans to return to the farmer’s fields and forest floor to support nutrient replenishment and eventually reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

The production of bio-oil is well-established as a highly additional and highly permanent form of carbon removal. Support for this project helps validate and scale up this new technology, stimulating a growing carbon removal industry, and increasing the probability of successfully decarbonizing steel production in the future. CO2 is especially excited about the potential to quantify the many co-benefits of the project, and the application of the technology to steelmaking.

Our Assessment of this Project

Standards & Certifications

  • Bio-oil Sequestration Prototype Protocol for Measurement, Reporting, & Verification

Project Developer

Timeline

Mar 2021 - Start of operations

Charm started actively sequestering 3rd party waste bio-oil

Dec 2022 - Production and sequestration increases

Charm increases bio-oil production and sequestration volumes via smaller custom-built pyrolyzers

Jul 2023 - Pyrolzers added

Charm adds additional purpose-built pyrolyzers, increasing daily production capacity per pyrolyzer by ~10x

Dec 2025 - Carbon removals delivered

Charm delivers CO2’s share of permanent carbon removals

Benefits & Impact

Co-Benefits

  • Increased profit margins for farmers by creating value for a waste byproduct.

  • Employment for current and former oil and gas workers to transport and inject the bio-oil, giving them good-paying, long-term opportunities using their existing skills in a growing sector not tied to fossil fuel production.

  • By providing a mobile solution for excess biomass, Charm can process agricultural and woodland residues that would otherwise be burned, improving air quality for those communities and avoiding emissions.

Sustainable Development Goals

This project supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureResponsible Consumption and ProductionClimate Action

Additional Information

Vintage

2025

Permanence

1000+ years

Additionality Summary

The biomass processed into bio-oil would have been burned or left to decompose, and would not have been used for fossil fuel displacing bio-energy. Revenues from carbon finance are critical for this work to be implemented and scaled.