Riverse's Certification Process for Bioenergies & Biochar: A Meticulous Path to Carbon Credits

January 26, 2024



Carbon neutrality
Grégoire Guirauden

Grégoire Guirauden

Chief Operations Officer

The global reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to the alarming rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for roughly 75% of the world's total. In a bid to combat climate change, alternative energy sources such as biomass have gained prominence.

When harnessed for bioenergy, biomass becomes a carbon-neutral solution, and with bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), it can even achieve carbon negativity. One notable byproduct of certain BECCS systems is biochar, a material capable of sequestering carbon for extended periods.

This article delves into Riverse's certification process for bioenergies and biochar, shedding light on key technologies, co-products, and the meticulous steps involved in obtaining carbon credits.

First things, first: What are Bioenergies & Biochar and how are they created?

Bioenergies: A Spectrum of Sustainable Solutions

Bioenergies encompass a range of renewable energy forms derived from organic materials, including:

  • biofuels (such as bioethanol and biodiesel)
  • biogas (including biomethane and bioH2)
  • biopower (electricity or heat from biomass)
  • bioheat (direct burning of biomass for heating).

These sources are created by converting the energy stored in biological matter through processes like combustion, anaerobic digestion, and biochemical conversion.

Biochar: The Black Gold of Sustainable Agriculture for carbon credit?

Biochar, often referred to as "black gold," is a type of charcoal produced through pyrolysis—a process involving the heating of organic materials like wood or agricultural residues in the absence of oxygen. Apart from enhancing soil fertility, water retention, and nutrient availability, biochar plays a pivotal role in carbon sequestration, contributing to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The utilization of biochar varies, including soil amendment for long-term carbon removal, construction material enhancement for mid-term removal, and substitution for industrial applications, with permanence considerations.

Pyrolysis and gasification represent distinct thermal processes employed to convert biomass into valuable products, including energy, fuels, chemicals, and biochar. Although these two thermal conversion technologies share a fundamental approach, each possesses unique characteristics.

Pyrolysis: A Transformative Thermal Process

Pyrolysis is a thermal decomposition process in which organic materials, such as biomass or waste, are heated in the absence of oxygen. This high-temperature treatment causes the material to break down into different components, typically yielding biochar, bio-oil, and syngas. While all these products are valuable, biochar is a key focus due to its potential for carbon sequestration and soil enhancement.

Gasification: Controlled Oxidation for Sustainable Outputs

Conversely, gasification involves a high-temperature process wherein organic materials experience partial oxidation in the presence of a controlled amount of oxygen and a gasification agent, such as steam or carbon dioxide.  The standard process includes drying the feedstock biomass, pyrolysis, gasification, and the subsequent cleaning and upgrading of syngas and bio-oil. In the gasification step, a controlled amount of oxygen or a gasification agent is introduced to the pyrolysis products within a high-temperature reactor, yielding syngas and heat.

We can therefore see that both pyrolysis and gasification offer solutions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to long-term carbon removal, aligning with the shift towards sustainable energy alternatives.

Integration of Methanisation for Enhanced Efficiency

Note that these technologies offer a toolset that can potentially be mixed between each other, and eventually improved with a methanisation units.

Diving into Riverse Standard's Carbon Credit Certification Path for bioenergy & biochar

Riverse carbon credit certification general approach

The Riverse Standard leads the charge in European carbon crediting, focusing on backing impactful industrial greentech projects.Noticing how today measurements can be lightly handled and leading to non-accurate numbers and misinformation, Riverse’s dedication to have a precise impact measurement is key in its mission. For the past years, our team of experts have crafted a robust methodology to measure accurately and with transparency greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector.

The Riverse Standard establishes mandatory guidelines for projects seeking certification, with rules and methodologies firmly grounded in rigorous scientific principles. Standard rules have been defined for all sectors with with specific methodologies & criteria depending on the industry.

Riverse carbon credit certification process step by step for bioenergy and biochar

  1. Eligibility Evaluation: Project developers initiate the process by filling out a Project Application (PA) form, evaluated for eligibility. The PA is either validated or declined, providing valuable feedback.
  2. Pre-Certification: Developers submit a Detailed Project Description (DPD) on the Riverse impact certification platform. After review and necessary proofreading, the project receives pre-certification status.
  3. Third-Party Validation and Certification: A third-party validation and verification body (VVB) contracts with the developer for an audit. Successful validation leads to project certification, issuance of pre-credits, and attachment of audit summaries to reports.
  4. Monitoring & Verification: Project developers regularly upload Key Impact Indicators (KIIs) for third-party verification. Riverse Carbon Credits (RCC) are issued and listed on the Riverse registry for potential sale.
  5. Credit Transactions: Developers handle purchase requests directly from buyers on the Riverse Registry, with the platform tracking all transactions and retirements of RCC.

Here you can find our Standard Rules.

The 14 Eligibility Criteria for Carbon Credit Certification applied to bioenergy & biochar

The Riverse Standard meticulously defines 14 criteria in the initial Eligibility step, tailored for each sector.

The following 14 criteria for Biochar & Bioenergy project are measured through certified proof the project holders must share. Criteria that are based on:

The project itself : 1/ Measurability (GHG emission avoidance), 2/ Realness, 3/ Additionality (prevalence & financial), 4/ Permanence (must sequester carbon for over 100 years) and 5/ Unicity.

The project’s social and environmental do no harm impacts: 6/ Ensuring the projects has co-benefits aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 7/ the proof that final products are suitable substitutes, their 8/ adherence to environmental and social standards - ensuring that our projects not only benefit but also uphold the highest environmental and social standards , 9/ making sure there is no leakage avoided GHG emissions are not transferred elsewhere and 10/ assessing rebound effects meaning we assess sector-scale rebound effects, mitigating risks related to increased overall energy consumption due to bioenergy improvements.

Economy and maturity context criteria : 11/ Technology Readiness Level (TRL), 12/ Targets Alignment (BECCS and biochar projects must lead to a minimum 40% reduction in GHG emissions), 13/ measuring their minimum impact (projects must justify at least 1000 tCO2eq avoided over the 5-year crediting period), and last but not least their 14/ independent validation (the third-party auditor must be accredited under Riverse VVB compliance guidances and procedures).

The Key to Measuring Impact: Robust Emission Quantification of bioenergy & biochar

Riverse Carbon Credit Robust Emission Quantification of bioenergy & biochar

Within the primary criterion of Measurability, it is essential to assess the quantity of carbon credits. They are calculated through the application of a what is called a “ Robust emission quantification”, following ISO 14064-2 - previously and most commonly named project-based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

So what is it? REQ is a rigorous method that entails modeling the environmental impacts of all material and energy flows throughout the entire life cycle of a product or service. This approach takes into account various life cycle stages, including raw material extraction, processing, utilisation, and end-of-life waste treatment. It measures whether the project activity effectively avoids greenhouse gas emissions compared to a baseline scenario.

Baseline Scenario of bioenergy & biochar

We notice today that baselines can often be voluntarily inaccurate in order to exaggerate the number of carbon credits emitted and sell more. Because it’s the baseline scenario that determines the issuance of carbon credits. It sets the stage for assessing emission avoidance or removal in a project. At Riverse, precision and transparency in our baseline scenarios are non-negotiable. Our commitment to a conservative approach and thorough methodology guarantees the accuracy of the carbon credits we issue.

An overview of the project scenario and baseline scenario of bioenergy and biochar

👉 The baseline scenario is defined based on the project inputs and outputs, our certification process requiring the following elements to build the baseline: amount and type of final products, description of the use of the product, transport distance and mode to place of use (if applicable), relevant characteristics of the product.

Project Scenario of bioenergy & biochar

Our assessment covers five critical life cycle stages where impact is measured through large amounts of tangible proofs required to the bioenergy & biochar project holders: Feedstock Provisioning and Transport, Pyrolysis/Gasification, Product Upgrading & Transport, Biochar Soil Amendment, and Infrastructure & Machinery. Each stage requires specific information and proof from  the bioenergy & biochar project holders: , ensuring a detailed assessment of impacts.

A detailed example of a project scenario of bioenergy and biochar

Conclusion: Riverse's carbon credit approach for bioenergy & biochar

Today, Riverse is proud to have thoroughly certified 3 bioenergy & biochar projects, avoiding 1200t CO2 per year.

Riverse’s meticulous measurement at every step of the process underscores our commitment to guaranteeing that each bioenergy and biochar project delivers a significant and quantifiable contribution to carbon avoidance, with precision in impact assessment.

At Riverse, we are dedicated to measuring impact, striving to shape the world’s destiny.

Explore the intricacies of our methodology in-depth by visiting our detailed methodology. Unlocking carbon credits with Riverse is not just a process; it's a journey towards a sustainable future.

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