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The US market potential for biochar is estimated at over 3 billion tons. However, there are many factors affecting the development of that market, including: technology, quality standards, education and marketing, and economics. Dovetail Partners, the US Biochar Initiative (USBI), the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) and The Watershed Research and Training Center have collaborated on an assessment of the state of the biochar industry. The objective is to define the scope and scale of the North American biochar market, and quantify its potential for woody biomass utilization. The study results identify constraints of the current production system and identify gaps requiring further attention. The supply potential from National Forests is a specific consideration within the research. National Forests in many regions are located in close proximity to agricultural lands (i.e., potential biochar users) and have the potential to be a major supplier of woody biomass due to management and restoration needs on National Forests.

Forestlands across the US are in need of improvement and restoration.  Forest practitioners are in need of additional profitable avenues for low-value woody biomass.  Biochar has been an emerging market for at least a decade and is characterized currently by a few large and many small producers, all pursuing profitable operations.  The industry is in a stage of rapid technological developments which appear to offer the potential for a mid-range producer-class to emerge, but the demand for large quantities of biochar has been hampered by reluctant buyers due to the lack of consistent standards, unverified claims, and widely varying price and availability.  This report identifies the key next steps in realizing the potential for the US biochar industry including establishing standards, a comprehensive marketing initiative, and testing to validate biochar’s application benefits.

For background information on biochar see past Dovetail reports: Biochar 101: An Introduction to an Ancient Product Offering Modern Opportunities www.dovetailinc.org/report_pdfs/2016/dovetailbiochar0316.pdf and Biochar as an Innovative Wood Product: A Look at Barriers to Realization of its Full Potential http://www.dovetailinc.org/report_pdfs/2017/dovetailbiocharpotential0517.pdf

The work upon which this publication is based was funded in whole or in part through a grant awarded by the Wood Education and Resource Center, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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