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This study explores the environmental and energy benefits of biomass residues, including crop residues and agricultural waste, for the production of renewable energy in the form of biochar as fuel, in order to offer recommendations for policy makers, by reviewing information regarding the key environmental issues associated with the implementation of the systems. The highest environmental benefits for biochar-to-fuel systems were most observed in reduction of global warming potentials (i.e., carbon abatement), particularly for those integrated with combined heat and power technology, or for those incorporating electricity offsets from biochar combustion and co-firing. But all of these practices come at the cost of hidden environmental burdens, such as elevations in eutrophication, acidification, carcinogens and ecotoxicity impacts, as a consequence from land use change, additional infrastructure requirement or additional fertilizer application connected to biochar production or post-treatment. Other notable challenges, including regional availability of biomass residues, improper management of the residues, limited economic incentives, low energy efficiency and synergies, as well as mistreating adverse impacts from indirect land use change, were discussed. This suggests the flexibility to adjust the biomass-biochar ratio to optimize desired energy yields, carbon abatement and environmental beneficial objectives. Comprehensive analysis of the trade-offs between energy yields, carbon abatement and other associated environmental impacts is therefore recommended for future studies. Future studies in this field are also advised to explore the solution and to develop methodologies capable of quantifying the impacts and other equally relevant trade-offs, to better reflect the changes in real-world trends for decision making.

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Lee, M., Y.L. Lin, P.-T. Chiueh, W. Den (2020). “Environmental and Energy Assessment of Biomass Residues to Biochar as Fuel: A Brief Review with Recommendations for Future Bioenergy Systems,” Journal of Cleaner Production 251: 119714. DOI:

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