News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Microsoft to use Freres carbon removal technology

The Microsoft Corporation will use a carbon removal technology developed by Lyons-based Santiam Canyon lumber giant Freres as part of its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. 

ACT Commodities will serve as the “broker” in the deal, selling Freres’ biochar-based carbon removal credits to Microsoft. The program is part of Microsoft’s efforts to be carbon negative by 2030, said Elizabeth Willmott, the software giant’s carbon program director.

Wood waste is shown being transferred to a furnace at the Freres Lumber’s engineered wood facility in Lyons. The material is being used to help companies reduce their carbon footprint.
Wood waste is shown being transferred to a furnace at the Freres Lumber’s engineered wood facility in Lyons. The material is being used to help companies reduce their carbon footprint.

ACT commodities helps organizations around the world reduce their carbon footprint by backing high-impact climate projects that generate renewable certificates and carbon credits. 

Biochar is the solid, carbon-rich product produced when biomass is converted to energy. A byproduct of Freres’ biomass cogeneration operations, biochar helps companies decrease their carbon footprint using carbon offsets. 

Biochar production provides the opportunity to treat underused biomass, such as forest fuel load reductions, slash from tree harvest and mill residuals, in an economic and environmentally beneficial way, Freres officials say.

“We intend to continue developing applications for our biochar,” said Kyle Freres, vice president of operations. “We believe wood products are a key element to combating climate change and we have a three-pronged approach to respecting our environment: develop sustainable and recyclable construction products, adhere to sustainable forest management practices, and produce energy and carbon reducing byproducts from wood products that have reached the end of their usable lives.”

Biochar is produced as a by-product of biomass combustion in a boiler. Microsoft will be purchasing biochar produced by Freres Lumber as part of its efforts to approach carbon negativity.
Biochar is produced as a by-product of biomass combustion in a boiler. Microsoft will be purchasing biochar produced by Freres Lumber as part of its efforts to approach carbon negativity.

Here is how the process works:

A boiler is fed with a wide range of local biomass, including bark and waste from the production of timber products. 

During production, part of the biomass volatilizes into combustible gases that are used to produce bio-energy, producing enough electricity each year to power approximately 5,000 homes and provide thermal energy for Freres’ manufacturing facilities.

In addition to the excess energy created during the production process, two byproducts result from biomass combustion in a boiler: first, a non-combustible ash product, which is essentially dirt and sand that can be absorbed by trees during their lifecycle, and also biochar, a latticework of thermally altered, stabilized carbon.

Carbon stored in the biochar was removed originally from the atmosphere through the photosynthesis of the tree.

Biochar binds minerals and nutrients, increases water holding capacity, encourages microbial and fungal life in soils, and helps to form soil aggregates. Biochar also is used as a soil amendment or greenhouse additive to increase soil fertility, to remove pollutants from stormwater and wastewater, to remediate contaminated soils, to reduce odor emissions from composting operations and to filter drinking water.

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