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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Modelling the global potential and limitations of biomass pyrolysis as a negative emission technology using a dynamic vegetation model

Constanze is a PhD student in the flagship project “Planetary Opportunities and Planetary Boundaries” at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Department of Geography at Humboldt-University Berlin. In her research, she evaluates potentials and impacts of pyrogenic carbon capture and storage as a negative emission technology.


Negative emission technologies are increasingly considered mandatory for climate change mitigation strategies limiting mean global warming to 1.5°C as specified in the Paris Agreement. Thus, diverse methods for removing carbon from the atmosphere are currently being discussed among the scientific community and political arena as part of mitigation portfolios. 
This PhD project will assess the global biophysical potential and limitations of a negative emission technology that is currently underrepresented in these discussions: pyrogenic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS). Pyrolysis is the thermal treatment of biomass at temperatures between 350 and 900 °C in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere. Three main carbonaceous products are generated during this process, which can subsequently be stored in different ways to produce negative emissions: a solid biochar, a pyrolytic liquid (bio-oil), and permanent-pyrogas. Due to its highly recalcitrant nature, biochar applied to soil essentially reallocates carbon from the atmospheric to the soil carbon pool.

During my PhD I will estimate the global sequestration potential of PyCCS, analyze the impacts of a large-scale implementation on main functionalities within the Earth System, and assess long-term consequences of the deployment for the global carbon cycle. The Dynamic Global Vegetation Model LPJmL will be applied and adapted in order to calculate the biomass available for PyCCS, to assess planetary boundaries and to simulate long-term shifts in the soil carbon pool.


Constanze holds a Master’s degree in Physical Geography of Human-Environment-Systems from Humboldt University in Berlin. Since April 2017 she has been working in the project BioCAP-CCS at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Prior to this, she worked in a project on climate change education at Deutsches Klima-Konsortium and as a student assistant at the Chair in Sustainability Science of the Geography Department at Humboldt-University.




Constanze Werner, Doctoral Researcher
THESys Graduate Program
Tel.: +49 331 288 20767
E-Mail: constanze.werner@pik-potsdam.de