Northern biochar for northern restoration

This project aims to identify different types of biochar that promote hydrocarbon degradation in contaminated northern soils.   Biochar is a term for a product that results from heating various biological ingredients, such as wood, fish or animal bone under oxygen limited conditions.  In southern climates, biochar has proven to have many benefits for the environment, including increased soil pH, water holding capacity, and plant growth, as well as promoting hydrocarbon degradation at contaminated sites.  This project will not only examine how biochar promotes hydrocarbon degradation in the North, but will also work with industry to support biochar commercialization in arctic environments.

Project Overview

Our industrial partners are Nunatta Environmental based in Iqaluit, NT, Federated Cooperatives Limited (FCL) based in Saskatoon, SK and Zakus Farms based in Whitehorse, YT.  Both Nunatta Environmental and FCL would like to have this biochar developed for their northern hydrocarbon restoration needs.  Zakus Farms, which already produces biochar, would like to develop a product for restoration to diversify their product line.

In the summer of 2012 field trials were initiated with biochar made from bonemeal, fishmeal and wood in Whitehorse and Iqaluit.  These trials will examine different biochar formulations and applications for ex-situ (landfarm) hydrocarbon management.  In the fall of 2012 vertical soil cores were sampled within a hydrocarbon contaminated aquifer at Meadow Lake Saskatchewan.  Laboratory trials examining the use of biochar slurries in promoting hydrocarbon degradation in aquifer soil cores and the role of biochar in promoting hydrocarbon degradation under frozen soil conditions will be ongoing at both the University of Saskatchewan and the Yukon Research Centre.

This project will help to develop biochar production in Iqaluit and Whitehorse, reducing restoration costs and increasing restoration success in northern Canada by providing a local source of biochar that is specifically formulated for northern restoration.

Project Team

Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Chris Hawkins, Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College; Steven Siciliano, Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan

Investigator: Derek Peak, Associate Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan

Project Manager: Dr. Katherine Stewart, Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College


Zakus Farms

Nunatta Environmental Services

Federated Co-operatives Limited


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada



Northern Biochar for Northern Remediation and Restoration (conf. proceedings)

Mine Restoration with Biochar (card)