Home NewsRadiocarbon analysis of biogas and smoke

Radiocarbon analysis of biogas and smoke

Monday July 24th 2023

Radiocarbon analysis of biogas and smoke by CIRAM. Biogas offers new prospects for biofuels. In addition, the analysis of chimney smoke is one of the criteria for establishing the carbon footprint of industrial companies. Radiocarbon or carbon 14 will quantify the biogenic and fossil parts of these gaseous materials.

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Specialists in carbon-14 analysis, CIRAM laboratories use ASTM D6866 to deliver results that comply with regulations. Discover without delay the contribution of radiocarbon to the analysis of biogas, but also industrial chimney fumes.

The principle of radiocarbon analysis

Biogas contain mainly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These elements can be quantified by elemental analysis, for example. But it is impossible to distinguish the biogenic or fossil origin of a hydrogen or oxygen atom. However, it is possible to do so for carbon. The 14 isotope of carbon is unstable, so it changes over time. Its concentration is halved every 5,730 years, a process known as "half-life". After 10 periods, carbon 14 has completely disappeared. Natural gas comes from the decomposition of organic materials over millions of years, well beyond the 10 periods of carbon 14, i.e. around 60,000 years. Natural gas therefore no longer contains any carbon 14. Conversely, today's biomass has a full reserve of carbon-14, known as "modern carbon". Radiocarbon analysis is used to quantify the proportion of biosourced or biogenic carbon (modern) and fossil carbon (ancient) present in biogas.

Carbon-14 flue gas analysis

Depending on the fuel burned, flue gases will contain more or less biogenic CO2. CIRAM laboratories perform radiocarbon analysis of chimney smoke CO2 in compliance with ASTM D6866.

From the measurement of carbon-14 concentration, CIRAM determines the percentage of biogenic carbon in relation to carbon of fossil origin. Two types of carbon are distinguished with:

  • Materials containing biogenic carbon (rich in carbon 14). This corresponds to wood, paper and biomass of animal or plant origin.
  • Materials containing fossil carbon (low in carbon 14), i.e. coal, oil or natural gas.

Measurement can be made directly on a smoke sample that will have been collected at the chimney outlet. CIRAM laboratories use special bags to collect CO2 on site. Fine particles can also be sampled from filters installed on industrial chimneys.

A system dedicated to biogas and smoke analysis thanks to CIRAM laboratories

CIRAM has developed a system dedicated to biogas and smoke analysis. This system is directly connected to the automatic graphitizer. The gas is not injected into the elemental analyzer, as with solids and liquids, but passes through a "sulfur trap". It is vital to trap the sulfur before graphitization, as sulfur is a graphitization inhibitor. The gas, once purified, will be transformed into graphite (pure carbon) by the graphitizer.

Caution, this system does not provide elemental concentration information, nor stable isotopy, as the gas is injected directly into the graphitizer without passing through the EA-IRMS.

Laboratoires CIRAM, specialist in carbon 14 dating

Laboratoires CIRAM measure, by radiocarbon, your biofuel samples in general, and biogas in particular, as well as industrial fumes to define the percentage of biogenic material they contain.

Carbon 14 analysis is possible on gas, but also on liquids and solids. CIRAM complies with the ASTM D6866 standard for the study of your biogas, to provide you with reliable and accurate expertise.

The ASTM D6866 standard is a reference in the analysis of biofuels and biogas using the carbon 14 technique. Our engineers interpret the results in the laboratory before providing complete results within a maximum of 10 working days.