Canadian Biomass Magazine

Carbon-14 testing can measure biogenic versus fossil carbon in hydrocarbon and fuel gases: Lab

May 9, 2024
By Canadian Biomass Staff

A testing laboratory in the United States is putting a spotlight on biogenic testing. With environmental sustainability top of mind, Carbon-14 testing is recognized as a key method for assessing the biogenic content of gases, according to Beta Analytic.

Carbon-14 testing acts as a solution to address environmental concerns by measuring biogenic versus fossil carbon in hydrocarbon and fuel gases,” it said.

Biogenic carbon, which is derived from renewable sources, does not add additional CO2 to the atmosphere, unlike its fossil fuel counterparts, it said. This distinction is crucial as biogenic carbon is considered carbon-neutral, helping to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with climate change.

Renewables versus fossil fuels

The testing, which primarily focuses on gases such as methane, propane, and butane, follows the ASTM D6866 standard. This method determines the percentage of carbon in hydrocarbon and fuel gases that originates from renewable sources, as opposed to fossil fuels which have been sequestered in the earth for millions of years.


“When biomass is combusted, the CO2 that was previously captured by plants during photosynthesis is released,” it said. “This makes biomass carbon-neutral as it does not contribute additional CO2 to the atmosphere unlike fossil fuel gases.”

Conversely, fossil fuel feedstocks are non-renewable resources, it said. The CO2 released when fossil fuels are burned has been sequestered millions of years ago and has not been part of the active carbon cycle for a long time. This makes fossil fuels a major contributor to climate change, it said.

What type of samples can be analyzed?

  • A bulk composition of gases and isolated gases of methane, CO2 (in a mixture or “raw biogas”), propane, and butane.
  • Hydrocarbon gases composed of biogas, landfill gas, biomethane, RNG, co-processing gaseous fuels, renewable gas feedstocks, syngas, geogenic methane, soil gases, waste to energy gases, enteric gases, renewable propane, bioreactor gases, and intermediate gases.

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