What diseases do charcoal manufacturers get

Uslar / Bodenfelde. Wood, wood, wood: the felling is currently in full swing in the Solling. Forest managers and contracted forest contractors are employed everywhere by the state forests to thwart forest stands and cut down wood that is ready to be harvested.

It is transported to the forest roads and later driven there with special timber trucks. Especially the hardwood forests with beech and oak trunks are now harvested in the winter months. While particularly valuable and thick logs are brought to the tender as possible veneer goods, in order to be auctioned at the highest bidder there against a written maximum bid, a large part of the average quality is sold to local sawmills.

The thin, low-quality wood can be processed into chipboard or paper, but it is also popular with firewood customers. In addition, there has been a traditional bulk buyer for over 115 years: the Profagus factory in Bodenfelde. In Germany's last large charcoal factory, the beech wood is processed into charcoal, packaged and transported to sales outlets all over Germany.

The charcoal plant "Chemische Fabrik G. Ottmann & Co." (formerly Hiag, then Degussa, later Chemviron, today it belongs to a group of investors), founded in 1896, processes 100,000 tons of untreated beech wood annually with 130 employees and obtains its raw material mainly in a radius 50 kilometers around the plant - and that for 117 years.

The Lower Saxony State Forests deliver a significant amount of beech industrial wood to the charcoal manufacturer every year. The four forest offices in southern Lower Saxony, Dassel, Neuhaus, Münden and Reinhausen, are important raw material suppliers for the plant on the Weser.

Most of the tree trunks come from Solling, Germany's 2013 forest area. The Neuhaus Forestry Office alone produces 12,000 cubic meters directly in front of the factory gates in Bodenfelde.

Hans Jürgen Schröder from the Amelith forester's house runs the Steinborn district forester. “Around 1000 solid cubic meters of Profagus wood come from my forestry department. The harvester makes work a lot easier, because the harvester processes the beech trunks quickly and safely, ”says the forester.

After the beech wood has been chopped to the length of the firewood at the Profagus charcoal factory and dried, it is filled into so-called “retorts” - seven in number and each holding 100 cubic meters. There the wood is turned into charcoal.

But while the old charcoal piles in the forest worked with oxygen-controlled combustion, in Bodenfelde the "dry distillation" method is used: For this purpose, a gas that is also produced during the manufacturing process is fed into the retorts at 500 degrees Celsius, which dissolves the remaining substances from the wood and leaves only the pure carbon after 18.5 hours.

4500 tons of acetic acid as well as wood tar, flavorings for the food industry and charcoal meal are produced as by-products. Beech charcoal also has its place in medicine: charcoal tablets are said to help with diarrhea.

After twelve hours of cooling, the charcoal is sieved and packed in sacks, small pieces and dust are pressed into high-quality briquettes. This finally turns 3.5 tons of dry beech wood into one ton of charcoal.

Only charcoal is actually made of wood, while goods advertised as “barbecue charcoal” can also be made of lignite. In order to protect endangered forests, consumers should, according to a spokesman for the state forests, ensure that the coal consists exclusively of domestic hardwood instead of tropical or coniferous wood.

You can recognize good charcoal by a simple trick: Take a long, thin piece of charcoal and hit it against a sharp corner. While nothing happens with bad charcoal, good charcoal with a bright sound like glass breaks into many pieces. Bad charcoal can contain acids and tars.

Charcoal burns quickly, while the egg-shaped briquettes get going more slowly - but the embers last longer and better. (fsd)