Ozarks Roots-Products Missouri: Black is Green
For many in the Ozarks, charcoal plants are so familiar we don’t give them much thought. But do you know how something as unremarkable as a burning stick of wood has shaped our world?
Evidence of charcoal usage has been dated to around 3500 B.C. For many centuries charcoal was the chosen fuel for smelting and shaping metals. Without it, the Bronze and Iron Ages would not have happened. Charcoal was used in the production of glass and gunpowder, and a liquid byproduct was used in the ancient Egyptian embalming process.
In Colonial America the collier (charcoal maker) was an integral figure in the iron and blacksmithing industries.
After the Civil War demand for charcoal declined as new technologies came into use. However, around 1920 charcoal made a revival when Henry Ford invented the briquette using sawdust and scrap wood from his automobile factory. Ford used his invention of this portable, light and easy to use fuel to encourage the use of cars for picnic outings. Barbeque grills and Ford charcoal were sold at his dealerships. When Ford needed land to build his charcoal plant, a relative, E.G. Kingsford, brokered the site selection. The company was renamed Kingsford Charcoal in his honor.
GoldStar Charcoal, located near Raymondville, Mo., is an example of how modern charcoal plants are not only clean burning but energy efficient too. “Our clean air technology leaves the air here cleaner than the DNR and EPA regulation levels,” said board member David Bane. Operations Manager Mark Buckner explained the process. “Smoke from the burning kilns is brought to the afterburner through the duct that runs across the roofs of the kilns. We burn propane in the afterburner to heat the smoke to the state required 1570 degrees, but the smoke ignites at around 1300 degrees. All the particulates burn out of the smoke and steam is all that’s left.”
GoldStar works with Seidel Research and Development Company (SRADCO), an engineering firm in Columbia, Mo., and their affiliate, BioDiverse Energies (BDE). These companies research, develop and integrate energy and environmental technologies for companies who are looking to be more efficient, productive and environmentally friendly. Once in place, their charcoal/wood gasification units will allow GoldStar to produce a variety of carbon byproducts and supply their own electrical and thermal energy needs. “There’s enough energy produced here at this twelve-kiln plant to power the mill,” Mark said.
GoldStar currently sells their charcoal in bulk to other bagging facilities but is in the process of starting their own bagging system. Once removed from the kiln, the charcoal will go into a shaker box that will sort the pieces by size and send them by conveyer into a hopper at the top of the bagger. Pieces from 1 in. to dust, known as ‘fines’ will be vacuumed into a large sealed box where it will be bagged separately and sold for briquette production. GoldStar’s future plans also include producing activated charcoal.
Added values for the future
The mill was originally Thomason Charcoal, begun in the mid- 1960’s by Denney Thomason and his father. “Before then there were no jobs in Raymondville,” Mark stated. “The mill was good for the town and the local loggers.”
Mark worked for Denney Thomason for three years before the plant was purchased by the Missouri Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA) in 2005. Production was off and on while the afterburners were built and tested. Operations started again in January of 2007. According to board member David Bane, DSA Board of Directors chose to purchase the mill then appointed DSA members to serve on its board. “It’s good for the organization because we’re trying to get away from telemarketing for fundraising; it’s good for the area and the people because it provides jobs.”
GoldStar’s long-term plans include researching and developing processes that will provide them the ability to utilize by-products of charcoal production as well as waste-to-energy technology. The plant uses only slabs from sawmills and unsuitable materials from other forest products industries for their charcoal production. “It takes 100 to a 110 tons of wood to fill a kiln,” Mark said. “We get 22 or 23 tons of coal and six or seven tons of fines.”