Over 110,000 tonnes of charcoal is used in the UK every year
- Wood-derived biochar, a form of sustainable charcoal, can benefit the environment and the economy
- Biochar can offset 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually
- The European biochar market is worth £0.45 billion and is set to reach £0.56 billion by 2025
Biochar offers a wide variety of benefits and uses including carbon capture, water treatment, fuel source, odour control, soil improvement and industrial applications.
A thermal conversion process known as pyrolysis, which heats biomass in a reactor vessel containing an oxygen-free atmosphere, can be used to reprocess tree cuttings and other woody material into a solid product known as biochar.
Caradoc Charcoal Ltd, based in the Stretton Hills in rural Shropshire are producers of sustainably sourced 100% guaranteed British charcoal. The independent, family business is run by duo Kevin Fryer and Charlotte Smith.
In 2019, having spent 25 years in the firewood business, they made the move to produce charcoal using a blend of native grown hardwood trees, all felled under licence from the Forestry Commission.
Their impressive product range includes charcoal, barbeque smoking wood chips and chunks in a variety of flavours including whiskey oak barrel, cherry and sweet chestnut, hardwood kindling and natural wood wool firelighters.
Caradoc’s customer base stretches from Scotland to the Isle of Wight. Not only do they supply their products to barbecue, pizza oven and firepit cookery enthusiasts, they also boast top chefs, farm shops and some of the UK’s best restaurants among their growing list of regular purchasers.
Caradoc’s charcoal production process
Caradoc use only sustainably sourced British hardwood to make their charcoal products: ash, oak and chestnut. Firstly the wood is dried in a kiln before the charcoal is made via the retort process, a very efficient and clean method. A retort is a double-barrelled, air-tight steel vessel in which the wood to be charred is isolated and heated at high temperatures of up to 500°C by a separate fire.
Evolving gases are used to further heat the vessel and completely burn the wood, saving on fuel and reducing smoke emissions. The process, which can take between ten and twelve hours, is not wasteful with useful by-products resulting from the reaction including charcoal dust, wood vinegar and biochar.
Biochar: a new market horizon
The wood-derived biochar left over from Caradoc’s charcoal production process offers numerous commercial and environmental benefits, and could potentially provide an additional revenue stream for the family firm.
As part of their business development drive, Kevin and Charlotte have been exploring the merits of biochar and are considering new market opportunities for this sustainable material – ranging from utilising it as a soil enhancer to pelletising it for fuel or cat litter.
Discover more about how EBRI helped Caradoc Charcoal explore this new market opportunity.