VISIT TO A CHARCOAL FACTORY, KUALA SEPATANG, DAY TRIP
We joined Tong Ann Association for a one-day trip, paying Rm 100 each, inclusive of bus fare, two meals, entrance tickets, a 750 ml bottle of mineral water and travel insurance. Found out that the association sponsored Rm 48 each for senior citizens. The journey started around 7 am (always some late arrival) and ended around mid-night. It was a long tiring journey, in hot humid weather. It was a boring journey except the dusty and smelly coal factory and duck farm. The fish farm had nothing to show off, but the meals there were fairly good for the cost paid. The sceneries outside the Highways were the most attractive: limestone’s hills and greens over miles, with clear blue sky.
Coal is the black mineral (anthracite) found below ground; whereas charcoal is burnt wood (high carbonaceous and pyrolysis material), produced by heating wood in absence of oxygen, thereby a man-made fuel. Pyro means fire, lysis means separation; that implies thermochemical decomposition at elevated temperature (200 to 300 C), in absence of oxygen. Malaysia produces about 0.1% of world charcoal (Brazil was no. 1 producer), and is a sunset industry. Despite this Malaysia produces high quality charcoal for export, for we have high quality greenwood (Bakau Minyak), our mangrove trees are logged only after thirty years. These trees are grown at swampy areas at river mouth. The charcoals are used for cosmetic, medication (activated charcoal), odour absorption, fuel energy, BBQ; liquid from dehydration is used as antiseptics; bark sold as agricultural fertilizer.
Charcoal is a product of both primary (char) and secondary (coke) reactions. The first phase involved dehydration and decarboxylation; the secondary phase is conversion of pyrolysis.
We visited a popular charcoal factory, Chuah Chow Ann, at Kuala Sepatang. Before we entered the factory site, smell of burnt wood pervaded the air, black sooth coated on the nearby buildings. The owner spent more than half an hour explaining his product; he charcoaled some sweet potatoes as gifts to guest.