They make Swedish charcoal – in boilers from Ukraine

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In the courtyard in front of the wood factory, giant sacks of chopped birch wood stand in endless rows. Further up there are large piles of wood drying and beyond them stacks of boards from the company’s small-scale sawmill production. The slanted boards in the building where the loud wood splitter stands all come from own production. In the same building there is now also a coal furnace imported from Ukraine. The boiler itself arrived in December last year, but the packing machine was ordered later and would have arrived at Aspåsnäset around the time Russia attacked its neighboring country. “We had paid 70 percent and then it was completely silent, you couldn’t get hold of them. Then they got in touch and thought they could get it out of the country, but it was a little nervous to pay the remaining 30 percent,” says Rasmus Dahlberg. The company that supplied the coal furnace and packing machine is located just east of Kyiv. When the boiler was to be started, the Ukrainians were on the link, but had to interrupt sometimes.”It was one evening when I was cooking and the technician wrote: ‘Now the air raid alarm is going off, so now I have to stop, I’ll be back in a few hours.’ Then it’s like pretty close,” says Fredrik Dahlberg.At the beginning of June the packing machine arrived and the production of Storsjökol could start. The three brothers, Rasmus, Viktor and Fredrik Dahlberg started the company Dahlbergs skosvård in 2011 together with their father Michael Dahlberg and today have ten employees on an annual basis. Clearing and planting in the forest account for the majority, around 80 percent, of the company’s turnover. The investment in firewood production came about as a way to create work during the off-season in forest work, but has proven to be difficult to achieve good profitability in. Increased electricity prices may affect the demand for firewood, but in Jämtland, where the company’s customers are located, electricity prices do not increase in the same pace as in southern Sweden. “We came to the conclusion that firewood production was not really profitable at all, it was better to be free instead, so we would either stop with firewood or invest in it,” says Rasmus Dahlberg. It was there somewhere that he started thinking about how to make coal. A few Googlings later, he had found a Facebook group for home manufacturers of barbecue charcoal. “Then I thought I should try making a simple charcoal, so we stood here in the pouring rain and welded a barrel together,” says Rasmus Dahlberg.It was last the summer and the experiment impressed the father and the brothers.”The meat tastes better. These fine grills, they can tell the difference,” says Michael Dahlberg. The thoughts went further, should you invest in further processing of the wood and start producing charcoal? “We have the wood production, we have the premises, we have all the possibilities,” says Fredrik Dahlberg. The domestic coal producers, just like Dahlberg’s forestry, are all relatively small-scale. “A strong contributing factor is that we use 22,000 tons of barbecue charcoal per year in Sweden and most of it is imported,” says Viktor Dahlberg. In recent years, several reports have shown that even some of the charcoal sold from European producers is imported and only repackaged in the country indicated on the bag. The origin can even be illegally harvested rainforest from Africa or South America.”There is a lot of dark carbon on the market. When it is shipped this far and still costs SEK 49 a bag, something is wrong. It is more expensive to manufacture in Sweden, but it is a bulky product and if the store has its share, the wholesaler has its share and the transport company has its share, what will the person who manufactures the coal get?’, says Fredrik Dahlberg.

Dahlberg’s forest management

Owners: Michael, Rasmus, Fredrik and Viktor Dahlberg. Turnover in 2021: SEK 22.6 million. Result after financial net: SEK 165,000. Number of employees: Approximately 10 full-year employees and a number of seasonal employees.The Dahlberg family wants to highlight its Storsjökol as a slightly more expensive premium product, locally produced from birch from the forests of Jämtland. “Consumers like to buy local products, even if it costs a few kroner more,” says Fredrik Dahlberg. Today, the coal is sold via local food and hardware stores and to restaurants via wholesalers. When the coal is being made, a person must be on site at all times in case something happens. It takes eight hours for the boiler to reach the heat required for pyrolysis, the process that turns wood into coal, to start. Therefore, the boiler is run non-stop for a few days and new woodcarts are brought in as they go. Once the boiler is up to temperature, the process is driven by the flue gas released from the coal. There are also plans to manufacture tent defrosting charcoal, which, unlike barbecue charcoal, is a winter product. The summer’s sales have been a bit slow, partly production started late, partly the barbecue weather has not been the best. But there is good hope for the future. “If it goes well and there is purchasing power, we will buy another boiler,” says Fredrik Dahlberg.

How is your company affected by the turbulent environment?

“Diesel prices, material prices and various components – some things are double or triple as expensive as just a few months ago,” says Fredrik Dahlberg.

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