Brick maker turns to wood as oil price climbs

Published:  11 March, 2011

CHESHAM: Brick maker HG Matthews lit for the first time this week its new wood-fired kiln. The kiln operates alongside its four oil-fired kilns using wood from 90-acres of woodland the company owns near its manufacturing site.

Jim Matthews, who runs the company, told the Daily Telegraph: "The price of diesel has really eaten into our profit margins. And during the recession - with the slump in demand for building materials - it's difficult to pass on those cost increases to customers.

"If oil continues to climb, it will become prohibitively expensive to fire our kilns with diesel." Red diesel has climbed from 7p a litre ten years ago to 70p now, with each kiln firing costing £3150 in fuel. Matthews said that once he had invested in wood processing plant the wood fired kiln would be cheaper to run than the oil ones. "I think there is a strong possibility of switching our entire production of 2.5m bricks a year to wood," he said.

Wood kilns do not reach the 1100C temperatures that oil-fired ones do, heating to about 900C, but Matthews said that the bricks his company specialised in, which were often used in conservation work, benefited from a slightly lower temperature, which gave the bricks a redder hue.

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