A new operation carried out in Minas Gerais brought together professionals with the challenge of taking technology, reducing pollution and increasing production in a sector known for its environmental problems: charcoal.
Participants in the initiative called themselves [email protected] sem Fronteiras, in reference to Médecins Sans Frontières. But while the project, which originated in France, tracks the weight of malnourished children, applies injections and tests to diagnose diseases, its Minas Gerais version takes care of the working conditions of those who work with the manufacture of charcoal, helping to reduce methane emissions. In the atmosphere.
Charcoal is produced from burning wood and is a fundamental raw material for the steel industry. The correct thing, according to the legislation, is that it is produced only from reforestation trees, but this rule is often disregarded, with the use of wood from protected forests.
Last Monday (20), the MP-MG (Minas Gerais Public Ministry) and the Military Police launched an operation against the production, transport and sale of illegal charcoal. 44 search and seizure warrants were served in 17 municipalities. The objective, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, was precisely to investigate the use of charcoal from native vegetation in the Atlantic Forest.
Precisely because of this history of the sector, the work of [email protected] sem Fronteiras involves only charcoal taken from planted forests. “Ten years ago we developed software to improve the charcoal production process and we are working to implement the project, transferring technology,” said mechanical engineer Túlo Jardim Raad, 54, director of the initiative.
[email protected] sem Fronteiras was created in 2018 from a company belonging to the Raad itself and has the support of the Sustainable Steel Industry project, of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
According to the engineer, his project has already gone through 20 cities in the region, and the forecast is that it will go to at least 12 more locations.
The first procedure for the teams of [email protected] sem Fronteiras is to bring together owners and workers of farms where charcoal is legally produced. Then, according to the specialist, a diagnosis is made of how production is being carried out. “Many people still don’t have any knowledge of how the transformation of charcoal takes place. They put the wood inside the oven and set it on fire,” observed Raad.
According to him, the temperature of the ovens is the key to reducing methane emissions and improving the profitability of the final product. “The oven is like a pot with rice. It will cook the wood. It can come out good or bad. If it heats up too much, it turns out bad and the producer cannot sell it,” he explained.
The software developed by [email protected] precisely monitors the temperature of the ovens. In addition, producers also receive a notebook and a temperature gauge that help with the task.
“From there, it is possible to know the technical profile of the furnace, and make a simulation of both the yield and the quality”, pointed out the specialist. According to Raad, the best charcoal has between 70% and 77% concentrated carbon. In this range, the product has higher levels of use in the steel industry.
Through the software, it is possible to know if the temperature in the furnace needs to be increased or reduced so that the charcoal has this percentage of purity.
A worker in the charcoal sector, Rayane Mara de Oliveira Paula, 29, was a consultant at [email protected] sem Fronteiras and learned how to operate the oven monitoring software.
According to her, this helped mainly in the health of professionals in the sector. “We no longer do the unloading [retirada do carvão] with the hot ovens. There is no longer that abuse of opening a hot oven,” he said.
The state of Minas Gerais is the largest producer of charcoal in the country. The sector handles 5 billion tons of the product per year, with revenue of approximately R$ 5 billion. The state has more than 1,000 charcoal producers and 20,000 workers working in the area, says [email protected] Sem Fronteiras.
One of these producers is Guilherme Freitas, 60, from Sete Lagoas, near Belo Horizonte. He and his 17-year-old son underwent training at [email protected] sem Fronteira.
“Before, I placed 10 meters of wood in the kiln and removed 4 meters of charcoal. With the new system, the proportion changed to 10 meters placed and 6 meters removed,” stated the producer.