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 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 Manufactured firelog company develops natural prod

U.S. (The Record) Oct. 14--Duraflame Inc. has reinvented the log.

The Stockton company's manufactured firelogs, sold by the millions overthe past 30 years, are still made of recycled biomass products, such aswood sawdust and ground nut shells, held together by combustiblepetroleum-based waxes.

But the company has developed a product that not only helps it furthertout its firelogs as cleaner burning than open-hearth natural wood, italso begins moving at least some of its production away from increasinglyexpensive petroleum waxes.

The new All Natural Firelog produces little smoke and a three-fourths dropin particulate emissions compared with an open-hearth firewood fire, thecompany said. This compares with about a two-thirds drop from firewoodemissions with Duraflame's traditional petroleum wax-based firelogs.

Sarah Solari, Duraflame brand manager, said the All Natural Firelog doesgive the company another opportunity to market its products asalternatives to firewood.

"We've been very diligent in trying to communicate the cleaner-burningcharacteristics of our regular firelogs and been cautious to try and notcreate confusion by introducing the new All Natural Firelog," she said.

The company has four plants, one in Stockton, one in Kentucky and two inCanada. The All Natural Firelogs are manufactured in Stockton and so farare available in Orchard Supply Hardware stores.

In this age, moving away from petroleum-based anything isn't a bad movefor the company, which has seen the costs of petroleum waxes rise withincreasing petroleum prices, she said.

Increasing costs and shorter supplies of petroleum waxes in recent yearshave made it economically possible for the company to begin using moreexpensive natural waxes, such as soy and palm plant oils and waxes, asalternatives.

The All Natural Firelog comes in a 5-pound size and costs the same as atraditional 6-pound firelog, which is the largest of three traditionalDuraflame firelog sizes.

"Our expectation is that it will be somewhat of a niche product, butthere's a growing interest in this sort of product and it may take off,"she said.

"We're just trying to ride on the coattails of the movement for all thingsnatural."

Duraflame's research and development department tweaked the company'slongtime firelog formula a few years ago by adding a natural seed productthat created a natural crackling sound without emitting sparks from thefireplace.

The company got a patent for that formula, and the "Crackleflame" firelognow has an 8 percent share of the U.S. firelog market, according toDuraflame.

The company has developed a number of products over the years: aonce-a-month chimney maintenance firelog; an outdoor log with a naturalwood-like charred and ashed appearance; a multicolored flaming log; andlonger-burning logs, ranging up to 3 or 4 hours.

The company is rolling out the new product as local air quality agenciesand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put the heat on to get peopleto cut down fireplace smoke to improve air quality in winter months.

"Duraflame is very cognizant of the air quality struggles of the West, andeven beyond," said Duraflame vice president Chris Caron. "Due to this, weare very sensitive to the balance between regulations and people'sinterest in enjoying a cozy fire."

Solari said the new product likely will be marketed more in regions whereair quality is of special concern, including the Central Valley.

It is somewhat an effort to protect market share, she said.

Duraflame firelogs went on the market in 1972, after California CedarProducts Co., the world's leading manufacturer of pencil slats, figuredout a way to use the sawdust left from milling cedar pencil slats.

Instead of hauling off the sawdust to landfills or burning it, the companydiscovered that soft wood fiber mixed with petroleum wax could be extrudedlike pasta and used as an alternative to natural wood logs.

Duraflame said it has about half the market share of the 120 million to150 million firelogs sold each year in the United States.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District doesn't comment onbrands of manufactured logs, but it does say that in open-hearth burning,manufactured logs are less polluting than comparable natural wood.

Manufactured logs in open hearths aren't as clean as the burning ofseasoned wood in an EPA Phase II-certified burning device, though, thedistrict said.

The district strengthened its wood-burning rules last year by setting inplace a system that could ban the burning of wood, pellets or firelogs byValley residents on days when air quality is deemed to be unhealthful toeveryone.

The restrictions can be applied from Nov. 1 through the end of February,with the air district expecting to restrict wood and wood-product burningbetween four and 25 days each season.

Last season, mandatory restrictions were applied for one day in SanJoaquin County, according to the district.

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