Timber-Chemistry Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Timber-Chemistry Industry


an industry based on the chemical processing of timber, including dry distillation of wood, charcoal burning, and the production of various types of rosins and turpentines.

The timber-chemistry industry of prerevolutionary Russia produced tar, charcoal, pitch, and small quantities of turpentine, acetic acid, and other products. The oldest industries, charcoal burning and tar distillation, took shape in the 12th century. Charcoal burning became widespread in the Urals in connection with the development of the metallurgical industry. Tar distillation developed mainly in the north as a result of the great demand for tar to impregnate wooden ship hulls and rope. There was a large demand for tar abroad. Before World War I (1914— 18), Russian production of tar was 90,000 tons per year, and of raw turpentine, 20,000 tons per year. The first factory for the production of acetic acid and sodium acetate was built in Russia in the 1820’s. The annual processing rate at the end of World War I was 440,000 cu m of birch wood (storage volume), and the corresponding production rates were 10,000 tons of calcium acetate, 9,000 tons of tar, and 41,000 tons of charcoal. Calcium acetate was converted into acetic acid, which was used mainly in the textile industry. The timber-chemistry industry suffered considerably during the Civil War and military intervention (1918-20), but the level of dry distillation of wood at the end of World War I was reached again in 1925. Reconstruction of existing timber-chemistry plants and construction of new plants took place during the two pre-World War II five-year plans (1929-37), leading to a considerable increase in the production of timber chemicals, as well as to the development of new types of products (acetate solvents, inhibitors, and so on). The development of the tapping of pine trees (8,300 tons of sap were produced in 1928, and 89,000 tons in 1936) led to the rise of an industry for processing sap to produce rosin and turpentine, and rosin-extraction plants were built for processing resin-impregnated stumps of pine trees. Importation of rosin ended in 1931, and the USSR became second (after the USA) in world production of rosin and turpentine. The level of timber-chemistry production increased considerably during the postwar years because of the construction of new plants and the adoption of improved processes by existing plants (see Table 1).

Most timber-chemistry plants are located in the European part of the USSR. Considerable expansion of charcoal production capacity is taking place in the existing Asha and Siava

Table 1. Output of rosin and rosin products in the USSR (tons)
 RosinRosin productsTotal
1940 ..............45,80040046,200
1950 ..............67,20060067,800
1960 ..............122,6001,800124,400
1970 ..............3131,70036,900168,600
1972 ..............127,60050,500178,100

timber-chemistry combines (Cheliabinsk and Gorky oblasts, respectively). Construction of new plants is being planned, mainly in the eastern regions, such as Krasnoiarsk Krai, Irkutsk Oblast, and Primor’e Krai, where large rosin-extraction plants will be started up.

A number of socialist countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia) have timber-chemistry plants that are producing rosin, turpentine, charcoal, and other products.

In the capitalist countries, the timber-chemistry industry is most advanced in the USA, Canada, Sweden, and Finland. It has also developed in Spain, France, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, and several other countries.


Les—natsional’noe bogatstvo sovetskogo naroda. Collection of articles, edited by N. V. Timofeev. Moscow, 1967.
Tekhnologiia i oborudovanie lesokhimicheskikh proizvodstv, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1969.
Slavianskii, A. K., and F. A. Mednikov. Tekhnologiia lesokhimicheskikh proizvodstv. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.