Char Briquette Plant

Bienfait, Taylorton, Saskatchewan, Canada

Bienfait Char Plant

Briquette Plant ca 1929

Briquette Plant 1929

Bienfait Char Plant- 1999

Aug 2009

Bienfait Char (Calciner) Plant Supplies Char to make your Barbeque Briquettes. This plant is located south of Bienfait produces 100,000 tonnes of char per year.

The Bienfait Mine supplies up to 2,000,000 metric tonnes of Lignite Coal to Ontario Hydro Thermal Electric Stations per year

As early as Oct 24, 1917, Briquetting was thought of in the District. Mr. W. J. Dick, M Sc., mining engineer from England, wrote a report on Briquetting at Bienfait,
To the Commission of Conservation, Carbonizing and Briquetting Plant, for treatment of Lignites in Saskatchewan.
Gas is produced as a by-product, can be used for Brick Burning, Power Plant or domestic heating.

The Federal government, with the Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Governments, established the Government Agency, “The Lignite Utilization Board”.
They built an Experimental plant south of Bienfait, between the Hudson Bay Mine, and Western Dominion Collieries.

Feb 28, 1920, plans are underway to build this plant.

July 8, 1920 Plant now expected to be in operation end of August 1920, per a Mr. J. M. Leamy, Provincial Power Commissioner, and member of the Lignite Utilization Board.
Expected output was 100 tons/day. Operating at 90-100 days the first year. The Foundations were being poured, Contracts for Equipment were out,
Railway spur to the main CPR line at Bienfait was nearing completion, and expected cost was to be $12/ton for the Briquettes. A Regina firm was constructing the buildings.

July 31, 1923 Problems arise in the operation of this plant. A Group known as the Lignite Utilization Board, were the operators of the plant.

Sept 16, 1924, Hugh Sutherland tries to buy the plant

Wed- Jan 11, 1928, almost 8 years after construction, British Engineers, Balfour, Beatty & Co., backed by the Industrial and General Trusts Co., took over the Bienfait Char Plant,
and agreed to spend $500,000, and to operate the plant for one year. This plant was formerly dominated by Hugh Sutherland. The plant was visited my Mr. Ernest Bury, MSc.,
one of the best known Fuel engineers in the UK. in the summer of 1927. He once worked for Brackley Coke works, in England,
and then was a Director for the Skinningrove Iron Co. Ltd, also in England.
While teaching at the University of Mancester, in England, he wrote an article on by-Product of the Coking Practice. They had tried unsuccessfully to get this plant running for many years.
It appears with this mans help, They were finally able to get it operating and producing briquettes, from the formerly waste Lignite slack coal.
Before this the slack had to be removed from the mine, and burnt on the open prairie, due to the fact it was susceptible to spontaneous combustion.
Interesting to note, Balfour Beatty are celebrating 100 years in operation in 2009.

The Plant was sold for a Nominal sum to a Company formed for the purpose, Western Dominion Collieries, which built a larger plant, and began production.

The Depression forced the plant to close. In 1937, A Mr. J. H. McDonald, from a Winnipeg firm, Dominion Briquettes and Chemical Ltd., bought the plant from Western Dominion Collieries.
They began producing between 30,000-45,000 tons of Briquettes. They produced for 20 years, until about 1958. These were Furnace and fireplace Briquettes, called “Heat Glow”

1937 General Superintendents are Harry W. Monahan, and John Hamilton McDonald. B. Lev a Saskatchewan man who lived near Estevan, a student of Iowa State College was the Company chemist.
Oil and gas were taking over the home heating duties, So after much study, and spending $500,000 on new Equipment, they switched to making BBQ Briquettes,
and had the largest capacity on the continent. March 1960 was the start of the new operation, and their first production run.
The brand names “Cook Out” and “Rodeo” were produced. Their competition was Carbonized Wood Briquettes.

June 1961 John R. Hartwig, Plant Engineer. (see note 1 below)
General Manager J. Hugh McDonald (see below)
Plant Manager- A. Elberg. (misprint? should be Tony)
Manager of Research and Development, C. I. D. McDonald
The plant was in high gear in 1962.

Note 1- John R. Hartwig had 3 patents listed, dated Nov 1961, assignee, Husky Oil Co., under Wyoming Inventor, so assume he was an American.

By Mar 1963 the owner John Hamilton McDonald (jr) was deceased.
May 1960 Julian “Hugh” McDonald is shown as President and General Manager, of Dominion Briquettes and Chemical Ltd.
He was the son of John Hamilton McDonald and Marion Cecil McDonald, nee Drury. (see below)
It was a family owned company.
The McDonald family lived at 121 Park Boulevard, in Tuxedo area, of Winnipeg, from 1926 until 1964.
In 1926 he was an accountant in the firm of Gooderham Melady and Sellers, later Federal Grain.
He later formed his own companies, Dominion Briquettes and Chemical Company, and McDonald Grain Company.
His property had a horse barn, tennis court, and ornamental gardens.

In 1963 the plant superintendent was Tony Elberg, He spent 26 yrs at the plant and was transferred to Dickinson ND

John Hamilton McDonald (Jr)
b- Dec 15, 1883 in Listowel, ON
d- Mar 25, 1956 in Vancouver BC, age 72
married Marion Cecil Drury,
b- May 26, 1890 in Barrie ON
d- Apr 20, 1965 in Victoria, BC, age 74
daughter of Charles Alfred Drury, and Isabella Brownlee

father- John Hamilton McDonald (sr), b- ca 1852 in in Listowel, ON
shown as a Merchant in Cramahe ON
son of Alex McDonald and Mary McDonald
mother- Anna VanKleeck, b- ca 1855 in Thurlow, ON
married Sept 19, 1876 at Thurlow, Hastings Co, ON
daughter of William VanKleeck and Julia Ann VanKleeck

John (Jr) and Marion had 5 children:

Julian Hugh McDonald, BA, LLB
b- Sept 16, 1927 in Winnipeg MB
d- Apr 1, 2008, at St. Norbert Personal Care Home, Winnipeg MB, age
buried St. John's Cathedral, Winnipeg MB
He was a Businessman, Barrister and Company President.
President of Western Agriculture Supply Ltd.
President McDonald Grain Company Ltd.
President Texmac Resources.
Barrister in own company J. Hugh McDonald & Co.
Served in WWII.
Married Diane Mary Holden, Oct 1958,
d- 2000
daughter of Arthur E. Holden

Ian McDonald
d- bef 2008
married Janet McDonald, nee ?

Marion McDonald
d- bef 2008
married ?

Elizabeth McDonald
d- living in 2008
married Mr. Armytage- Winnipeg

Cynthia McDonald
d- living in 2008
married Andrew Hunter- London ON

The following articles were sent to me by John Brown, Oct 7, 2019
“I have attached an extract from my Uncles (Duncan Brown) memories of his time working in the briquette plant at Taylorton.
He mentions Cyril who is his brother and my father, Dad returned to UK at the outbreak of WWII.
Duncan retired as Director of Mines in Alberta around 1970 and died in 1988.”

Articles below written by:
John Duncan Barnsley Brown
b- 1903 Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England
d- Jan 25, 1988 in Edmonton AB, age 84

Mr. Duncan Brown came to Canada arriving in Halifax Aug 18, 1928 on SS Franconia, age 25
He was a native of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England.
He started in the mines in 1918
Started his apprentice as Mine Engineer when he was 15.
Studied at Rutherford Technical College
1923 received his Undermanager's Certificate
1928 he was made Overman and Assistant Surveyor
Then came a 6 month strike, so he left England came to Canada to farm
After a month he went to the Briquette Plant, the subject of these articles
He left Taylorton area in 1931 to Mountain Park.
Worked at the mines in the Nordegg Alberta area.
1944 went to Drumheller as the Mine Inspector for the Alberta Government
He worked in the Crows Nest Pass, in 1951 he was Chairman of the Library Board in Blairmore
1952 he was moving to Lethbridge Alberta
1960 became Assistant Director of Mines
Becoming the Director of Mines until 1970 when he retired.
1973- lived at 9915 83rd St. Edmonton AB, and was attending University at the age of 70 in the Arts Faculty.

—- Names mentioned in the articles above
Mr. Hepinstall (real name-William Godfrey Heptinstall) Yorkshire England-
b- July 2, 1883, Normanton, (Wakefield Reg dist), Yorkshire, England
Baptized Dec 31, 1902 Normarton, Yorkshire, England
d- Oct 1, 1936 in Rotowaro, Hamilton, Auckland, New Zealand
Engineer- Commander of the Royal Navy- Plant Supt. of the Western Dominion Collieries Briquette Plant in 1929
He had a wife- Alice Heptinstall, children: William Heptinstall and Mary Heptinstall
william came in 1909 from England per 1921 census, but he shows up in 1906 SK census?. Newspaper article says he came to Canada in 1903 and was here except for service in Royal Navy during WWI
Both children born in SK
William left to New Zealand in 1930
He came to Taylorton area from Yorkton ca 1921
He is the man given credit for getting this plant finally working.
father- Frederick Heptinstall (deceased bet 1901-1902), mother- Maria Heptinstall, nee ? (deceased before 1901)
sister- Mary Heptinstall, 2 years younger than William

Artchibald “Archie” McQuarrie, and his wife Mary McQuarrie
Joseph “Joe” Taylor- became Chief Boiler Inspector for SK
Mr and Mrs Ulrich- ran boarding house at Taylorton where Mr. Brown stayed
Jack Wiles
Luck Family, Frank Luck, Annabelle Luck, Josephine Luck, Alice Luck, and Daisy Luck- Duncan's First wife

Plant Problems explained below by Duncan Brown

ca 1923


  • Last modified: 2021/06/06 21:01
  • by dlgent