In May of 2018 the Ministry of Defence signed a contract with BCB for a new portable stove for troops to replace the old hexamine cookers that had been in service for over forty years. When it burns hexamine gives off a number of chemicals including formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. The new stoves use a form of Solid ethanol as a fuel which is far safer and unlike hexamine it can be stored alongside food without tainting it. The stove itself is made of metal and folds into a small and lightweight package:Opening the two leaves shows that it holds three of the ‘Firedragon’ fuel tablets and a separate piece of metal:This stamped piece of metal is used as a windbreak and is stamped ‘out’ on one tab:This is to make sure that it is attached to the rest of the stove in the correct orientation, the two ends can then be folded inwards to provide a shelter for the burning fuel:The fuel consists of solid ethanol inside plastic packages, these are opened and a tablet placed into the central tray of the stove. The manufacturers also say that in a push the blocks can be used as a hand sanitiser! Each stove has three of them inside:One online journal reported its introduction:
Cardiff-based survival equipment manufacturer, BCB International developed a solid bio-ethanol fuel called FireDragon, made from sugar beets, to replace the traditional hexamine fuel tablets soldiers use to heat food and drinks out in the field.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a four-year contract to BCB International for the supply of a new operational ration cooker and fuel to replace hexamine tablets.
“Warm food raises a soldier’s morale, energy and concentration levels,” says BCB International’s managing director, Andrew Howell. “Unfortunately, for far too long soldiers were also unknowingly inhaling toxic fumes each time they used hexamine fuel tablets to cook their food in the field.
“FireDragon is a safer and cleaner alternative. The FireDragon fuel boasts many features. It is made from sustainable natural ingredients, it is non-toxic, burns cleanly, can be ignited even when wet and if necessary can be used as a hand cleanser.”
Many armies worldwide are still issuing their soldiers with hexamine fuel tablets. But as Howell explains, the British Army’s decision to make the switch to ‘FireDragon’ has encouraged other armies to rethink their military rations heating fuel.
“There is a growing body of evidence about the health risks associated with hexamine-based fire-lighting fuels,” says Howell. “This combined with the UK MoD’s decision to use a superior alternative, has led to those in charge of combat feeding programmes in other armies to reconsider hexamine’s suitability as a fuel for the future.
Howell says BCB is in discussions with several armies that are interested in integrating FireDragon into their operational ration packs. The fuel is supplied with a small lightweight cooker, which can be packed with three FireDragon fuel blocks. Another report says:
BCB International will supply the British armed forces with new operational ration cookers and fuel under a four-year contract with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 23 November.
The fuel to be supplied by BCB International is called ‘FireDragon’, an innovative solid fuel made from ethanol. It marks the MoD’s move away from Hexamine, the fuel provided to troops for more than forty years for cooking in the field.
A new folding cooker will also be supplied under the contract. Together, the cooker and fuel pack weighs less than 300g, and the FireDragon fuel will boil 500ml of water in under 8 minutes.
Andrew Howell, managing director, BCB, said: ‘The MoD were looking for a solution that amongst other things was lightweight, could boil 500ml of water in under 11 minutes, was easy to light and extinguish, burned cleanly and is easily transportable.
‘The ‘FireDragon’ fuel is good news for our troops. It will enable soldiers to cook their ready to eat meals with a safer and cleaner fuel. Our fuel is non-toxic, non-drip and made from 100% natural ingredients, including sustainably sourced ethanol.’
According to the company FireDragon burns cleanly and leaves very little residue; allowing soldiers to spend less time on cleaning their cooking equipment and more time on their vital operational roles.
Howell added: ‘Wherever they operate, whether in driving rain, the freezing arctic or searing heat, the fuel will enable soldiers to heat their rations whenever required.’