The gasification reaction of fir charcoal with CO2 was studied by isothermal thermogravimetric analysis under kinetic control. The derived reaction rate (r = dX/dt) as a function of the converted carbon mass (X) was compared with random pore model predictions and found to be much higher at elevated conversion levels than predicted by theory. Similar enhanced reaction rate behaviour was evidenced after removing the natural alkali catalyst from the charcoal by acid washing, suggesting that with untreated charcoal the late reaction rate contribution stems from both, catalytic and additional structure effects. Literature attributes the unpredicted late reaction rate behaviour to the disintegration of the porous char particle into small fragments, which, in line with percolation theory predictions, seems to occur only after a critical conversion level has been reached. However, our gasification data reveal a gradual rise in the charcoal reactivity thereafter, suggesting a breaking up (embrittlement) of the solid phase accompanied by the exposure of fresh surface area from fracturing. The original random pore model derivation given by Bhatia and Perlmutter is extended to account also for these peculiarities and the resulting kinetic relation described our reaction rate data well over the entire conversion range. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.