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Author Topic: Practicality of wood gas electricity.  (Read 5193 times)

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Offline Bigbo1234

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Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« on: October 11, 2013, 12:34:43 PM »
I have recently become very fascinated with the idea of wood gas as a fuel. I saw the Mother Earth news article about the truck and got my gears turning. Would it be practice or possible to build a stationary gasifier in a small out building to power a generator to produce a homesteads electrical needs? I believe I have ample wood to satisfy the project but don't know if its feasible? Any thoughts?
Bowen

Offline beenthere

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2013, 12:54:19 PM »
Have you read the thread(s) that our members have posted about their wood fuel rigs?
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Offline grweldon

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2013, 02:24:07 PM »
I have also lately been bitten by the wood gas bug and I also am interested in generating electricity.  I have a couple of concerns about producing gas that is "clean" enough to allow an engine to run four a few thousand hours before failing due to stuck valves, but I'm definately going to try it.  I have a welder in the budget for spring.  I don't yet have a generator, but I do have several lawnmower engines around that have corroded carburetors due to ethanol-blended gasoline so they would be perfect to test with.  A simple automobile alternator could yield interesting results.  Like I say, I'm definitely going to try it!
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2013, 02:42:45 PM »
I'd think you would want to tie it in with a full "off grid" system. Reason being that you will have a varying load and generally need at least some power 24/7, even if it's only to keep clocks running. Setting a wood gas generator that can go from 100w to 3,000w at the flick of a switch would be tricky. But if you had it "putt putting" producing 1,000w for part of the day, and keeping a battery topped up. Then power the house off that via an inverter. You could have a solar panel, windmill, micro-hydro tied into the system, and just run the wood engine as needed.

Recovering heat from the engine to provide hot water would improve the efficiency as well.

Ian
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Offline Leigh Family Farm

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2013, 07:57:57 PM »
Also, look into the viability of keeping the fuel supply topped up and having enough fuel supply handy. The little research I did showed that small systems (down draft) work because the top is sealed which forces the air to be drawn downwards. Thus you have to seal the top after each time you load fuel. The GEK system can only handle 8 hours of fuel before you need to refill. I think thats a 55-gallon drum of wood chips every 8 hours, which in my book equates to a lot of wood chips in a month. Very small systems could be used to run a generator to charge batteries for a few hours. Check YouTube for sample videos. Larger systems are eve more complex and require a full-time operator.

Look at the GEK Gasifier. Its open source design. There are many free articles & publications on gasification.

If you were looking to power a homestead or small cabin part of the time, then a gasifier would work. I would personally combine it with a solar & wind set up just so I could have power 95% of the time with out much effort.
There are no problems; only solutions we haven't found yet.

Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2013, 09:27:19 PM »
Mother Earth news way beck in the early  to mid 70's had an article about using a wood gassifier using an OHV Pontiac Tempest engine .It worked but being mother earth  they captured the heat from the radiator,used a heat exchanger to capture heat from the exhaust and just went bonkers over it. Which I might add was typical of the ways they did things .They eventually cooked the engine .

By now maybe someone has figured a way to purify the producer wood gas so it doesn't eat the engines up .Nice idea maybe if you didn't have to replace the engine every 6 weeks .

Offline Paul_H

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2013, 09:33:32 PM »
You don't purify the gas,you build a proper gasifier,run it properly and the tars are cracked in the reduction zone.I've driven about 1500 miles on wood so far with no ill effects on the engine and there are a whole lot of others that have driven much more.
Of course,you being a self decribed barroom barrister,you are simply trying to liven the discussion regardless of facts or evidence  ;)
eg  tregar  meste  på  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.

Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2013, 06:58:38 PM »
You're reading something into what I said .I was refering to the experiment Mother Earth News did during the early to mid 70's and suggested somebody since might have found a way to purify the gasses .You evidently have from what you say ,case closed . ;)

Offline DanG

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2013, 10:50:18 AM »
The very title of this thread is pretty close to being an oxymoron, I'm afraid.  That being said, it sounds like a great experiment, hobby, and learning experience. 8)  I have thought about doing it myself, but it is just another of the many things I'll never "get around to." ::) :D  In order to make it feasible as anything beyond a novelty, you would need to reap as many benefits from the operation as possible.  The things I have thought of are to use the excess heat for, well, heat. You could warm your house, a greenhouse, or kiln with it.  Then you could package and sell the charcoal by-product to complete the hat trick if you used an appropriate wood to produce the gas.
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Offline fuzzybear

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 03:06:51 PM »
GEK out of California has a "freeware" program building gasifiers for all sorts of engines. It is a group of people all over the world building and testing these units, and they share their improvements and disasters with every one via the web. They have turned mainly twards producing power with these units, running gen sets of all sizes.  The blue prints are free on the web and they have an excellent staff that is not afraid to try something new or help with PROVEN systems.
  I had a gentleman here from Arizona with a unit running a 1977 Ford 150.  He was on his way to Deadhorse Alaska, from Pheonix. He said he has not a lick of problems, and never had a problem finding fuel wood. The top speed for his truck pulling a vintage pop up trailer was 70mph.  impressive to me.
  There is an old IH 5T truck in the bush here that used to haul wood to town burning wood as fuel.  It was based on the Sweedish model of WWII.
   I have been slowly collecting the parts I need to run the skid truck on wood. The problem I had was figuring out the correct size for my engine. I didn't think it could be done because of the horsepower my engine makes  (400hp).  When I reached them they said "No Problem", it seems that some one in Florida has built a drag racing car with a 400hp+ engine running wood gas. It is supposed to be turning 6500rpm and runs the 1/4 mile in 13.1 sec.  FAST for a wood burning street legal car.
   They have unit for sale prebuilt to you needs, but are very helpful to those that do it themselves. Check them out at gekgasifier.com
FB
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Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 07:33:43 PM »
The use of "producer" gas probabley goes back centuries .

For one it was widely used in the large steel mills that once were the worlds leading output of steel in this country which have been allowed to die on the vine but that's another subject .

Early on perhaps 1880ish they figured a way to capture the waste gasses from coke ovens etc and use this otherwise waste gasses as a fuel .Around that time or later up to mid 1920 they used these gasses for the generation of electricity using huge horizontal cylinder engines some designed by Allis Chalmers .Fact Carnegie steel had a bank of engines rated at over 30,000 HP installed in 1906 I think.

During WW2 countries in Europe because of neccessity used some form of producer gas to power busses etc because of a shortage of gasoline which worked well considering.

Recently there have been groups who have had an interest in this .Now practicality and feasiblity  are not one in the same .Feasibility has been proven ,practicality would be determined by the end user . 


Offline r.man

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2013, 11:36:23 PM »
A friend of mine has been building a gasification unit in his spare time for about two years. Taught himself to weld and is on his third prototype I think. He switched from wood fuel to homemade charcoal after finding the single process units to be too tricky. His idea is to produce charcoal in one process and use the waste heat to heat his greenhouse and then use the charcoal in a simpler gasification unit to provide fuel for a generator. Sounds reasonable.
Life is too short or my list is too long, not sure which. Dec 2014

Offline Jim Timber

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2013, 06:24:28 AM »
I'm curious why you wouldn't just make a steam engine to run the generator?

Offline grweldon

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2013, 07:59:35 AM »
I'm curious why you wouldn't just make a steam engine to run the generator?

I'm struggling with this question as well.  The biggest negative to steam would be the need for a boiler... a pressure vessel with the potential to fail catastrophically, especially when constructed by someone who doesn't have a ton of experience welding.  That's part of the intrique and attractiveness of wood gas.  It's scalable and can be constructed by a do-it-yourself-er.  Plus, internal combustion engines are extremely common in ratings from 3 to 300 horsepower.  Steam engines not so much plus they are extremely expensive.  I have the ability to construct a steam engine as I work in a manufacturing facility and have machine tools available, but most don't.

It DOES seem to me that steam would be more reliable over the long term, but again, you can build several gasifiers and buy several 10-20 HP engines for what a decent boiler and steam engine would cost if you had to buy them outright...

Still... I'm not sure that wood gas is the way to go compared to steam.  It may be and I'm sure I'll try it, but I'm not sure it is the answer...
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Offline Jim Timber

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2013, 09:07:15 AM »
Very valid points. 

Just seems like if they used to power cars with them, it would be an easier solution with less fuss.

I'm curious to build a steam engine myself, and plan to do it one day.  I have all the machinery needed in my personal shop. I just have more pressing projects in line.

Offline mad murdock

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2013, 02:47:28 PM »
Monotube boilers can be made cheaper and more efficient (operationally) than fire tube boilers, and plenty of safety features can be built in to prevent boiler failure.
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Offline grweldon

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2013, 04:11:35 PM »
And then you STILL have the issue of the engine... can't stop in your local big box store and buy one, but if you could it would be terribly expensive...
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Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2013, 05:19:04 PM »
I think what you all need to remember is this wood gasification to use as automoble fuel is more of an experimentation in this day and age than anything .

During the days of the big steel mills using recycled waste gas it was just a viable option to large steam engines which they already had .

During WW2 in Europe it was a neccessity because they didn't have any gasoline .

Now regardless if it works or not which it certainly does I for the life of me just cannot see many people using it .Just how many people are going to roust out of bed an hour early to build a fire to get a head of wood gas going just to drive to work ?It ainta gonna happen .

Same deal with a steam engine .Why it would take a full time steam engineer and a woodsman just to keep enough wood to keep it fired for any length of time .I can just see these guys having their wives tend the boiler all day long while they are at work .That would be about as popular as turd in a punch bowl to put it mildly . :D

Offline Jim Timber

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2013, 09:25:06 PM »
Yet tens of thousands of folks heat with wood boilers year round.  They load them once or twice a day.   Granted they're not running a generator (much higher energy demands), but it's not to say it can't be done.

So here's the argument - if you have to buy and transport gasoline from some reasonable distance, or cut and transport far less wood locally: a steam engine could in fact be more efficient.

The maintenance issue is another straw man argument.  You're talking about fueling an engine with a gas that has the potential to glue the valves shut.  You can't assume that you'll always have the tar cracked before it reaches the engine.  I'll take a stab in the dark here and say you have never rebuilt the heads on a car before when you say this is just a maintenance issue.  1500 miles on a car?  Really?  That's not even one oil change.  How many hours on the engine with that mileage?  If you were using it to power a dwelling, that might get you a week, maybe, probably not; as it's likely under 50 hours run time.

We're not talking about transportation here, we're talking about electrical production.  If all you want is enough to power some lights and a laptop - get a solar panel and some batteries.  It's a far more demanding task to make enough juice to run equipment and appliances.  I don't want to limit my choices to using the blender or having lights, so maybe I'm approaching this differently than some of you.  ;)

Offline Paul_H

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2013, 10:19:48 PM »
Welcome Jim.

You are a machinist living in a free country and nobody here will stop you from building a steam system.The only person stopping you right now is you. You won't hear any arguement from me,I would enjoy watching your progress from planning to completion.
What stage are you at right now?
eg  tregar  meste  på  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.


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