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Author Topic: Practicality of wood gas electricity.  (Read 5674 times)

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Offline just_sawing

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #40 on: November 17, 2013, 01:23:31 PM »
One of the ideas that I am currently working on is the fact the wood gas is compressible. This give me an avenue to produce now use later.
 Here in the south it would be good to just run a generator for a few hours in the summer switching the AC on full blast and cooling down the house cool. When the unit runs out of fuel you switch back to the normal electricity. I burn slabs to get rid of them and I would live to make gas and use less electricity.
 I am a firm believer in many sources with many opportunities. The gassifier isn't the end all but one of the bricks in my house that the wolf can't blow down.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #41 on: November 17, 2013, 01:43:58 PM »
Yes, it could be compressed, like Natural gas, but the cost of the high pressure compressor needed to fit a useful amount into a cylinder is a major factor for a small system. Same issue with producing methane from Cow manure and storing that. Yes it's possible, but the cost makes it a bit impractical.

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Offline Paul_H

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #42 on: November 17, 2013, 04:20:16 PM »

Below is a quote from the FAQ's at

#1) Why don't you make the woodgas at home and then compress it in a tank and drive on the tank of compressed woodgas.

A) Well their are actually four reasons.

1) Woodgas is a extremely low BTU fuel it only has 150btu's per cubic foot, making it very bulky and even if you compressed it to 3600psi you would not get any driving range out of the tanks as woodgas is used in a 1:1 fuel air mixture. The range of a 100 gallon tank compressed to 3600psi would be less than two miles.

2) When you compress woodgas to extremely high pressures you are forcing the mixed gas content closer together and the free hydrogen will steal the O off of the CO sooting out the carbon and forming water. It is also speculated that the same thing slowly happens with CO under high compression. The CO will soot out a C to make CO2.

My advice would be to run your woodgasifier for a year or so and experiment a bit with gas storage and see where that leads you.I was talking about this very thing yesterday with a customer of ours at the shop.He has been very interested in our woodgas truck and has a few ideas on how it can be improved and yet he has declined a few invitations to be involved in the lighting of and driving of the truck.
I know when I was building the system there was nobody near enough for me to go visit and see a operating gasifier but if there had been an invitation from anybody within 500 miles I would have been there. Mike Larosa from WI told me to build and test first and then try new ways and he was right.
My hope is for your success and also that you would share your successes and failures freely with others that we might have progress,
eg  tregar  meste  p  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.

Offline pineywoods

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #43 on: November 17, 2013, 04:56:08 PM »
Wood gas could be used to make gasoline, ethanol, and diesel fuel. Just isn't practical to do so in small batches. I did a bit of research on this a while back. You need high pressure )4000-5000 psi and heat (450 + deg centigrade). a catalyst (iron oxide) is ineeded also. The technology is nothing new, developed by the germans in ww2 to make diesel fuel from coal. The process is quite energy intensive, and prone to runaway reactions. .
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Offline Old Wood Whacker

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #44 on: December 15, 2013, 12:37:03 AM »
You can store wood gas and compress it with a natural gas compressor. I've been talking to someone who is doing it. The compressor costs $3500 according to him. He's been grid free and makes all his fuel for his equipment and vehicles for 12 years now. I'm planning on going out to visit with him this winter. I will report on what I find when I return. It looks very promising at this point. It would be cost prohibitive for a single homestead or small mill, but he says that the way to do it is to form a local co-op and have multiple families invest in the equipment, as even a small gasifier can supply the needs of up to a half dozen homestead or small farming operations. I'm intrigued.

Stability comes from a stable fiber source. Kiln dried wood, perhaps pellets, might be beneficial. A small pellet mill isn't that expensive--about $2K. That makes the fuel cleaner and consistent, which is often the problem with wood gas. He claims that doing it this way that it is very efficient, clean and does no more harm to a gas engine than propane or nat gas. He has diesels he converted as well, but he says they still need to run on 20% diesel.

Offline maple flats

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #45 on: December 15, 2013, 08:24:44 AM »
Yes, it could be compressed, like Natural gas, but the cost of the high pressure compressor needed to fit a useful amount into a cylinder is a major factor for a small system. Same issue with producing methane from Cow manure and storing that. Yes it's possible, but the cost makes it a bit impractical.

Wow, if it's impractical, I'll have to inform the progressive farmers around here that they should quit their methane fiasco!
Impractical becomes good use of resources with education.
As for wood gas, I have saved a few sets of different plans for making a woodgas generator. May not use it until our current sources fail but I will keep the plans for "when needed". The concept intrigues me.
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Offline beenthere

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #46 on: December 15, 2013, 10:28:24 AM »
progressive farmers around here that they should quit their methane fiasco!

If not for the Fed money funding them, it prolly wouldn't happen or continue. Good to research the concepts and find out just what works and what doesn't tho.
south central Wisconsin
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Offline Thehardway

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #47 on: December 17, 2013, 05:18:15 PM »
Have been watching this thread for a while now and I guess a few things have been eating at me.  IMHO there are a few flawed assumptions here that need to be addressed and dealt with when dealing with electrical production and off-grid use. 

First we must recognize the difference between base-load and peak loading.  If I were to design an electircal production system using either wood gasification and IC engine or a wood fired steam engine, niether of them would be running a large engine or producing power at peak demand levels.  It would be a waste of energy and resources and would make my operation inefficient, and cost prohibitive.  Very few if any of us use 18kW of power 24/7 and if we did, we should certainly look to reduce our consumption and increase the efficiency of our home/shop.

The way to do the wood gasifier power project would be to take a small, simple, but fuel efficient engine that tolerates impure fuels, is easy to repair, (few working parts) and was made to run all day long.  Something like a small 1930's era JD tractor engine.  This would be coupled to a smallish generator unit that it could drive easily while merely running at idle or low rpm.  Something on the order of a 1.5-2KW genny.  1.5-2KW plant will run anything you can plug into a 110V , 20A circuit.  This makes it a practical size.  you can use handheld power tools, microwave oven, single burner stove, small shallow well pump, etc.  You would then build some kind of storage bank for the excess power produced that was not being consumed immediately.  It could be fed back into the grid, used to charge batteries, used to pump water into an elevated reservoir to later produce power using hydro, or any other form of energy storage you could conceive.  In conjunction with this, all available energy should be taken from the process such as exhaust heat reclamation being used to heat hot water for domestic use, pre-heat for a steam production system, etc.  With low cost energy readily available in this country we have become spoiled and do not make good use of CHP potential.

The same applies for a steam driven plant.  In the world of utility scale electrical generation, the steam based power plants are optimised and operated to run at 100% capacity for base load. (Understood these are turbine engines and not piston based) Peak loading is accomplished by bringing on line small scale units in succession as demand ramps up.  Steam is not good for this.  Demand power is preferably hydro power but nowadays is more often natural gas fired reciprocating engines or turbines that spin up quickly and can quickly assume load while easily meeting emissions requirements.

Old diesel engines can in some cases be converted to run on natural gas or on a natural gas liqui fuel mix and I believe they are prime candidates for wood gas as well with some tweaking.

The idea of running these systems in a bug out scenario are purely hypothetical and I doubt it would be very successful. Without getting political,  I think whole scenario has been glorified by Hollywood and the internet and poorly thought through.  The availability of firearms is much greater than in previous times and looting and pillaging will likely limit the success of peacefully producing electrical power and living in a home unmolested, regardless of your location or power source. Unless you are heavily fortified or booby trapped your time of productivity will be short.

If you want to fool with it for fun and knowledge, it is a great hobby, otherwise, if you really anticipate and are wanting to prepare for apocalypse or total government collapse, you might be better off spending your time learning Arabic, Chinese or Russian... at least then you could beg for your life while they destroy your home and confiscate your mill and power plant?

I think for stationary power production, a low pressure steam engine/generator with heat recovery would make much more efficient use of the wood, especially if burned in a rocket stove type setup than by using a gasifier to just run an IC engine and generator.  On the other hand, mobility is much better accomplished using an IC engine and gasification than steam, primarily due to the weight of the water that must be transported for a steam based power plant.

I would like to play with a steam based system and just run it for a few hours a day doing net metering through grid tie.  I think I could produce enough in a few hours of continuous run to zero out my bill and I wouldn't have to tend it all day.  I could use thermal mass as a storage medium to provide Domestic hot water for the remainder of the day until next burn cycle which right now is my primary use of electrical energy. 
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Offline Leigh Family Farm

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #48 on: December 18, 2013, 09:13:18 AM »
You bring up an interesting point in the last paragraph about running your system for a few hours at full load to offset your current power comsumption. I think this way would be a great way for someone to zero out their electric bill. I wonder how long you would have to run at full load to accomplish this? Daily? Weekly? I'm just imagining running the system for a solid 8 hours one day a week (say from 4pm - 12am on a Friday) when I am least busy. This is just me and my situational thinking so take it for a grain of salt on the rim of a margarita glass  ;)
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Offline marsofold

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Re: Practicality of wood gas electricity.
« Reply #49 on: June 28, 2019, 09:18:53 PM »
I have considered other ways to generate electricity from wood. Looked at running a muffled pulse jet engine (no moving parts!) from wood gas. The pulsejet would have to be long, like 16 feet or more due to the low combustion velocity of carbon monoxide, and a wind turbine placed in the incoming engine wind stream to generate electricity. Or a fluidyne stirling pump engine running a small common hydro-turbine system for battery charging. There are posts on youtube with thermoacoustic and metronome stirling engines with the piston/rod being the only moving part cranking a small generator. In 1843 one of the most powerful known methods of generating electricity was an Armstrong steam generator that made high voltage power with no moving parts, an invention that got Armstrong admitted to the England's Royal Society. Such ultra-simple gadgets with little or nothing to break down appeal to me, even if not rather efficient. 

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